When the Europeans, impelled by the spirit of discovery, pressed their course into New York State, they found it to be inhabited by a distinct and peculiar race of people. Their appearance and customs were a matter of great curiosity, and many of their usages evinced such wild and lawless habits, that they were at first regarded as a race possessing no redeeming attributes. This supposition, acted upon, has been the parent of much injustice done the race. On a nearer and more friendly acquaintance, a different opinion has been formed, and it has been found, that under the advantages of intellectual and religious culture, they possess noble qualities of mind, such as distinguish their white brethren.
In their physical proportions hey were described as being tall and straight, small and lithe-waisted, having black or dark-brown eyes, snow white teeth, straight black hair, cinnamon colored complexion, and were active and sprightly. They were fond of display in dress, and indulged this taste to an extravagant degree. It is said by the early Dutch settlers that some of the settlers that some of the highly ornamented petticoats of the Indian women were worth eighty dollars in the currency of the present day. The garment was made of dressed deer skin, and was highly ornamented with sewant, or wampum; this was made of beads, which were manufactured of various kinds of shells, gay colored, and wrought into curious and artistic designs. Sewant was used for Indian money, hence its value as dress trimming. From a gayly ornamented belt or waist girdle this skirt was suspended. A mantle of skins was sometimes worn over the shoulders. The hair of the women was long and they often wore it plaited and rolled up behind, secured by ornamented bands of sewant. Curiously formed jewelry of various materials adorned their shapely arms, hands and necks and pendants secured by bands, hung over their foreheads. Their feet were encased in handsomely embroidered moccasins.
The men wore upon their shoulders a mantle of deer skin, with fur next to their bodies, the opposite side of the garment displaying a variety of designs in paint. The edges of the mantle were trimmed with swinging points of fine material. Their heads were variously ornamented, some wearing feathers, others different articles of showy character. Their hair was sometimes shaven close, except at the top of the head. They as well as the women, adorned their necks and arms with ornaments of elaborate workmanship. They were accustomed to paint themselves in many colors and fashions, according to each individual taste. Their appearance, when in full dress and paint struck the eyes of the Europeans as grotesque and frightful.
They dwelt in villages, containing from thirty to several hundred souls. Their wigwams were made by placing in the ground two rows of upright saplings about twenty feet apart, when their tops were brought together and secured. Upon this framework was fastened a lathing of boughs, as to make a good defense against the weather. The interior of the wigwam was without flooring, the winter fires being built upon the ground in the center, the smoke escaping through an opening in the roof. Sometimes the wigwams were made large to accommodate two families. Around the village, to secure them from enemies, was a stockade of palisades, from ten to fifteen feet high.
The Indians most honorable calling, was to follow the war-path and bravely defend his tribe, and to sit in the great councils of the nation. But in times of peace they were employed in hunting and fishing, and the men were so trained that they were enabled, in a hunting expedition, to undergo great exertions, and prolonged fastings, with wonderful endurance. While the men secured the fish and game for the winter, the women raised and secured the corn, and looked to the laying by of other stores, such as gathering and drying wild fruits and roots.
The earliest travelers among them, found corn and beans, quite extensively cultivated, the women performing the labor with a simple wooden hoe. A variety of dishes were formed from these products, not the least savory of which was "succotash" made from corn and beans, green, boiled together; a sort of mush, made from pounded, parched corn, mixed with the juice of wild apples, was highly regarded. Sometimes the corn was beaten up with pestles, and boiled with water; again it was roasted on the ear when green; a variety of cakes were made from pounded corn, all of which were said to be palatable, even to the Europeans. As they ate they sat upon the ground, using no table ware, unless their wooden spoons might be named as such.
In their religious belief they profoundly revered the Great Spirit, the Maniton, the one God their Father, and they paid devout attention to all the mysterious voices of nature. It was the audible voice of the Great Spirit heard in thunder; His mighty hand hurled the shaft of lightning; from His breath burst the destructive hurricane; His direct power veiled the sun or moon in eclipse; all the varied phenomena of nature, they believed had some direct meaning to themselves, and they endeavored, in religious forms and ceremonies, to propitiate the terrible and great Manitou.
They believed that the spirits of their dead visited their neighborhood during the hours of night, and that they could distinguish their voices in the sighting of the wind through the forests, or in the cry of wild animals which approached their wigwams in search of food. When a panther's shriek was heard, they recognized the voice of some departed relative, full of warning and weird omens; when the summer birds came with their gladsome music, through them, the happy voices of their cherished dead told them not to weep for those who rested amid the flowery fields of the Spirit Land.
When an Indian died, they placed the body in its grave, defending it from contact with the earth by a siding of boughs. By the side of the deceased they placed various articles, viz: a kettle, platter and spoon, food and some money, his pipe and tobacco-pouch, hatchet and other weapons of defence, to serve the traveler on his journey to the land of spirits. All his costly garments of skins, are wrapped about him in his grave.
The resting place of their dead was guarded with reverential awe; the graves of their fathers were held as sacred soil, and the burial grounds of their nation were fought for with religious zeal.
To die the death of a stoic, without weakness or fear, was regarded as one of the heroic virtues, which was early instilled into the minds of the children. To utter a cry under severe torture would degrade the Indian Warrior.
The earliest writers state that the Indians "have a religion of their own, handed down from ancestor to ancestor. They say that mention was made by their forefathers for many thousand moons, of good and evil spirits, to whose honor it is supposed they burn fires and sacrifices. They wish to stand well with the good spirits; they like exhortations about them. They are very much afraid of the dead, but when they perceive that one must die, they appear more ferocious than beasts. One of the Indians is elevated to the office similar to that of priest, who visits the sick, sits by him and bawls, roars and cries, like one possessed. The priest has no house of his own, but lodges where he pleases. He must eat no food cooked by a married woman; it must be prepared by a maiden or old woman. When a child arrives at the age of twelve it is decided whether he can have this office or not, and if it is so ruled, he is elevated to that office. Becoming of suitable age and understanding, he undertakes the exercise of it."
"They are great observers of the movements of the sun, moon, and planets, and the women are most experienced stargazers. There is scarcely one of them but can name all the stars; describe the time of their rising and setting, and are as familiar with the position of the constellations in the heavens, as are the Europeans, the difference being, they give them different names. By the different moons they calculate the seasons, and regulate their harvests. The first moon following that of the end of February, is honored with great devotion, and as it rises, they compliment it with a great festival. They are collected together from all quarters, and revel after their fashion, feast with wild game and fish, drink clear river water to their fill, without being intoxicated. This moon, being the harbinger of spring, is the beginning of the year. In Virginia they then prepare for the planting. As the harvest approaches, at the August new moon, they again celebrate with another festival.
"The names of their months are these: - Cuerano, the first with them, February; 2 Weer-hemska; 3 Heemskan; 4 Oneratacka; 5 Oneratack, then they begin to sow and plant; 6 Hagarert; 7 Fakouvaratta; 8 Hatterhonagat; 9 Genhendasta, then grain and everything is ripe; 10 Digojenjattha, then is the seed housed. Of January and December they take no note, being of no use to them.
"Their numerals run no higher than ours, twenty being twice ten. When they ask for twenty, they stick the ten fingers up and with them turn to the ten toes of the feet. They count, Honslot, Tegeni, Hasse, Kajeri, Wisk, Fajack, Satach, Siattege, Tiochte, Ojeri.
"When a youth courts a girl, he buys her generally in a neighboring village, and this done, the damsel is then delivered to him by two or three other women, who come carrying on their heads, meal, roots, corn and other articles, to the young man's hut, and he receives her. It is common for a man to buy and have several wives, but not in one place. When he journeys five or six miles he finds another wife, who takes care of him as his first does; five or ten miles further he again finds another wife who keeps house, and so on to several.
"Chastity is held in considerable esteem among the women, and as they are living without law, they are restrained through the fear of the husband. It excites little attention if any one of the Indians abandons his wife. In case she have children they follow her. Whilst rearing their offspring the mother exhibits great tenderness. Each highly esteem their own children, who grow up very lively. The men scarcely ever labor, except to provide game for cooking; the women must attend to the remainder, such as tilling the soil, gathering the crops, &c., as well as cooking.
"What is very strange among this almost barbarous people, there are few or none cross-eyed, blind, crippled, lame or hunchbacked; all are well fashioned people; strong in constitution of body, well proportioned, without blemish. In some places they have abundant means, with herbs, leaves and roots, to administer to their sick; there is scarcely an ailment they have not a remedy for."
The above was written in 1624, by the Germans, who had seen the Indians of New York State, at New York Bay and on the Hudson. They carried back to Europe the impressions the received of this wonderful country and its natives. But as they had then seen nothing of the interior of the Indian country, their opinions of the great Terra Incognita were vague and extravagant. Referring to the numerous lakes of New York and Michigan, they make this statement: The Indians "who come from the interior, yea thirty days' journey, declare there is considerable water everywhere, and that the upper country (Michigan) is marshy; they make mention of great freshets which lay waste their lands, so that what many say may be true, that Hudson's Bay runs through to the South Sea, and is navigable, except when obstructed by ice to the northward. It were desirable that this were once proved. Those who made the voyage are of the same opinion, as they found an open sea, a rapid current and whales [?]."
The Dutch found that among the Maikins (a tribe living near Fort Orange, or Albany, which were probably of the Mohawks) there was a belief that the soul on separating from the body, went up westward, where it was met with great rejoicing, by those who had died previously; that they wore black otter or bear skin, which to them is a sign of gladness. The captain of the Maikins who was named Cat, believed that death was the offspring of the Devil who is evil. A skipper denied this, saying that God had control over death. The Maikin captain asked if God being good had the power to give and take away life, and he was answered "yea." This the Indian could not understand, how this good God should inflict evil, that is, death.
