Of a personage so remarkable as Sir William Johnson, something more than a passing notice should be given, as he passes off from the stage of action and out of this period of history. From "Turner's History," the following is transferred:
"The year 1740, is signalized by the advent upon the Mohawk, of one who was destined to exercise an important influence, and occupy a conspicuous place in our Colonial history. SIR WILLIAM JOHNSON was a native of Ireland. He left his native country in consequence of the unfavorable issues of a love affair. His uncle, SIR PETER WARREN, an Admiral in the English navy, owned by government grant a large tract of land-fifteen thousand acres-within the present town of Florida, Montgomery county. Young Johnson became his agent, and located himself in the year above named at Warren's Bush, a few miles from the present village of Port Jackson. He now began that intercourse with the Indians, which was to prove so beneficial to the English in the last French war that soon followed, the influences of which were to be so prejudicial to the colonial interests, in the war of the Revolution. He made himself familiar with their language, spoke it with ease and fluency, watched their habits and peculiarities; studied their manners, and by his mildness and prudence, gained their favor and confidence, and an unrivalled ascendancy over them. In all important matters he was generally consulted by them, and his advice followed. In 1755 he was entrusted with a command in the provincial service of New York. He marched against Crown Point, and after the repulse of Col. Williams, he defeated and took Dieskau prisoner. For this service the Parliament voted him five thousand pounds and the King made him a Baronet. The reader will have noticed his effective agency in keeping the Six Nations in the English interests, and his military achievements at Niagara.
"From the following notice, which appeared in a contemporary publication-the London Gentleman's Magazine, for September, 1755-it will be seen how well adapted he was to the peculiar offices and agencies that devolved upon him. It is an extract from a journal written in this country:
"Major General Johnson (an Irish gentleman,) is universally esteemed in our parts, for the part he sustains. Besides his skill and experience as an officer, he is particularly happy in making himself beloved by all sorts of people, and can conform to all companies and conversations. He is very much of the fine gentleman in genteel company. But as the inhabitants next him are mostly Dutch, he sits down with them and smokes his tobacco, drinks flip, and talks of improvements, bear and beaver skins. Being surrounded with Indians, he speaks several of their languages well, and has always some of them with him. His house is a hospitable retreat for them from the enemy. He takes care of their wives and children when they go out on parties, and even wears their dress. In short by his honest dealings with them in trade, and his courage, which has often been successfully tried with them, and his courteous behavior, he has so endeared himself to them, that they chose him one of their Chief Sachems or princes, and esteem him as their common father."
"MISS ELEANOR WALLASLOUS, a fair and comely Dutch girl, who had been sold to limited service in New York, to pay her passage across the ocean, to one of his neighbors, soon supplied the place of the fair one in Ireland whose fickleness had been the means of impelling him to new scenes and associations in the backwoods of America. Although taking her to his bed and board, and for a long period acknowledging her as his wife, he never married her until she was upon her death bed, a measure necessary to legitimatize his three children, who afterwards became Sir John Johnson, Mrs. Guy Johnson and Mrs. Colonel Claus. His next wife was Molly Brant, sister of the conspicuous Chieftain of that name. He was married to her a few years before his death, for the same purpose that was consummated in the previous instance.
"Colden says of Sir William, that 'he dressed himself after the Indian manner, made frequent dances after their customs when they excite war, and used all the means he could think of, at a considerable expense, to engage them in a war against Canada.' "
Sir William Johnson's courtly demeanor and oratorical powers, won the admiration of the Indians, and his familiarity, their love and confidence. His quick perceptions and ingenious management made him famous among a race who prided themselves on their cunning. The following anecdote illustrates the manner in which he outwitted the celebrated Mohawk Chief Hendrick, who was at his house when he received several suits of rich lace clothes. A short time after, the Chief came to him and said, "I dream." "Well, what did you dream?" "I dream you give me one suit of clothes." This hint, Sir William could not well avoid and accordingly gave him a suit. Some time after, meeting Hendrick, Sir William said to him, "I dreamed last night." "Did you! What did you dream?" "I dreamed you gave me a tract of land;" at the same time describing a tract lying in the present county of Herkimer, twelve miles square. Hendrick was at first surprised at the enormity of the demand, but at length said, "You may have the land; but we no dream again, you dream too hard for me." The title to this tract was confirmed by the King and was called the "Royal Grant."
Extracts of portions of speeches made at a Congress of the Nations holden at Onondaga, September 8th, 1753, illustrates his mode of conference with them. It was the occasion of the death of three renowned Chiefs. A deputation of Sachems came out a mile from the Onondaga village to meet Col. Johnson. After entering their place of council, the Sachem, Red Head, rose up and said:
"Brother Warraghiiyagey [Johnson's Indian name]: ---
As you enter our meeting place with wet eyes and sorrowful heart in conjunction with our Brethren the Mohawks, we do with this string of Wampum wipe away your tears and assuage your grief that you may speak freely in this assembly." Here they gave a string of wampum. Sir William Johnson replies:
"Brethren of the Six Nations:-
The great concern I am under for the loss of our three great and beloved brothers, Caghniagasota, Onughsadego and Gahusquerowana, who in their time made your assembly complete, makes it incumbent upon me to condole their death, and as it is a great loss to us in general, I do by these three belts of wampum dry up your tear that we may see each other, clear your throats that we may speak together, and wash away their blood out of our sight, and cover their bones with these strowd blankets." Here he gave three belts of wampum and three blankets of strowds.
Sir William was desirous that the gospel should be taught the natives, and his request to the Home government that every Castle, especially where there is a garrison, be provided with a minister of the gospel, was frequently and urgently repeated. He asked especially that Onondaga and Oneida be thus supplied, reminding his government of the French, who, through their priests had accomplished so much. He also deprecated the sale of intoxicating liquors, and called for its suppression among the natives. If the government had as faithfully attended to his reasonable requests, as he carried out all orders entrusted to him, it would have been the better for all parties concerned.
Sir William Johnson died on the 24th of June, 1774. A council with the Indians was in progress at the time, which was concluded by Guy Johnson, after his decease.
Johnson had for nearly thirty-five years exercised an almost one man power, not only in his own immediate domain, but far beyond. A