Such was the condition, the habits and character of the Indians of New York State, before the white men settled among them, and it is well for the European that the Indian had no historian of his own. There is sufficient in the statements of the early voyagers hither, from their own testimonies to condemn them, and palliate the indignities and crimes which the Indians have visited upon the European settlers. The Indians have, however, treasured up the history of their wrongs in tradition, which has descended from father to son. It is a history full of injuries which bred hatred, growing stronger from century to century, and is the excuse for all the barbarities perpetuated upon innocent, unoffending white persons, and the parent of the hatred exhibited by the red men of the West. From a letter written by John De Verrazana to his king, Francis I, of France, in 1525, when he first discovered New York Bay, this position is justified. He landed first in North Carolina. He says: ---
"Great store of people came to the sea-side and seeing us approach they fled away, and sometimes would stand and look back, beholding us with great admiration; but afterwards, being animated and assured with signs that we made them, some of them came hard to the sea-side, seeming to rejoice very much at the sight of us, and marveling greatly at our apparel, shape, and whiteness; showed us by sundry signs where we might most commodiously come to land with our boat, offering us also victuals to eat. Remaining there for a few days, and taking note of the country he sailed northwardly, and viewed if he did not enter, the harbor of New York. In the haven of Newport he remained for fifteen days, where he found the natives the goodliest people he had seen in his voyage. At one period during his coasting along the shores of New England, he was compelled for the sake of fresh water, to send off his boat. The shore was lined with savages, 'whose countenances betrayed at the same time, surprise, joy, and fear.' They made signs of friendship, and 'showed they were content we should come to land.' A boat with twenty-five men attempted to land with some presents, but on nearing the shore were intimidated by the frightful appearance of the natives, and halted to turn back. One, more resolute than the rest, seizing a few of the articles designated as presents, plunged into the water and advanced within three or four yards of the shore. Throwing them the presents, he attempted to regain the boat, but was caught by a wave and dashed upon the beach. The savages caught him, and sitting him down by a large fire, took off his clothes. His comrades supposed he was to be roasted and eat. Their fears subsided, however, when they saw them testify their kindness by caresses. It turned out that they were only gratifying their curiosity in an examination of this person, the whiteness of his skin, &c. They released him and after 'with great love clasped him fast about' they allowed him to swim to his comrades. Verrazana found the natives of the more northern regions more hostile and jealous, from having, as has been inferred, been visited for the purpose of carrying them off as slaves. At another anchorage, after following the shore fifty leagues, an 'old woman with a young maid eighteen years old, seeing our company, hid themselves in the grass for fear; the old woman carried two infants on her shoulders, and behind her neck a child of eight years old. The young woman was laden likewise with as many; but when our men came unto them the woman cried out; the old woman made signs that the men were fled into the woods. As soon as they saw us, to quiet them, and to win their favor, our men gave them such victuals as they had with them to eat, which the old woman received thankfully, but the young woman threw them disdainfully on the ground. They took a child from the old woman to bring into France; and going about to take the young woman, which was very beautiful and tall of stature, they could not possibly, for the great outcries she made bring her to the sea; and especially having great woods to pass through, and being far from the ship, we proposed to leave her behind, bearing away the child only.' At another anchorage 1 'there ran down into the sea an exceeding great stream of water, which at the mouth was very deep, and from the sea to the mouth of the same, with the tide which they found to raise eight foote, any great ship laden, might pass up. Sending up their boat the natives expressed their admiration, and showed them where they might safely come to land. They went up the river half a league where it made a 'most pleasant lake about three leagues in compass, on which the natives rode from one side to the other to the number of thirty of their small boats, wherein were many people which passed from one shore* to the other.' At another anchorage they 'met the goodliest people, and of the fairest conditions they had found in their voyage: - exceeding us in bigness--- of the color of brasse, some inclining to whiteness, black and quick eyed, of sweet and pleasant countenance imitating much of the old fashion.' Among them, they discovered pieces of wrought copper, which they 'esteemed more than gold.' They did not desire cloth of silk or of gold or of other sort, neither did they care for things made of steel or iron, which we often showed them in our armour, which they made no wonder at; and in beholding them they only asked the art of making them; the like they did at our glasses, which when they suddenly beheld, they laughed and gave us again.' The ship neared the land and finally cast anchor 'in the haven,' when continues Verrazana, 'we bestowed fifteen days in providing ourselves with many necessary things, their wives with them whereof they were very jelous; and they themselves entering aboard the ship and staying there a good space, caused their wives to stay in their boats; and for all the entreaty we could make, offering to give them divers things, we could never obtain that they should suffer to come aboard our ship. Oftentimes one of the two kings (of his people) coming with his queen, and many gentlemen, for their pleasure to see us, they all staid on shore two hundred paces from us till maides staid in a very light boat at an island a quarter of a league off, while the king abode a long space in the ship, uttering divers conceits with gestures, viewing with great admiration the ship, demanding the property of everything particularly.' 'There were plaines twenty-five or thirty leagues in width, which were open and without any impediment.' They entered the woods and found them 'so great and think, that an army were it ever so great might have hid itself therein; the trees whereof are of oak, cipresse and other sorts unknown in Europe.' The natives fed on pulse that grew in the country with better husbandry than in the others. They observed in their sowing the course of the moone and the rising of the certain starres and divers other customs spoken of by antiquity. They dwelle together in great numbers, some twenty-five or thirty persons in one house. They are very pitiful and charitable towards their neighbors, they make great lamentations in their adversitie, and in their miserie, the kindred reckone up all their felicitie. At their departure out of life they use mourning mixed with singing which continueth for a long space."
When Columbus with his crew of white men landed on American shores the Indians regarded them with awe and wonder, and, on account of the whiteness of their complexion, believing them to be supernatural beings, a veneration took possession of them, which knowledge of their early origin did not entirely eradicate for ages. Hence, when Vespucius Americus landed he was treated as a superior being. When later voyagers, the Cabots and Cartier came, when the French settled in Florida, when Sir Walter Raleigh first settled in Virginia, when Hudson discovered and sailed his vessel up the river which bears his name, when the Pilgrims colonized New England, the Indians received them with demonstrations of reverence, affection and generosity. In the first report of Sir Walter Raleigh's expedition in 1584, it is said that "they were entertained with as much bounty as they could possibly devise. They found the people most gentle, loving and faithful, void of guile and treason, and such as live after the manner of the golden age." The first sermon preached in New England, date of Dec., 1621, has in it the following in reference to the Indians: -"To us they have been like lambs, so kind, so submissive and trusty, as a man may truly say many christians are not so kind and sincere. When we first came into this country, we were few, and many of us were sick, and many died by reason of the cold and wet, it being the depth of winter, and we having no houses or shelter; yet when there were not six able persons among us, they came daily to us by hundreds with their sachems or kings, and might in one hour have made a dispatch of us, yet they never offered us the least injury. The greatest commander in the country called Massasoit cometh often to visit us, though he lives fifty miles from us, often sends us presents &c."
Individuals with motives of cupidity, basely took advantage of their evident simplicity, which roused the latent brute qualities of the Indian nature. The Spaniards and Portugese immediately followed up their first intercourse with them by carrying them into captivity. The Indian's same creed taught him revenge and hatred. The results of this unhappy intercourse with the Spaniards prompted the following remarks from Kotzebue:-"wherever they moved in anger, desolation tracked their progress, wherever they paused in amity, affliction mourned their friendship."
Close upon the footsteps of these injuries, instruments of revenge were given them,-firearms and fire-water. Henry Hudson in 1609, on his first visit to New York State discovered to them the use of fire-arms. They had previously used the bow and arrow, in which they were well skilled, and taught them the greater evil, intemperance.
Hudson's account gives the following: --- "While his vessel lay in the river (near Albany it is inferred) 'great multitudes flocked on board to survey the wonder.' In order to discover whether 'any of the chief men of the country had any treacherie in them, our master and mate took them into the cabin and gave them so much wine and aqua vitae, that they were all merrie; and one of them had his wife with him, which sat so modestly as any of our counterey women, would doe in a strange plaice.' One of them became intoxicated, staggered and fell, at which the natives were astonished. It 'was strange to them, for they could not tell how to take it. They all hurried ashore in their canoes. The intoxicated Indian remaining and sleeping on board all night, the next day, others ventured on board and finding him recovered, and well, they were highly gratified. He was a chief. In the afternoon they repeated their visits, brought tobacco 'and beads and gave them to our master, and made an oration showing him all the country round about.' They took on board a platter of venison, dressed in their own style, and 'caused him to eate with them: --- then they made him reverence, and departed all,' except the old chief, who having got a taste of the fatal beverage chose to remain longer on board. Thus were the aborigines first made acquainted with what they afterwards termed 'fire-water,' and aptly enough," says Turner, "for it has helped to consume them."
In the year of 1614, Lambrecht Van Twenhuyzen, a skipper who came in to buy furs, thus speaks of the simplicity of the natives: "When they first beheld the large dogs on board ship, they were much surprized and afraid, calling it a Sachem of dogs. Their own dogs were all small. The dog tied on ship board was very furious against them, supposing them, their being clad in skins, to be beasts, giving him an idea they were game; but when they gave him bread made of Indian corn, he learned to distinguish that they were men. The skipper presented the dog to them at which they were greatly pleased."
The history of the manner in which the Dutch established themselves among the Indians is the earliest and most minute history we have of the natives of New York. The abundance and cheapness of furs induced the Dutch East India Company to engage in this profitable trade. In 1610, a ship was sent by some merchants in Amsterdam to purchase furs, and soon several others followed. In 1613, two trading forts were erected on the river and four houses were built on Manhattan Island. In 1614, the States General of the United Netherlands passed an ordinance granting all original discoverers in North America the right of making four voyages to such land as they had discovered for purposes of trade. The discoverers formed a company called The United New Netherlands Company, and erected a trading house on the Island near Albany and had it garrisoned with ten or twelve men. Another fort was erected at the southern point of Manhattan's Island, and men were sent in every direction to solicit trade from the Indians.
In 1618 a flood in the North River (Hudson) injured the Company's fort at Castle Island near Albany, and it was removed to Norman's Kill, a few miles below. Here they made a treaty with the Five Nations. This company increased in power, and in view of the immense profits accruing from the exports of the country, decided to plant a colony, and in 1623, a ship came over from Holland bringing emigrants, and eighteen families settled at a small fort which was called Fort Orange (Albany). It is stated by Catelyn Trico, the first white woman in Albany, that "as soon as they had built themselves some huts of bark, the river Indians, the Maques, Oneydes, Onondages, Cayugas, Sennekas, with the Mahawawas, or Otawawas, came and made covenants of friendship, bringing great presents of peltry and desired to have a constraint free trade with them, which was concluded upon, and during the three years she lived there, they came daily to trade with all the freedom imaginable, and were gentle and quiet as lambs."
The fur trade now flourished. The forests of central and western New York, abounding in bear, otter and beaver, furnished many canoe loads which were moved over Lake Oneida, and down the Mohawk river to Albany. In Dec., 1624, a cargo from America of five hundred otter skins, fifteen hundred beaver and some other freight to the value of about $12,000 was sold in Amsterdam. Vessels in returning to America brought with them cattle, horses, sheep and hogs, which were viewed by the natives with curiosity and surprise. In Sep., 1626, a ship sailed out to Amsterdam laden with 7246 beaver skins, 675 otter, 48 mind, 36 wild cat skins and various other sorts; thus the fur trade grew to be an extensive commerce.
The Dutch rapidly increased in the province of New Netherlands, and grants of large tracts of land were obtained by individuals, extending far into the wilderness amidst the habitations of the Five Nations. The wealthy patrons of these vast estates made great efforts to colonize them. Killian Van Rensselaer, a pearl merchant of Amsterdam, secured a tract on the west side of the Hudson, embracing the site of the present city of Albany. His tract was twenty-four miles long and forty-eight broad, and was named Renssellaerwyck. Mr. Van Rensselaer did not reside in his colony, but confided its management to a Comissary General or Superintendent, which office was filled for many years by Arendt Van Curler or Corlear, a most worthy and excellent man, who gained the esteem and love of the Indians of all the nations about him, insomuch that the name of Corlear became a household word among them - a synonym of all that was noble, -and subsequently, to all governors of the State, for whom they entertained especial respect, they gave this endearing title. During the period from 1640 to '45, when the first Indian war was agitating the province, the colony of Renssellaerwyck, under Corlear's admirable administration in cultivating the friendship of the adjacent tribes, was undisturbed, the inhabitants peacefully persuing their avocations.
The competition among fur traders wrought out a most mischievous train of events. The tricks practiced by these traders upon the Indians, were speedily learned by them and played back upon the white man. Misunderstandings arose, misconstruction added to ignorance, jealousies were engendered, and at length a hatred was kindled only to be eradicated by blood. In 1640, an expedition went out from Manhattan against the Raritans, inhabiting the main land behind Staten Island, who were accused of having stolen some hogs, which allegation, however, proved to be a mistake. Arriving at the Indian village at an unexpected time, they plundered the village, slaughtered several of the inhabitants, burnt their crops and returned home without the loss of a single man (!) This act impelled the Indians to retaliate, and for the next two years acts of cruelty and revenge in which they indulged, are recorded.
In the meantime the Mohawks, who were at enmity to some of the River Indians, made a descent upon them. They fled to the protection of the Dutch at Manhattan, and by them were fed for a fortnight. While they were thus under the protecting wing of the city and the Mohawks encamped near by, two parties of Dutch sallied out, one to destroy the weak band of Indians who now lay at Corlear's Hook, the other to make a descent upon the Mohawks who lay at Pavonia, thus wreaking vengeance upon all the tries of Indians. Alike, whether friend or foe. Eighty Indians were killed at Pavonia, and thirty at Corlear's Hook. These were of all ages and both sexes, and no barbarity was too shocking to be inflicted upon them. Thirty prisoners, and the heads of several of those who had been killed were brought in by the returning parties.
This proceeding aroused to frenzy the indignation of all the neighboring nations and eleven different tribes proclaimed war against the Dutch. This produced the first Indian war in New York, in 1642. A terrible state of affairs continued, till by mere force of arms the Dutch prevailed and peace was restored in April, 1644. In 1645, through the powerful intervention of the Mohawks, who were at that time called "Kings of the forest," a treaty of peace was concluded with most of the Indian tribes, and during the subsequent years when animosities were increasing between the Dutch and English, the Indians took but little part in the disturbances.
The English were now fast populating New England and Virginia, and the province of New Netherlands had within its borders many English settlers. Disturbances, arising from rival claims of colonists of different nationalities, and opposite religions, were serving to weaken and lay New Netherlands powerless to the aggressions of the English, and final usurpation of this territory by Charles the II, King of England, in 1664. Throughout the course of this agitation, the Indians maintained their neutral position. Cognizant of the change in government, they wisely held their peace, and willingly submitted to the powers that were. As they had done to the Dutch, so now to the English, they acknowledged their allegiance, and with many tokens cemented the chain of friendship.
This remarkable confederacy possessed the control of New York State when it was first discovered, and was composed of a race of men who it is said were distinguished above all the other aborigines of this continent for their intelligence and prowess.
Five distinct and independent tribes, the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas, speaking a language radically the same and practicing similar customs, had united in forming this confederacy, which for durability and power was unequalled in Indian history. By the French they were called the Iroquois, by the English the Five Nations, but they distinguished themselves by the euphonious name, Ko-nosh-i-o-ni, the signification of which is, "People of the Long-House" or "People of Many Fires." This appellation refers to the union of the several tribes, thus forming the "Long House," with the Mohawks at the eastern, and the Senecas at the western doors. With them the fire upon the domestic hearth-stone was invested with peculiar sacredness, and they looked upon their confederation as the union of so many fires or homes.
It is believed that the Iroquois succeeded a race who were farther advanced in the arts and in civilization than themselves, and who were the builders of the mounds and other structures, found in the western part of this State and in Ohio. Yet the origin of the Iroquois is unknown. It is believed by early writers that they emigrated from the country around Montreal, were dependents of the Alonquins, but becoming troublesome to their masters, the latter drove them from their country, but they finally conquered their masters and destroyed their power.
According to a tradition which was current among all the tribes, and was written out by David Cusick, the Tuscarora historian:-"The Holder of the Heavens took the Indians out of a hill near Oswego Falls, and led them to and down the Mohawk and Hudson rivers to the sea. There they became scattered, but their great leader brought six families back to the junction of the Hudson and Mohawk, and then proceeding westerly, He planted the Five Nations, the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondaga, Cayugas and Senecas, by leaving a family at the location of each, giving them names, and slightly changing the language of each. With the sixth family He proceeded on between mid-day and sun-set, to the Mississippi River, which part of them crossed upon a grape vine, but the vine breaking, those on this side travelled easterly to the neighborhood of the ocean, and settled upon the Neuse River, in North Carolina. This last was the Tuscarora tribe.
Pyrlaus, a Dutch missionary among the Mohawks at Fort Hunter, wrote between 1742 and 1748, that the result of his best conjectures and information was that the Iroquois Confederacy, or League of Five Nations, was formed about one age, or the length of a man's life prior to the arrival of the Dutch, which would fix the date at about 1530, or 1535.
Whatever may have been their age, they had become a great and powerful nation by the time the Europeans settled New York. Their territory extended "from the mouth of Sorrell River, on the south side of Lakes Erie and Ontario, on both sides of the Ohio till it falls into the Mississippi; and on the north side of those lakes, that whole territory between the Ottaway River and Lake Huron, and even beyond the straits between that and Lake Erie." These they claimed as their actual possessions in their settlement with the English, but their power extended from the Connecticut River, and from Canada to the banks of the Mississippi, almost to the Gulf of Mexico. They exacted obedience from the Indians on the banks of the Hudson, Delaware and Connecticut Rivers, and from those on Long Island and the north shore of the Sound. Formidable for their valor in battle, their number and their skill, they excited respect and awe in the most powerful tribes, and "nations trembled when they heard the name of the Konoshioni."
The formation of the Confederacy, tradition attributes to a "wise man," Daganoweda of the Onondaga Nation, who devised this plan to protect them from invaders, and for the common good of the five families. Onondaga being about the center of their territory, was made the place for the central or grand council fire. The supreme power of the Confederacy was vested in a Congress of Sachems, fifty in number. The Mohawks were entitled to nine representatives, the Oneidas nine, the Onondagas fourteen, the Cayugas ten, the Senecas eight. These were apportioned to the numbers of each nation, therefore at its origin the Onondagas were the strongest.
The Sachems were "raised up," not by their own nation, but by a council of all the Sachems. In this "Council of the League" resided the Executive, Legislative and Judicial authority. In their own nations at home these Sachems were the Governors, administering after the fashion of the general government, with similar councils and forms. There was also a chief Sachem in each nation answering to the chief Sachem at the grand Onondaga Council. The latter was regarded as the head of the whole Confederacy, similar to our President. Although his office was so high, yet his prerogatives were only such as were tacitly allowed or conceded. His position was hereditary, derived, says tradition, from an Onondaga Chief, Ta-do-da-hoh, who was co-temporary with the formation of the Confederacy, and was famous as a chief and warrior. "Down to this day," says one writer, "among the Iroquois, his name is the personification of heroism, forecast and dignity of character." He was reluctant to consent to the new order of things, for he had previously rendered himself illustrious for his military achievements, and he would now be shorn of his power, and be placed among a number of equals. To remove this objection, his sachemship was dignified above the others, by certain special privileges not inconsistent, however, with an equal distribution of powers; and from that day to the present, this title has been regarded as more noble and illustrious in the catalogue of Iroquois nobility. This Ta-do-da-hoh, is the At-to-tar-ho of Cusick, who has pictured his hero as invested with attributes more than human. His representation is of a monarch quietly smoking, while an embassy of Mohawks have come to confer with him in regard to the formation of the League. He is seated in the shadow of one of the almost impenetrable marshes of Onondaga; he is clothed in living serpents whose hissing heads are extended in every direction. His dishes and spoons were made of the skulls of his enemies, slain in battle. Inspired with awe and respect, the Mohawks approach him, proffer their presents, smoke their pipes of peace and friendship, and place him at the head of the League as Chief Officer.
In this combination of five independent nations, all subordinate to the general government, there arose no slashing of interests; this was occasioned by the fact that the rulers of the subordinate government were the rulers of the general government, who regulated all conflicting interests in General Council In cases of emergency, each nation acted independently, but the General Council decided upon peace or war, and all other matters which regarded the interests of the whole. Although such momentous questions were decided by the Sachems, yet such was the spirit of this system of government, that the influence of the inferior chiefs, the warriors, and even the women, would make itself felt when the subject was of general interest and had aroused public feeling.
The office of Sachem was hereditary, but the chief Sachem was generally chosen for his talents, and usually was designated as the speaker.
There were the same number of war Chiefs in each nation as Sachems, who were subordinate to the civil commands of the council; but if the two, a war Chief and a Sachem went out to war together, the authority was there reversed; the war Chief was supreme, the Sachem a subordinate in the ranks. The supreme command in war was delegated to two Chiefs raised up as the Sachems were, their office hereditary. They were in all cases to be of the Seneca Nation, as this was looked upon as the door whence invaders would approach, and they were ever expected to be on their guard.
Other classes of officers that have appeared in the Confederacy, have been elected from time to time as emergency called for them, their powers being originally confined to the local affairs of their respective nations; they were home counsellors of the Sachems, but in process of time arrived at equal authority.
The machinery of this government was exceedingly simple and sat lightly upon the people. To govern as little as possible seemed their aim, thereby recognizing the fundamental principle of more enlightened nations, that happiness results from the largest liberty consistent with the public welfare.
The Iroquois Nation or Hodenosaunee,2 (Tribal League) consisted of eight tribes, arranged in two divisions and named as follows:-Wolf, Bear, Beaver, Turtle; Deer, Snipe, Heron, Hawk.
In the formation of a tribe, a portion was taken from many households and bound together by a tribal bond, which bond consisted of the ties of consanguinity, for all the members were connected by relationship, which under their law of descent was clearly traceable.
These tribes thus organized, were each divided into five parts, one-fifth placed in each of the Five Nations, thus giving to each nation eight tribes. Between the separated parts of each tribe, there existed a tie of brotherhood which linked the nations together by indissoluble bond. With the ties of kindred as its principle of union, the whole race was interwoven into one great family. Thus, the Turtle Tribe of the Mohawk, recognizes the Turtle tribe of the Oneidas as his brother, and so on through the whole Six Nations, the same tribe are the brethren of each other through the ties of consanguinity. Each tribe paints the animal denoting their tribe on their cabins, and often on their dress.
The marriage institution was regulated with reference to the relationship of tribes, and those who were kindred to each other, that is, of the same tribe, were prohibited intermarrying.
The Wolf, Bear, Beaver and Turtle, were in the original arrangement, considered brothers to each other, from near relationship, and were not to intermarry, also Deer, Snipe, Heron and Hawk, were brothers and prohibited intermarrying, but either of the first four could intermarry with the last four. This system yielded in process of time, and they were allowed to marry with any tribe but their own.
The children always followed the tribe of the mother, and the transmission of all titles, rights, and property were in the female line. For instance, it the Sachemship or war-chief-ship of a nation, at the original distribution of these offices, was given to one in the Deer tribe of that nation, the descent of this title being limited to the female line, it could never, by any means pass out of this tribe; for the child is known to be the son of his mother, but is not necessarily the son of his mother's husband. The individuality given the tribe by being the parent of a Sachem, made it a matter of pride to guard that right with jealous care. When the Sachem died and the title did not pass to his son, as the child was a member of the tribe of his mother, but it passed to the Sachem's brother, or to his sister's son, or under circumstances of incapacity in that line, to some individual of the tribe at large, who were in fact all brothers. In this manner the office was both elective and hereditary. There was no law which established a preference between the brother or nephew; neither between several brothers, or several sons of sisters. Neither was there any positive law that the choice should embrace the near relatives of the deceased, before a selection could be made from the tribe at large. Therefore it was only customarily hereditary through respect to the memory of the deceased; but it was positively hereditary to the tribe, and within its limits there was no law to prevent its being elective.
The selection of a Sachem on the decease of a ruler was effected by the assembling of a tribal council. If there was no one eligible among the relations of the deceased, one was chosen from the tribe whose sagacity, wisdom and prowess merited the position. Having determined their choice, a council of the natives is called in the name of the deceased, of all the Sachems of the League, and the new Sachem is "raised up" by such council, and invested with his office.
The Sachems, as well as War Chiefs, receive nothing but the honors of the office as compensation for their services. When off duty they were obliged to maintain themselves like other men. If by misconduct the Sachem or Chief was found unworthy of authority, a tribal council deposes him, a successor is selected and invested with authority, while he is subjected to public scorn and degradation.
To the tribe was secured the certainty of descent in the female line-the prohibition of intermarrying was positive-while it had the capacity of holding and exercising political rights, and the ability to contract and sustain relationship with other tribes.
The wife, her children, and her descendants in perpetuity were linked with the destinies of her own tribe and kindred, while the husband, his brothers and sisters, and the descendants of the latter in the female line, would in like manner, be united to another tribe and held by its affinities. By this rule of marrying into the tribes not connected, the League of Nation was cemented; if one nation warred against another, he would war against his brother or his cousin. Joncaire says, "the Nations have this in common; a man who goes to war denotes himself as much by the device of his wife's tribe, as by that of his own, and never marries a woman who carries a similar device to his own."
There was thus constructed a plan to prevent degeneracy of the race, and a bond of union between the different tribes, and of the different nations also, which is likened to the symbolical chain with its many links, all connected, interwoven, perfect in its simple arrangement, far-reaching and strong.
The Chief Sachem of the Confederacy had the authority to assemble a General Congress, or to light the "Grand Council fire," which he did by sending out runners to all the nations with belts of wampum, indicating the nature of business on hand. Upon important occasions nearly the whole Confederacy would flock to Onondaga, the grand Council seat. Assembled there, the Council was classed in two divisions ranged on opposite sides of the council-fire. The subject was then discussed on the one side and the other, with great ceremony. To avoid altercation in council, and to facilitate unanimity, the Sachems of each nation were divided into classes of two and three each. Each Sachem was forbidden to express an opinion, until he had agreed with the others of his class, and had been appointed by them to act as speaker. In this manner each class was brought to unanimity within itself. The representative Sachem of each class of the nation then held a consultation between the themselves, and when they had agreed, they appointed one of their number to express their opinion which was the answer of the nation. The several nations having by this ingenious method become of "one mind" separately, it remained to compare their several opinions, to arrive at the final sentiment of all the nations of the League. This was effected by a cross conference between the individual representatives of the several nations, and when they had arrived at unanimity, the answer of the Confederacy was determined. Thus unanimity became the fundamental law.
"Still further to illustrate the characteristics of the tribes of the Iroquois, some reference to their mode of bestowing names would not be inapt. Soon after the birth of an infant, the near relatives of the same tribe, select a name. At the first subsequent council of the nation, the birth and name were publicly announced, together with the name and tribe of the father, and the name and tribe of the mother. In each nation the proper names were so strongly marked by a tribal peculiarity, that the tribe of the individual could usually be determined from the name alone. Making as they did, a part of their language, they were consequently all significant. When an individual was raised up as a Sachem, his original name was laid aside, and that of the Sachem-ship itself assumed. The war-chief followed the same rule. In like manner, at the raising up of a chief, the council of the nation which performed the ceremony, took away the former name of the incipient chief, and assigned him a new one, perhaps, like Napoleon's titles, commemorative of the event which led to its bestowment, thus, when the celebrated Red-Jacket was elevated by election to the dignity of chief, his original name Ote-ti-an-I, (Always Ready) was taken from him, and in its place was bestowed, Sa-go-ye-wat-ha, (Keeper Awake) in his allusion to his powers of eloquence."3
The following are the names of the several degrees of relationship recognized among the Hodenosaunee in the language of the Seneca: ---
Hoc-sote, Grandfather; Uc-sote, Grandmother; Ha-nih, Father; Noh-yeh, Mother; Ho-ah-wuk, Son; Go-ah-wuk, Daughter; Ka-va-da, Grand-children; Hoc-no she, Uncle; Ah-geh-huc, Aunt; Ha-yan-wan-deh, Nephew; Ka-yan-wan-deh, Niece; Da-ya-gwa-dan-no-da, Brothers and Sisters; Ah-gare-she, Cousin.
There was no written language save that of the hieroglyphics, which being well understood among the Iroquois, served a very useful purpose. For example: if a company goes out to war, and they desire to inform the others of the Iroquois who might cross their path, of this proceeding, they mark on a tree from which the bark has been removed, the signature of their tribe, the animal with a hatchet, the sabre or club in the right paw, signifying "on the war-path." If several tribes are engaged in the expedition, the signature of all are inscribed, that of the leader being placed foremost. The symbol of the nation is given also; thus the symbol of the Oneidas, is "The Stone," which they give by placing a stone in the fork of a tree.
Returning from war they paint the animal of their tribe bearing across his shoulders a staff, upon which is strung the scalps taken in battle. If there are prisoners, they are represented marching in the rear, with a gourd in the right hand. Women are designated by the queue and waist-cloth. Those they lose in battle are shown by pictures of men without heads and with legs in air, and to denote the tribe to which they belong, the animal of that tribe lies on his back with his paws in the air. A headless animal denotes the loss of the chief, or head of the tribe. A broken arrow or gun which however is connected with the stock, signifies wounded, and the animal of the tribe to which the wounded belongs, has an arrow piercing him in the part in which the wound is located. Rude pictures of "litters" show they have sick and describe how many. Sometimes over the illustrious dead they erect a post four or five feet high, and embellish it with pictures of deeds of valor performed in life-how often he has been in battle, how many prisoners he has taken, &c.,-over all of which is painted in red, the calumet,-the "pipe of peace."
The Indians became so thoroughly versed in this method of symbolical language, that every paragraph, and every mark, presented a perfectly lucid explanation. So great was their power of perception, so keep their practiced eyes, that the position of a stick or stone, a broken twig, a fallen leaf, a foot print, gave an accurate statement of affairs.
The science of war-fare was the highest accomplishment known in the Indian education. From birth, the stern, rigid, and severe qualities of manhood were taught as manly virtues, while the gentler qualities, meekness, sympathy and forgiveness, were ignored as weakness unworthy a warrior, fit only for women to practice, and which were proofs of her inferiority, hence indifference to suffering was a manly attribute, and to glory in cruelty to an enemy, an honorable action. Revenge for wrongs done to them was religiously cherished.
There were, however, frequent instances, where individuals were governed by the grand principle of magnanimity which forbade the warrior to strike a fallen foe. In such a case captives taken in battle were adopted into the tribe, became one of them in every respect, shared equally in all pastimes, all privileges, and in all honors; if any difference was made, it was in favor of the stranger. If he mourned separation from friends, they were supplied him. Father, mother, brother and sister, and wife, were all in due season presented to him. So uniform was their kindness that in many instances the captive has preferred his captivity. Even white persons have become so attached to the novelties of their situation, and perhaps to the freedom found in this natural life, where there are no restraints, that they have chosen to remain with their captors, rather than return to civilization.
The preparations for the war-path were commonly opened by a feast and dance, in which the whole tribe took part. Directly from the dance, they took the trail, their chief taking the lead, marching in single file, the only manner of march practicable in their narrow trails through the woods.
Says an ancient writer: "When they fight they are very Molechs, and have merely the waist-cloth on, and a pair of moccasins on the feet." They display remarkable adroitness and strategy in approaching an enemy's village, or encampment, and impress one with the conviction of their excellent planning ability in conducting a campaign, but their valor is nowhere so signally displayed as in the heat of battle. Everything falls before them and they appear to be entirely carried away by the force of their passions. Women and children alike fall under their barbarous fury. This is spoken of the common warrior; there have been instance recorded of warriors' Chiefs who would not strike a fallen foe, or harm defenceless women and children; and yet, as in many instances in civilized warfare, it has been impossible for them to restrain their infuriated braves in battle. The scalping of a slain foe, in their estimation, was no wrong, as it was no injury to the body already insensible in the embrace of death, and it added to the trophies of conquest. But, after the heat of the fight had passed, they evinced a superstitious repugnance and fear, at beholding the dripping blood; therefore two or three men were chosen to carry the scalps and march at a distance in the rear of the party, till they had ceased to bleed.
When they had prisoners, the chiefs consulted together whether these captives should be put to death or adopted. If any one objected and desired to adopt the prisoner, the request was granted even if made by a woman. If the captive was to be destroyed, those who were to perform the terrible work, became dead to all feelings of humanity. They sought in every manner to stimulate their savage propensities. Every wrong done their race or nation to which the prisoner belonged were recounted and enlarged upon; extravagant exaggerations were indulged till their breasts were aflame with fury, when their vengeance was wreaked upon the helpless prisoner. The tortures and horrible death to which the Indians have subjected their victims, have been portrayed many times, and it has inspired the mind of the white race with horror and hatred so entire, that the redeeming qualities of the Indian character can scarcely be discerned.
There was, however, a redeeming principle in their breasts, else this plan of adoption had never been ordered. By their custom from time immemorial, the captive was adopted to supply the place of their own slain in battle, and many a victim has been snatched from the flames to be adopted by some Indian mother to occupy the place of a lost son. The revulsion in sentiment astonishes him; the influence of kindness wins him; the "freedom of the woods" charms him; he is no longer an alien, but socially and politically one of their kindred and beloved by them. The utmost exertions are made to cause him to forget their former cruelty to him, and he does forget, and remains with them.
The religious belief and ceremonies of the Iroquois, their dress and other customs were similar to those of all the other Indians of this State as described by the early voyagers hither, and given in the beginning of this chapter. However, the progress attendant upon their form of government had brought about a higher cultivation, and a better state of living. They surpassed all other Indian nations in size and elegance of form, dignified bearing and particularly in their powers of eloquence. Their language though gutteral, was sonorous, and their orators studied euphony in their words and in their arrangement. "Their graceful attitudes," says a distinguished writer, "and gestures, and their flowing sentences rendered their discourses, if not always eloquent, at least highly impressive. An erect, commanding figure, with a blanket thrown loosely over the shoulder, with his naked arm raised, and addressing in impassioned strains a group of similar persons sitting upon the ground around him, would give no faint picture of Rome in her early days."
They were very methodical in their harangues. When in conference with other nations, at the conclusion of every important sentence of the opposite speaker, a Sachem gave a small stick, or a belt of wampum, to the orator who was to reply, charging him at the same time to remember it. After a short consultation with the others, he was able to repeat most of the discourse, which he answered article by article.
James Cartier, with an expedition from France in 1535, opened the way for the French to the homes of the Iroquois. He sailed up the St. Lawrence to an Indian village on the present site of Montreal, which village consisted of about fifty well built houses of wood which were covered by bark of trees as "wide as any board and very finely cunningly joined together." The village was surrounded by large and thrifty fields of corn. It was the home of a tribe of Hurons.
Returning to France, Cartier, in 1540, with Roberval, made another voyage to this country, and Cartier built a fort at Quebec, which, however, he left for a return to his native country in 1542.
From this period, owing to agitations in the mother country, more than fifty years elapsed ere the wilds of northern America witnessed the approach of another French vessel, and the Iroquois only knew by tradition the characteristics of the white race. In the meantime, however, several expeditions had been sent out by English and other foreign authorities, which had landed on the coasts of our Southern States. These had proved but abortive attempts at colonization.
In 1603, Samuel Champlain came out from France with an expedition, reached America, entered the St. Lawrence, and following the path of Cartier, sailed up to Quebec and there selected the site of his fort. He established here a trading post for the purpose of dealing in the fur trade. In order to win the favor of the Hurons, he became their ally against the Iroquois. The power of the Iroquois was a source of dread to the Canada Indians, the Hurons and Algonquins, and they encouraged the French with hopes that their assistance might break that power.
In 1609, Champlain suffered himself to be led by their oft-repeated persuasions to go out to the Iroquois country to subjugate them. In July the expedition of French and Indians entered the Iroquois country, and the first pitched battle between the white men and Indians on this continent, was fought the 30th of July, 1609, between Champlain and his allies, and the Iroquois, in the victory of Ticonderoga, a place afterwards made famous by battles of the French and Revolutionary wars. In this battle the Iroquois were taught a terrible lesson of the use of fire-arms in warfare. They knew of no better weapon than the hatchet, war club and arrow. They came to this battle led by three Chiefs who wore lofty plumes. They were all clad in an arrow proof armor (a remarkable circumstance-worn probably to protect themselves from balls, the nature of which they knew but little,) woven of cotton-thread and wood. Champlain and his men were armed with arquebuses, his Indians with arrows. At the first round from the arquebuses, two of the three Chiefs were killed, and the third so wounded that he died soon after. When the Iroquois saw their Chiefs were slain, they took flight, abandoning the field and fort they had hastily built during the previous night, bearing their wounded into the depths of the forest. Champlain, with fifteen or sixteen arrow-wounded soldiers, returned to Canada, carrying a dozen prisoners which his men captured of the flying Iroquois in the woods.
At this same period, 1609, Hudson made the acquaintance of the Indians about the North River, and of him they obtained and learned to use fire-arms.
Champlain went to France, and returned to America again in 1615, when he again invaded the territory of the Iroquois in western New York. Finding them entrenched, he attacked their fort which was situated somewhere in the neighborhood of Canandaigua. The fortress was most admirably constructed, and successfully resisted all efforts made towards its destruction. The Indians fought with arrows. After several days of futile attempts, the work was abandoned, and Champlain returned to Canada, bearing on the way his wounded on litters, till they reached their canoes on the Lake. He had now incurred the hatred of the Iroquois; and the Dutch, who had settled at New York and Albany, had, by demonstrations of good will, secured their friendship.
The Five Nations, repaired to Albany with presents as covenants of good faith; the trade of furs became established so largely that the Dutch East India Company grew rich upon the traffic. The New Netherlands Colony increased and flourished, and to Corlear (the honored Governor of Renssellaerwyck,) the Indians cheerfully acknowledged obedience. This state of affairs, so propitious to the interests of the Dutch, might have longer continued, had not cupidity entered the breast of traders, and resentment the heart of the Indian, which culminated in the War of 1642 in which the Iroquois took up the hatchet in defence of weaker nations, and then, by their wise diplomacy and powerful influence, secured the only permanent negotiations of peace, which were effected in 1645.
In the mean time Champlain had died and Montneagy had succeeded him. The Jesuits had established themselves in New France, as Canada was called; had planted the standard of their faith among the northern Indians, and now they ventured among the haughty Iroquois. Their peaceful demeanor, the impressiveness of their religious ceremonials, won upon the hearts of the untaught children of the forest, and many of them rejoiced to find a settled hope in place of a superstitious fear; and thus the Jesuits gained a place and secured a foothold for France among the Five Nations.
Father Simon LeMoine who was established at Onondaga in 1654, gives one of the earliest and most minute accounts of these missions. He describes his reception among the Indians as an event of rejoicing. The people flocked around him and listened with eager attention to his words. On the 10th of August, with delegates from three of the neighboring nations, Father LeMoine, and his party of Frenchmen, held a general council of peace with the Iroquois Nations. At this council, LeMoine was the bearer of "words" from "Onnonthio," (Mons. De Lauzon, then Governor of New France,) each of which were confirmed by presents. He relates that "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 the stage, as is their custom." After this, the Indians consulted together for the space of two hours, and then "called me among them, and seated me in an honorable place. The Chief, who is tongue of the country, repeats faithfully, as orator, the substance of all my words. Then all set to singing in token of their gratification. I was told to pray God on my side, which I did very willingly. After these songs, he spoke to men in the name of his nation." This orator was followed by others from the different nations, and the speeches recorded are full of feeling and power, all testifying to the good will in their hearts for the French.
Events, which occurred subsequently during LeMoine's mission of four years, proved to the Iroquois that the designs of the French were not wholly to Christianize; but were mainly to secure dominion over them. The success of the Jesuits induced considerable numbers of the French to immigrate thither, and soon troubles began to develop. For the murder of an Onondaga by a French Indian, the Iroquois renewed their war upon the Hurons, who were subjects of the French Government. Also three Frenchmen were killed at Montreal by a party of Oneidas, who scalped heir victims, and "carried these as if in triumph to their villages, in token of declared war." For this act of hostility a dozen Iroquois were arrested by the French commander, and put in irons, at Montreal, three Rivers, and Quebec, where they happened to be at the time. This so irritated the Iroquois, that they determined to avenge themselves by war against the French. In February, 1658, the Jewuits ascertained that 200 Mohawks, 40 Oneidas, and some of the Onondaga warriors had taken the field, while the main body were assembling. This determined the Jesuits and the Frenchmen, their assistants, to depart. They conducted their preparations for removal with such secrecy and celerity, that the Onondagas were wholly deceived, and knew nothing of their flight until the journey of part of a night and a day had widened the distance between them. Fear of massacre alone compelled them to undertake this perilous journey, amid the inclemencies of wintry weather, it being the 20th of March, 1658, when they embarked on Onondaga River, with two batteaux and eight canoes, which composed their fleet, with fifty-three Frenchmen. They arrived at Quebec on the 23rd of April, in safety, after having encountered untold suffering and perils.
"The French government then determined to chastise the Iroquois for their obstinacy; or, as appears from a report to that government, upon the principle that "no advantage can be expected from these nations, except so far as we appear able to injure them." To insure the success of an expedition against them, it was necessary to become acquainted with the routes leading to and through their country. The benefits of the scheme, its practicability, together with the information gained of the situation of the country, was transmitted in a message to the Home Government, (France,) from which the subjoined extracts are made.
The route proceeded from Quebec across the country, to the first nation, the Mohawks, which consisted of "two or three villages, containing three or four hundred capable of bearing arms. * * * Proceeding westward at a distance of forty-five leagues is found the second nation called Oneyda, which has no more at most than one hundred and forty warriors. * * * * Fifteen leagues towards sunset is Onnontague which has full three hundred men. * * * * At twenty or thirty leagues from there, still toward the west is the village of Cayuga with three hundred warriors, where in the year 1657, we had a mission. * * * * Toward the termination of the Great Lake called Ontario, is located the most numerous of the Five Iroquois Nations, called Ontario, is named the Senekas, with full twelve hundred men, in two or three villages of which it is composed. * * * * All this extent of country is partly south and partly west of the French settlements, at a distance of from one hundred to one hundred and fifty leagues. It is for the most part fertile, covered with fine timber; among the rest, entire forests of chestnut and hickory, intersected by numerous lakes and rivers abounding in fish. The air is temperate, the seasons regular as in France, capable of bearing all the fruits of Touraine and Provence. The snows are not deep nor of long duration. The three winters which we passed there among the Onnontagues, were mild compared with the winters at Quebec, where the ground is covered five months with snow, three, four and five feet deep. As we inhabit the northern part of New France and the Iroquois the South, it is not surprising that their lands are more agreeable, and more capable of cultivation, and of bearing better fruit. * * * * The forest is full of deer, bears, and wild cows (?); sometimes entire herds of fallow deer, which supply abundance of provisions necessary to travellers everywhere."
Thus it will be seen that the French laid claim to all Northern and Central New York, and intended to make good that claim by conquest.
The Mohawks occupied the country along the Mohawk River, the Oneidas south, east and north of Oneida Lake, the Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas spreading over the whole fertile region of Western New York. The French commenced encroachments by building forts in this country, for the two-fold purpose of securing traders' stores, and to intimidate the natives.
In the winter of 1666, Mons. DeCourcelles, with five hundred men, made a descent upon the Mohawk country. The expedition was attended with hardships and suffering, and when they reached the Dutch settlements, they found that the Mohawk and Oneida warriors had gone on a long journey to make war against the tribe called Wampum Makers, and had left in their villages only the children and helpless old men. The report says: "It was then considered useless to push furthur forward an expedition which had all the effect intended, by the terror it spread among the tribes, who were haughty and perfidious, only because they considered themselves inaccessible to our troops. Before returning, however, we killed several savages, who from time to time made their appearance along the skirts of the forest for the purpose of skirmishing with our people."
The French now flattered themselves that the natives were sufficiently overawed, and they might count on their subjugation on any terms; but in a general council at Quebec in the ensuing summer, all the Five Nations were well represented, and finding them to be really formidable, they arranged an honorable treaty of peace, in which the Iroquois gave many tokens of the genuineness of their pledges. This treaty was grossly violated by the French immediately after; they went to work secretly, and by autumn had collected a force of twelve hundred soldiers, a hundred Hurons and Algonquins, and with Governor Tracy at the head, marched through the Iroquois towns, and finding the inhabitants fled, laid waste their stores of grain and devastated their villages. Desolation followed their path everywhere. "Famine" it was averred by the French, "will destroy as many as would have been destroyed by the arms of our soldiers, had they dared to await them, and those who survive will be reduced by terror to peaceful conditions, and to a demeanour more difficult to be obtained from them by mere sanguinary victories." The Iroquois forts were formally taken possession of, and the Cross planted before the doors, and to a post affixed the Arms of the King of France. Deeming themselves quite secure in their authority, the French sent in their spies, traders and priests, who with their presents and peaceful conduct, soon secured a class of adherents among the natives. The mission at Oneida named St. Francis Xavier, was established by Father Jaques Bruyas, in 1667, where he remained till 1671.
From this period the cause of the French gained, and their trade flourished among the Indians of Central New York; nevertheless, the nations were in allegiance to the English and annually went to Albany to renew the chain of friendship.
Though Governor Nichols of New York, remonstrated with Governor Tracy for his intrusion, and made laws forbidding the French to enter their territory under severe penalties, and also obtained a promise from the Iroquois that they would not allow them to remain among them, yet these were no more than nominal laws, threats, and promises. The Iroquois had cared but little about the changes which had transpired in the subversion of the Dutch government to English rule; had paid little heed to the embroils of the English and French, and had only seemed desirous of living in peace with all their white neighbors. If the English lost the precedence among the natives, it was only from neglecting to take the same care to cultivate them that the French did.
But the English entered the country only to purchase furs and these were generally brought to Albany by the natives. The earliest record we have of English travelers having penetrated the Indian country to any considerable distance, was given by Wentworth Greenhalgh, who made his journey between the dates of May 20th and July 14th, 1677. It was thirteen years since the province came under the control of the Duke of York, and but three years since his rule had become finally established, and the English were desirous to ascertain the bounds and resources of the province. From the journal kept by Greenhalgh the following extract is taken:-"The Maques have four towns viz: Cahanaiga, Canagorah, Canajorha, Tionondogue, besides one small village about 110 miles from Albany.
"Cahanaiga is double stockaded round; has four ports, about four foot wide apiece, conteyns about 24 houses, and is situate upon the edge of an hill, about a bow shot from the river side.
"Canagorah is only single stockaded; has four ports like the former, conteyns about 16 houses; it is situated upon a flat, a stone's throw from the water's side.
"Canajorha is also singly stockaded, and like the manner of ports and quantity of houses of Canagora; the like situation, only about two miles distant from the water.
"Tionondoque is double stockaded round, has four ports four foot wide apiece, contains about 30 houses, it is situated on a hill about a bow shot from the river.
"The small village is without fence and conteyns about ten houses; lyes close by the river side, on the north side as do all the former.
"The Maques pass in all for about 300 fighting men. Their corn grows close by the River Side.
"Of the situation of the Oneidas and Onondagas and their strength:
"The Oneydas have but one town which lyes about 130 miles westward of the Maques. (?) It is situated about 20 miles from a small river, [from the mouth of Oneida Creek?] which domes out of the hills to the southward and runs into Lake Teshiroque, [Oneida Lake,] and about 30 miles distant from the Maques [Mohawk] River, which lyes to the northward; the town is newly settled, double stockaded, but little cleared ground, so that they send to the Onondagoes to buy corn; the town consists of about 100 houses. They are said to have about 200 fighting men. Their corn grows round about the town.
"The Onondagoes have but one town, but it is very large; consisting of about 140 houses not fenced; it is situate upon a hill that is very large, the bank on each side extending itself at least two miles, cleared land, whereon the corn is planted. They have likewise a small village about two miles beyond that, consisting of about 24 houses. They lye to the southward of the west, about 36 miles from the Oneydas. They plant abundance of corn which they sell to the Oneydas. The Onondagoes are said to be about 350 fighting men. They lye about 15 miles from Teshiroque."
The traveller further described the villages of the Iroquois, the Cayugas and Senecas, and thus concluded with the Senecas:-
"The Senecas have four towns, viz; Canagorah, Tishtehatan, Canoenada, Keint-he. Canagorah and Tistehatan lie within 30 miles of Lake Frontenac; the other two about four or five miles to the southward of there; they have abundance of corn. None of these towns are stockaded.
"Canagorah lies on the top of a great hill, and in that as well as bigness, much like Onondagoe, containing 150 houses.
"Here the Indians were very desirous to see us ride our horses, which we did. They made feasts and dancing.
"Tishtehatan lies on the edge of a hill; not much cleared ground; is near the river Tishtehaten, which signifies bending; it lies northward of Canagorah about 30 miles. Conteyns about 120 houses, being the largest of all the houses we saw, the ordinary being 50 or 60 feet and some 130 or 140 feet long with 13 or 14 fires in one house. They have good store of corn growing about a mile to northward of the town.
"Canoenada lies about 4 miles to southward of Canagorah; contains about 30 houses, well furnished with corn.
"Kint-he lies about 4 or 5 miles to the southward of Tistehaten; conteyns about 24 houses well furnished with corn.
"The Senecas are counted to be in all about 1,000 fighting men. The whole force, Maques 300, Oneydoes 200, Onondagoes 350, Cayugas 300, with Senecas 1,000, making a total of 2,150 fighting men."
The English Government now became interested in affairs of the Indians, who, in return, introduced them to the fur trade of the western lakes, and Gov. Dongan caused the Coat-of-Arms of His Royal Highness, Duke of York, to be put up in all the Indian Castles. Incensed at this the French redoubled their enterprises with great vigor, and causes of irritation immediately sprung up between them and the Iroquois, and the latter retaliated by killing a Jesuit Missionary, and subsequently by making a descent upon a fort, and plundering seven French canoes laden with merchandise, and detaining the traders.
At this period, 1684, Mons. De La Barre, Governor General of Canada, stationed Father Lamberville at Onondaga, and Father Pierre Millet at Oneida. These priests were in constant communication with their governor and wisely endeavored to keep peace. Nevertheless De La Barre fitted out an expedition to subjugate the Iroquois. In behalf of the two nations, for whom they were missionaries, these priests journeyed to meet La Barre and if possible turn him from the project. The Governor was, however, more easily persuaded by the alarming sickness of his troops when at Hungry Bay, Jefferson Co., which caused his expedition to terminate without fighting.
The French were dissatisfied because De La Barre did not fight. The King of France wanted the Indians for galley slaves, and thenceforth the subjugation of the Iroquois became a popular theme.
The English had begun to realize the value of their swarthy neighbors, and thus Governor Dongan eulogized them in a report to the English Government. "The Five Nations are the most warlike and powerful of all the Indian nations, and are a bulwark between us and the French and all the other Indians; they go so far as the South sea, [Gulf of Mexico,] the North West Passage, [Mackinack,] and Florida to war. New England, in their last war with the Indians, had been ruined had not Sir Edmund Andros, [Governor of N.Y.] sent some of those Nations to their assistance; and indeed they are so considerable that all the Indians in these parts of America are tributary to them. * * * They have ten or twelve castles. * * * Those Five Nations are very brave, and the awe and dread of all the Indians in these parts of America, and are a better defense to us than if they were so many Christians. * * * * The designs of the French is to acquire the beaver trade, whatever colour they may give to their actions."
Mons. De Nonville succeeded De La Barre as governor of Canada, and as a precaution in planning another expedition against the Indians, he pays them the following tribute in a report to his King: --- "The force of the Iroquois consists of 2000 picked warriors, brave, active, more skillful in the use of the gun than Europeans, and all well armed." The French really dreaded and feared to meet them on their own ground, knowing by bitter experience, that their peculiar mode of warfare, resorting to ambush, hiding behind trees, lying upon the ground, and other ruses, were likely to prove successful in the future, as in the past. Nevertheless, the summer of 1687 witnessed De Nonville's famous expedition into the Seneca country, where he maintained a brief period of carnage and devastation, in which his command suffered, as well as the Iroquois. His success did not invite to further conquests, and it is inferred that the French gained little honor and less advancement in this rencontre. The next summer they succeeded in getting a large delegation from the Iroquois to Montreal for negotiations.
In 1689, the province of New York had arrived at a period renowned in history. The English under William and Mary, and the French under Louis XIV, were, as nations, fairly launched on a sea of embroils and difficulties, and their American provinces partook of the national animosities. The command of New York had been in the hands of Governor Andros, who, like his ex-King, James II, was a violent Catholic, and who, on the accession of the Protestant Kind and Queen to the throne, was imprisoned and sent to England. Jacob Leisler, a man of Dutch extraction and a merchant of New York City, having many adherents, assumed the reins of government and proclaimed William and Mary. He was a violent opposer to Catholics, and subsequently of the Jesuits priests stationed among the Five Nations. Lamberville and Millet who were still at Onondaga and Oneida, had maintained a friendly correspondence with Governor Dongan, who was also a Catholic, but Leisler having no bonds of faith to attach him to them, declaired that he could perceive that "they were laboring to throw dust in the eyes of the English, and at the same time forward the plans of the French." He determined to counter act their influence. The Indians were already aflame with resentment towards the French for many recent injuries, among which was the sending of thirty-nine Iroquois prisoners to France for galley slaves. Thirteen of these had been returned to Canada, the rest having died of sickness, but these thirteen were still detained in Canada. During the summer of 1689, scouting parties on either side were scouring the woods between Canada and Central New York, and in September the Iroquois caught "five praying Indians, who were bound hither to do mischief," and they had sent to Albany for two or three pair of horses and five or six men to ride the heaviest stockade of Tionondaga. Leisler, acting under the advice of Peter Schuyler, Mayor of Albany, established a better arrangement to attach the Indians to the English cause. [Peter Schuyler possessed remarkable influence with the Indians, and was a man of sound judgment and great moderation.]
The new arrangement established a sworn interpreter for the better communication between the Indians and English. Arnout Cornelise occupied that position. Regular runners (or posts) were kept, to transmit messages from the central seat of the Five Nations to Albany. Jeannetie (or Laurence Jeannetie, as he is sometimes called,) an Indian, was one of the most reliable of those runners. Tasoquathe, Caristasie, and Jurian, Mohawks, were frequently on the path with messages. Lieut. Robert Sanders, a member of the Albany Convention, (the highest official body in the province,) was commander of Indian forces; his sagacity and knowledge of Indian character, called him to his office. In times of unusual danger, or cases in which both English and the Five Nations were interested, Peter Schuyler conducted councils with the Indians at Albany.
Late in the year 1689, a party of Iroquois saw three of those thirteen prisoners who had been returned from France to Canada, and they made an appeal for them to be set free; also two letters from Canada to the priest at Oneida had fallen into the hands of some of the Indians. These, with the news concerning the prisoners, were sent to Albany by five embassadors, chiefs of the Five Nations. They called on Arnout Cornelise on their way and obtained his interpretation of their message, in a letter, which they took to Peter Schuyler. On the 27th of December, two days after their arrival, a Council consisting of Mayor, Aldermen, Commonality and Military officers of the City and County of Albany, was called to meet with these Chiefs. The letters, one from Lamberville who had gone to Canada, were not proven obnoxious, but the opportunity was seized upon to draw up a series of articles, admonishing the Five Nations to observe greater caution in their intercourse with the common enemy, and giving timely advice upon important affairs. The articles and the decision upon the letters, were sent by express to the Nations by the three trusty Mohawk messengers. Arnout Cornelise accompanied by Robert Sanders was sent to Onondaga with all possible speed, that especial care should be taken that the articles be plainly stated, and also to state in the Indian's General Council at Onondaga "that Albany is the prefixed House to treat and speak with all sorts of people, and those who strive to make peace or cession with the French, must be looked upon as persons who design to make a breach in the silver covenant chain which has so many years been kept inviolable with the government."
The interest manifested in this arrangement won the Iroquois to greater fidelity. They then made offer of furnishing 1,800 men to conduct a campaign to Canada. Captain Blew-stocking and De-gan-och-keeri, raised a command of forty Mohawks, but with all their vigilance, being unaided by the English, they did not avert the calamity which was visited upon the peaceful Dutch citizens on the Mohawk-the burning of Schenectady by the French and their savage allies on the 9th of February, 1690. This terrible massacre was due the planning ability of Count De Frontenac, then Governor of New France (Canada.) The ire of the Five Nations was terrible increased by this new outrage, for they regarded the Dutch as their brothers. The ability of the Jesuits to further on such designs as the French Governor saw fit to set on foot, was evident, and many efforts were made to induce the Iroquois to give them up to the authorities, but this was not done, for there was always among them a party of more or less influence in the Jewuit's interest. Five French men who came to Onondaga and from there to Oneida, with presents to the natives and bearing letters to the priests, were caught and made prisoners, and by permission of the authorities at Albany, who were immediately consulted, these prisoners were divided among the nations, taken to Onondaga, and there barbarously destroyed. A short time after, another party of four French, four of their "praying Indians," (converts to the Catholic faith,) came bringing two of the captive Iroquois to Onondaga, and from there sent out embassadors to all the other Nations. Two of these Frenchmen were believed to be Father Lamberville, (the former priest at Onondaga) and the French Captain who attacked Schenectady. None of the nations would confer with them till they had called some "understanding men from Albany" that they might not be deceived. Peter Schuyler, Robert Saunders, Mons. Gawsheron, Jean Rose and two more went up to Onondaga. It is believed these Frenchmen were killed; and it is inferred from documents of that period that Father Millet was detained as a prisoner at Oneida.
The English now fully aroused to the dangers of French invasion, endeavored to raise forces to commence retaliatory measures, but so weakened was the province by the unhappy state of her civil affairs that all efforts seemed barren of results.
Major Fitz John Winthrop made an attempt at invasion of Canada, with New York and New England forces, which was a failure. An effort was also made by Capt. John Schuyler, who with a small band of whites and Indians penetrated to Fort La Prairie, near Chambly, where they had an engagement, put to flight the enemy and captured some prisoners.
Soon after this, letters of commission were given to Arnout Cornelise Veile, (the same Arnout Cornelise before mentioned,) dated 20th September, 1690, authorizing him to act as Indian Agent for their Majesty's Province of New York, requiring him to reside at Onondaga, or at other places among the Indians according to instructions. Mr. Gerrit Luycass, who had been at Onondaga a few weeks, was appointed assistant to Arnout Cornelise Viele, to contribute in carrying out all lawful instructions from Albany.
The change in the civil affairs of New York, the deposition and execution of Jacob Leisler, and the short rule of Governor Sloughter, did not materially affect the state of Indian affairs. Major Peter Schuyler, the person best fitted for the place, had command of the forces against the French, which consisted of three hundred Mohawks and River Indians, joined by one hundred and thirty "Christians" [white men?] who, on their way were to be added to by five hundred Senecas. By this force were the French annoyed and held in check.
To the year 1696 this state of petty warfare was continued the warlike blood of all parties concerned was wrought up to fervent heat. Count Frontenac the most able and enterprising governor the French had had over their possessions in America, was still in command of New France. With a determined spirit, though at the advanced age of seventy-four years, he planned a decisive blow to the English interests among the Iroquois. In August, 1696, heading his command in person, he made a descent upon the central power of these Confederates. He found the village of Onondage destroyed by the natives to prevent its falling into his hands, but his soldiery destroyed the luxuriant fields of corn around it. Oneida, which now had no Jesuit priest to serve as a hostage, Father Millet having been re-called to Canada, was invaded, destroyed, and thirty-five of their principal men among whom were their head Chiefs, were made prisoners and carried to Canada. The devastation and ruin which marked this invasion, caused many of the Five Nations to flee in consternation to Albany for protection and relief. Winter was approaching and no corn was left to meet their necessities; neither dwellings to house them, though the latter they could provide. Governor Fletcher was then in command of New York. He called a council in which the English evinced their sympathy by enacting measures calculated to establish their friendship, producing the opposite tendency desired by Frontenac; for they immediately built up their villages. The corn, implements, and utensils destroyed, were more than supplied by the government, added to by an outfit of clothing, who that although discouraged for a season, recuperation was rapid.
In 1698, a treaty of peace was made between New France and the Iroquois, which was made more permanent by the treaty of 1700 between, the French and English, in which each nation were bound to certain restrictions; an important one being that the subjects of the two crowns should not intrench upon each other's lands, till their limits and boundaries were decided by the proper commissioners appointed for that purpose. The Indians had now learned that victory to either French or English could confer no benefits on themselves, and so they carefully avoided entering into their difficulties.
They also resolved upon some measures to protect their own interests, and in 1701, they "delineated upon paper in the most precise manner, the limits of what they called their hunting grounds, comprehending the great Lakes of Ontario and Erie, and all the circumjacent land for the distance of sixty miles around them. The sole and absolute property of this country they desired might be secured to them, and as a proof of perpetual alliance and to support our rights4 against any claims which the French might make, founded on the vague and uncertain pretence of unlimited grants, or accidental local discovery, they declared themselves willing to yield to Great Britain the sovereignty and absolute dominion of it, to be secured and protected by forts, to be erected whenever it should be thought proper."
A treaty was accordingly then entered into and conclude by Mr. Nanfan, then Lieutenant Governor of New York, and a deed of surrender of the lands was executed by the Iroquois, on the conditions as above stated.
The boundary between the English and French had not yet been definitely settled upon, and the foregoing treaty was not strictly observed by the English. Disgusted and dissatisfied, many Indians joined the French in the war which followed. The French got possession of the country to the westward by erecting forts and military establishments. The treaty of Utrecht in 1713, compelled them, however, to acknowledge British sovereignty over the Iroquois.
There are no records of the wars of the Iroquois with other nations of their own race, only so far as the civilized nations were interested, or participated therein. It was known, however, that the Confederacy warred with the southern, western, and northwestern tribes, in times when they were at peace with their white neighbors; and it was counted no unusual circumstance for them to start on the war path for the Ohio or Kentucky rivers, or to the country of Virginia, the Carolinas, or Georgia. In the journeyings they had come across the Tuscaroras, who dwelt upon the Neuse River in North Carolina, a large and powerful nation who had "fifteen towns, and could count twelve hundred warriors." These became attached to the Iroquois and took sides with them against the Cherokees, Creeks and Catawbas, with whom they warred. It is believed that this union of the Tuscaroras with the Iroquois came about by a similarity in the language of each, which induced them to believe the Tuscaroras to be a portion of their own nation.
In 1711 the Tuscaroras had become dissatisfied with encroachments upon their lands, by the colonists of North Carolina, who even went so far as to parcel the land to emigrants as their own heritage. Exasperated, the Tuscaroras retaliated by seizing one Lawson, Surveyor-General of the State of Carolina, and after a brief trial putting him to death. Becoming alarmed they hoped to escape punishment by putting to death all the white settlers south of Albemarle Sound. Dividing into small parties they commenced their horrid purpose, and on the 22nd of September, 1711, one hundred and thirty persons fell victims to the sacrifice.
Col. Barnwell of South Carolina, with a small party of whites, and a considerable body of Catawbas, Creeks and Cherokees who had long standing revenges to satisfy, set out against them. After killing fifty Tuscaroras, and taking 250 prisoners, they came upon one of their forts on the Neuse River, where were enclosed 600 of the enemy. Barnwell concluded a treaty of peace with them, to which the Tuscaroras paid no attention, and renewed hostilities in a few days after. South Carolina, appealed to for assistance the second time, now sent out Col. Moore with 40 whites and 800 Indians, in the month of December. After a fatiguing march they came upon the Tuscaroras who had fortified themselves on the Taw River, about fifty miles from its mouth. A short engagement and Col. Moore entered their works, and 800 Tuscaroras became his prisoners. These were claimed by his Indians as a reward for their services, and were taken to South Carolina where they were sold for slaves. The remnant of the Tuscaroras, broken in spirit, were driven from their homes; to the nothward they traveled till they reached the Iroquois. No written record tells us of the Grand Council held on their reception; of their formal adoption into the Great Confederacy, giving them the title thereafter of the Sixth Nation; of the considerate and paternal manner in which the Iroquois relieved their immediate necessities, and home and country assigned them. This powerful race of 1200 warriors were reduced to less than two hundred, and in sympathy for their weakened and effeminated condition, their home was made among the retired precincts of the Oneidas; at their ancient abiding place among the hills of Stockbridge, and at their quiet retreat at Canaseraga, south of Oneida Lake. All the privileges of the Confederacy were accorded them; they were called the "Younger Brothers." They sat in the councils equal in honor with the greatest, and their voice was listened to with equal respect.
In following the course of events, it is found that the advent of the Tuscaroras was one of the remarkable epochs in their history, and the most considerable event of the first quarter of the eighteenth century. Slowly advancing upon them, however, were changes which were destined to deeply affect their nationality.
That which disturbed the Nations most, during this period, was the approach of white settlements here and there in close proximity to their borders. Although in the treaty of 1713, France agreed to "never molest the Five Nations subject to the dominion of Great Britain," yet the question of boundry was still unsettled, and the Iroquois saw them re-build the fort at Niagara and increase their strength at the trading post at Detroit, and saw projects on foot for a continuous line of forts from Quebec to the Gulf of Mexico.
Governor Burnet of New York, coming upon the stage of action during this time, exhibited greater zeal for His Majesty's Indian interests, than his immediate predecessors had done. By his assiduity he won the Indians who had strayed into the French interests, back to renew the ancient covenant chain. The agreement of 1701 was confirmed by a treaty in 1726, concluded upon the same terms, and a new deed reciting the former was executed. To counteract the French ascendancy which overawed the northern and western Indian frontier, Burnet energetically proceeded to the building of forts. He erected the fort as Oswego almost wholly at his private expense. His report exhibits his energy in the matter, and at the same time gives the reader a good idea of the mode of transportation of that day. His posse of workmen were sent up to Oswego by way of Mohawk River, Oneida Lake and Oswego River, and were accompanied by a detachment of sixty soldiers to protect them. His report states that he had been obliged to lay out three hundred pounds provided by Assembly, and more than double that amount on his own credit, "to furnish necessaries and provisions and hire workmen, and make batteaux to carry the men, for it is all water carriage from our outermost town called Schenectady to this place, [Oswego] which is about two hundred miles, except five miles where they must draw their batteaux over land, [Wood Creek carrying place,] which is easily enough done, and this makes our communication much more convenient than by land."
The building of this fort on land to which the French now as usual laid claim, was the inciting cause for further disturbances which finally culminated in the war of 1742, and which was confined chiefly to the northern borders of this State. The Iroquois as a people remained true to their allegiance to the English, and did not, (except in individual instances,) violate their laws of neutrality. On the other hand, among the French a Jesuit priest brought into their ranks a force on Indians whom he had attached to himself. This champion of the rights of the French, Father Francois Picquet, was established at the Lake of the Two Mountains in 1733, and was one of the first to foresee this war and prepared for it a long time beforehand. He undoubtedly assisted in bringing it about. He evidently got great glory to the arms of France and added largely to the consequence and pomp of his Mission.5
After the ruins of carnage had smouldered in a deceitful peace of but a few years duration, the war commencing with the year 1754, broke out with greater and more destructive violence, involving a wide section of country in its turmoils. The period was approaching when the destiny of the contestants was to be decided. The matter of supremacy of either of the two powers, English or French, on this continent, hung on the issue of the fortunes of this war.
This remarkable epoch in the state of our country, developed the men for the American Revolution. England, in compelling her American subjects to fight her battles for her, was unconscious that she was training them worthily and well, to become her most successful foes; that in thus getting glory to her arms, should be the means, ultimately, of bringing glory to them and defeat to her. Washington, on the western frontier of Virginia, fighting the French and Indians, grew into early distinction. General Gage earned a fine military reputation during this period, and General Philip Schuyler became conspicuous.6
Sir William Johnson, who had he lived in the time of the Revolution, might have restrained his violently loyalist family, even if he had chosen to remain true to the King, was one of the most remarkable men of the period of which we now write. Among the Indians he was a power overshadowing the combined influence of all the French diplomats, including the insinuating rivalry of Father Francois Picquet.
Gens. Bradstreet, Johnson, Wolf, Amherst, Shirley, Stanwix, Colonel Mercer and many other brave men, gave luster to England's glory, while Generals Dieskau, Montcalm and Du Quesne, with signal renown long upheld their country's banner, and parried the impending doom of French dominion. The battles of Saratoga, Lake Champlain, Crown Point, the Cascades, Ticonderoga, Oswego and those on the Mohawk River, attest to the skill, daring and bravery of these men. However, the mind is filled with horror when the scenes of carnage are recalled, for the savages attached to these armies, particularly those under command of Father Francois Picquet, incited by intoxicating liquors, committed barbarities which even their commander could not restrain. Father Picquet distinguished himself and won the compliment from Du Quesne, as one who "was worth more than ten regiments."
Sir William Johnson in addition to being Indian Agent, was Major General of the Indian forces in the British interest, and had also a command of Englishmen. Under his generalship was fought the celebrated battle of Lake George, in September, 1755. His body of Indians was under command of Hendrick the celebrated Mohawk Chieftan, who was at that time between sixty and sixty-five years of age. This brave old hero of the Mohawks, fell in this battle, and the English lost the gallant Col. Williams. The French were defeated, their General, Baron Dieskau, wounded and made prisoner, and on the English side Gen. Johnson was wounded.
Montcalm succeeding Dieskau, skillfully cut his way through in a path of conquest, gaining command of Lake Champlain, Lake George, confirming the French power over the Western Lakes and the valley of the Mississippi. "Their ocupation of Fort Du Quesne enabled them to cultivate the friendship, and continue their influence over the Indians west of the Alleghanies. Their line of communication reached from Canada to Louisiana, and they were masters of the fast territory that spread out beyond it." Sir William Johnson's power over the Iroquois, alone, deterred them from immediate possession of a large portion of New York. From statements made in a report of that time, the following plan was arranged to secure possession of the Iroquois country. "The French had assembled in the neighborhood of Cadaraqui and Swegatchie about eight hundred Indians, Ottawas and other nations, and were preparing to march two thousand men to Oswego Falls, there build a strong fort to prevent provisions or reinforcements from going to Oswego. That another party were to march the new road from Swegatchie and build a fort at the west end of Oneida Lake. When these posts were secured a third party were to make a descent upon the German Flats, destroy the magazines there, cut off the garrison and inhabitants, and burn the settlements; a fourth party were to attack Sir Wm. Johnson's house, kill or take him, and ravage the settlements on that part of the Mohawk River." This plan was pretty successfully inaugurated, for in August of 1756, the French under Montcalm, invested and captured Fort Oswego. Sir Wm. Johnson's report immediately after states, that "the French had very politically possessed themselves of important passes; [in the Iroquois country,] * * * the Indians have not reach enough to foresee the consequences of the valuable morsels the French have pitched upon." The French, after having secured these points, "sent word to the Onondaga Indians that they had now drove the English from their lands, and would not like them keep possession, but leave them free to them and their posterity forever. The French, in fact, did not want that place, so made their policy appear virtue to the Indians, and the plausibility of it will doubtless influence them in their favor."
The Iroquois Confederacy at this period was a great power, which knew its own influence to be of immense importance to the contending powers. Measures were on foot to enlarge their Confederacy by bringing in the western Indians. Sir Wm. Johnson strongly recommended this policy, believing that would secure all the power of the Indians of the northern part of the Continent to the British interest. Pontiac, the Great Chief of the Ottawas, defeated this measure, and gave his strength to the cause of the French; and the anticipated peace to follow around the borders of the Lakes was not realized. The Indians, believing that the Great Spirit helps the successful and turns His face from those whom He designs shall be defeated, became wavering in their faith in the English. This was especially noticeable among the western tribes where Sir William Johnson's presence was not frequent. Considerable numbers of the Senecas went over to the French; the Cayugas and Onondagas took a neutral stand; and, says Sir William, "tis probable our destroying the works at, and abandoning the Oneida Carrying Place last summer, [1756,] may produce a neutrality of the Oneidas and Tuscaroras."
In 1757, a descent was made into the Mohawk valley by M. De Belletre, and the massacre of the German Flats was committed,-a deplorable circumstance, which still further affected the confidence of the Iroquois, and only for the prompt attention of Sir William, the Oneidas would have been led into the same snare of the French who were now rejoicing in the fullness of unequaled success. These calamitious events produced a feeling of gloom and despondency throughout the colonies, and the season which was nearly passed, put an end to all further operations.
The supremacy of the French on this continent was now at its zenith; henchforward, all change tended to decline and dispossession. The year 1758 was destined to effect this change in the fortunes of the contending powers, and the victors were to become the vanquished. Flushed with success, the French were not prepared for the tide which at length set against them.
Inspired by wise counsels the English Government reorganized its army. Incompetent commanders were recalled, and men of military genius and wisdom were placed in their stead. The expeditions moved forward with new spirit and success from the first. Fort Frontenac, after a battle, fell into the hands of Colonel Bradstreet. Fort Du Quesne, on the approach of the English army, was deserted by the French, whose power over the Indians of the Ohio and Alleghanies, suddenly waned. Although attempts to take Crown Point and Ticonderoga were defeated, yet these were relinquished and the English gained easy possession. The next year, 1759, the 25th day of July, Fort Niagara was taken. On the death of Gen. Prideaux at this battle, the command devolved upon Sir William Johnson, of whom it was remarked in a letter written from the scene of action, "Sir William Johnson has gained immortal honors in this affair. The army have the highest opinion of him, and the Indians adore him, [there were six hundred Indians with him at this battle,] as his conduct has been steady and judicious; he has carried on the seige with spirit." Subsequently it was stated, that by the assiduity and influence of Sir William Johnson, "there were upwards of eleven hundred Indians convened there, who, by their good behavior have justly gained the esteem of the whole army."7
In the meantime General Wolf was vigorously carrying forward his operations against General Montcalm, at Quebec. Upon the issue of his movements hung the fate of the contest. The commanders on each side saw the emergency, and both with characteristic vigor, perfected their plans which culminated in the decisive battle of Quebec, in which both of these noble men fell, one as the "shouts of victory were ringing louder and louder in his failing ears," the other with the fervent wish upon his dying lips that he might not "live to see the surrender of Quebec," and his country's dominions pass into the hands of another.
Although the fires of battle still smouldered and burst forth in several places during the beginning of 1760, yet the battle of Quebec was the decisive blow. A formidable army under Gen. Amherst, joined by Sir William Johnson with a thousand of the Six Nations, consolidated with Gen. Murray at Montreal in September of that year, whose work was to reduce the French who still held out at that post. On the arrival of the British army, Vaudreuil, the Governor, understanding his inability to successfully resist them, resolved on capitulation, and the 7th of September, 1760, Montreal, Detroit and all places of strength in Canada, were surrendered to the British Crown.
A treaty of peace was definitely concluded at Paris, between England and France in 1763, and the French dominion in America passed away, never more to molest the inhabitants of New York, or to harass the Iroquois. The long bloody contest was closed. Hailed with joy was the peace which followed, only to soon be broken by a far different conflict.
Sir William Johnson had acted well in his part in this war. He began his work as General Agent of the English to the Six Nations. He looked well to the condition of the nations and knew them better than any other man.
November 18th, 1763, he sent to the Government the following report of the Nations: ---
"The Mohawks have one hundred and sixty men. Two villages on the Mohawk River, with a few emigrants at Schoharie, about sixteen miles from Fort Hunter.
"Oneidas two hundred and fifty men; two villages, one twenty-five miles from Fort Stanwix, the other twelve miles west of Oneida Lake [at Canaseraga] with emigrants in several places toward the Susquehanna River.
"Tuscaroras one hundred and forty men; one village six miles from the first Oneidas [at Stockbridge] and several others about the Susquehanna.
"Onondagas, one hundred and fifty men; one large village six miles from the lake of their name, [which is the place of Congress for the Confederates,} with a smaller at some distance.
"Cayuga, two hundred men; one large village near the lake of their name, with several others from thence to the Susquehanna.
"Senecas ten hundred and fifty men; have several villages, beginning about fifty miles from Cayuga, from thence to Chennessio, the largest about 70 miles from Niagara, with others thence to the Ohio. Of the Senecas, two villages are still in our interest. The rest have joined the western Nations.
"Remarks. --- Of the Six Nations the Mohawks and Onondagas and Senecas are considered the Chief and elder branches. The Oneidas, Cayugas, and Tuscaroras are younger; the last mentioned Nation having many years ago retired from the south, and were admitted into the Confederacy with the Five Nations, the Oneidas giving them the land and they now enjoy all the privileges with the rest."
No white man had possessed such influence over the Iroquois as Sir Wm. Johnson. He became their Counsellor, their Physician, their Chief and their Father. He called many Conventions of the Nations to which almost the entire Confederacy answered by their presence. We read if a famous Convention held in September, 1753, at Onondaga, in which Hendrick the Great Mohawk Chieftain, was present, and where "Red Head," the head Chief of the Onondagas, answered the speech of Sir William. Many times the Indians convened at Johnson's residence on the Mohawk, and there tarried many days, being generously feasted by their host. One of the most remarkable of these Congresses was held at Fort Stanwix in September and October, 1768, which Sir William called for the purpose of fixing the limits and determining the geographical line between the Six Nations and the English. Commissioners from the Colony of Virginia, with the Governor of New Jersey and of Pennsylvania, were present to assist at the treaty. The Indians came in companies, or tribes, and encamped, but as all did not come on immediately, many from a distance stopping at the towns on their way, having private affairs and conferences to hold, the general Congress was deferred till the main body had arrived. The meeting was opened the 25th of October, when three thousand had arrived and they still continued to come. The numbers exceeded the provisions made by the government for their reception and maintenance, and for more than one month a large part of these numbers subsisted upon the bounties provided by the host. He remarks in a letter to Lord Hillsborough, the 23rd of October, as follows: I was much concerned on this occasion by reason of the great consumption of provisions, and the heavy expense attending the maintenance of those Indians on the spot, * * * each of whom consumes daily more that two ordinary men and would be extremely dissatisfied if stinted when convened for business. * * * This circumstance alone was very disagreeable from the difficulty of getting provisions, there being none nearer than Albany, and very little there except some cattle at an extravagant price."
From all points of the compass the tribes came in; the Delawares and Shawnees from the South, bringing with them on their way the tribes from Oquago (members of the Oneida family); the trails of the Susquehanna, the Unadilla and Chenango, swarmed with hosts of red men. From the east the Mohawks and other eastern tribes came in; from the rivers of the west came up fleets of canoes over Lake Oneida; the trails of northern Madison County were worn deeper by the long defile of Oneidas and Tuscaroras, joined by their comrades of the south and west; and Oswegatchie sent down her Catholic Iroquois.
This grand council was to decide an old and oft-repeated cause of contention and jealousy, viz: the encroachments of white settlers on their lands. The whole matter was raked up from the beginning. The Iroquois had first peaceably suffered the white race to settle on much of their land on the Mohawk and east of the Susquehanna; but they did not relish the wholesale covetousness, with which they appropriated and added to that already given them. The jealousy of the Indians was quite aroused in this respect before the close of the seventeenth century. At a council called at Albany by the Colonial Governor, Dongan, in 1683, the Sachems were questioned so closely and carefully as to the situation of the lands of the Susquehanna River, that they demanded wherefore such particular information was sought. Upon being asked if they were willing that white people should settle there, they signified their assent. But it appears that the proprietors of Pennsylvania had been disposed to count the lands of the Susquehanna, howsoever far they might extend to the north, as a part of the Pennsylvania purchase, and the Five Nations did not so regard it. In order to secure themselves from encroachments by Pennsylvania, they, in a treaty in 1684, put themselves and their lands under the protection of the Duke of York. In 1686 the Governor of New York gave seals to the Indians, with instructions to seize any man found trading or hunting on the Susquehanna lands without the Governor's seal or pass, and to deliver him to Albany to be punished according to law. With decision characteristic of the race, those seals were promptly returned to the Governor with these words: "A man whose goods is taken from him will defend himself, which will create trouble or war; * * * therefore, we deliver the seals to your Honor again, that we may live wholly in peace."
Watchful lest they should be made the victims of duplicity, they had detected in this movement a plan to use them against the Pennsylvanians, ostensibly for their own security, but really to establish the dominion of the province of New York. In the treaty of 1701, again renewed and ratified in 1726, the Iroquois had learned better how to arrange diplomatic treaties with the long-headed British. The limits of their hunting grounds comprehending the large lakes and sixty miles around them, were tolerably clear in their deed, and yet there was sufficient margin for difficulties. Grasping, avaricious individuals who had obtained grants on the borders of the Indian country, took advantage, in the absence of surveyed lines, to enlarge upon their borders to an unlimited extent. The bounds of many grants having no survey, were expressed by the Indian names of brooks, rivulets, hills, ponds, falls of water, &c., and stated in an uncertain manner. The fact that these Indian names were not real local names, only the general names signifying, broad brook, a small brook, a high hill, &c., and which were applied to many other places, gave opportunity for the possessor, with his deed bearing the license of those words, "Be it more or less," to explain and enlarge those grants according to his inclination; and also to locate them, as Colden says, "in what place or part of the country they please, of which I can give some particular instances where the claims of some have increased many miles in a few years." At a public meeting with Sir Wm. Johnson, in 1755, one of the Chiefs in a speech, said: "Brothers, you desire us to unite and live together, and draw all our allies near us, but we shall have no land left either for ourselves or them, for your people when they buy a small piece of us, by stealing they make it large. We desire such things may not be dome, that your people may not be suffered to buy any more of our lands. Sometimes its bought of two men who are not the proper owners of it. The land which reaches down from Oswego to Wyoming we beg may not be settled by Christians. The Governor of Pennsylvania bought a whole tract and only paid for half, and desire you will let him know that we will not part with the other half, but keep it. These things make us constantly uneasy in our minds, and we desire that you will take care that we may keep our land for ourselves."
Sir William Johnson from the time of his arrival among the Indians, sought to correct this deplorable state of affairs and eradicate the evils arising therefrom. For that purpose he held those frequent councils, and patiently listening to their grievances, carefully probed the matter to the bottom, and wisely arranged the plans for its settlement. He had been in separate conference with the Nations at their own castles during the year 1767, and knew well their mind as to where a satisfactory boundary line could be drawn. He states in a letter to General Gage, dated October 22d, 1767, that he had been absent three weeks at Oneida Lake, to confer with them and settle the difficulties regarding the encroachment of frontier settlements. The Indians after detailing their many grievances, said they had received "a belt from an officer on the Mississippi, with a message to inform them that they need not longer be trifled with by the English, for that he [meaning the Government to which he belonged, Spain,] having sat down quietly for some time and being about to rise up, luckily discovered his ax beside him, and found that it was as sharp as ever, therefore exhorted them to take up theirs likewise."
In the Grand Council at Fort Stanwix in 1768, above mentioned, the "Line of Property" was to be settled; the boundary between the whites and Indians to be located and decided upon, before any reasonable measures could be adopted. Johnson found it necessary to use his utmost influence to divest their minds of the ill feeling stirred up by the Spanish, and to dispossess them of the hopes incited thereby. He also found it very difficult to locate the boundary line as far to the westward as it seemed necessary, "as many of them were for closing it by running it to the next patented lands, which would have limited the province of New York in such a manner as must have produced some complaints." However, he accomplished the treaty of the "Boundary Line," having it located at the place where he intended it should be, which reserved to the Indians all the western part of the State, the eastern boundary running from the Pennsylvania line northward up the Susquehanna River to the Unadilla, thence across the country to Canada Creek where it empties into wood Creek, (which last mentioned water falls into Oneida Lake,) and from there to a point indefinitely stated as at the northward of Oswego.
The settlement of this boundary line was a measure of utmost importance toward the settlement of the country, and the inhabitants realizing a degree of security, dared once more take up their abode on the frontier.
But the Iroquois were ill at ease. They no longer had the French to disturb them, and they now began to listen to the persuasions of the Spanish, who, on the Mississippi, were fermenting difficulties with the western Indians. Britain and Spain were at war, and it became the interest of the Spanish to enlist the savages to conquer the American dominions for them. Sir William Johnson, the faithful friend of the Iroquois and the bond of union between them and the British Nation, everywhere made himself conspicuous among them. In traveling through their town he found them destitute and suffering for food, from a failure of the corn crop in 1769. Immediately he went home and forwarded them a supply. They poured into his ears many complaints, to which he says: "It may not be amiss here to remark that when Indians are disposed to quarrel, they collect all the material they can as grounds for their conduct, and often insist on grievances which have in reality given them little concern; the true cause is often misrepresented, and therefore the proper remedy is wanting."
The true cause was a desire on the part of many to unite with the western Indians, who, under Spanish instigation were anxious for this consummation. To effect this alliance, they held a great Council of the Northern and Southern Confederacies on the plains of Sciota in 1770. Sir William apprehended the meaning of the congress, and through his influence and the natural aversion of some of the Six Nations to the Southern Indians, it was not consummated.
The difficulties between the American Colonists and the mother country were now fomenting, which could not fail to stir up the Iroquois. Sir William Johnson saw the portentious clouds with deep anxiety. He could not avert the impending conflict. He had received too many favors from the mother country to willingly turn his back upon her. To the day of his death, he interested himself solely with the interests of the Indians, taking no part in the increasing embroils.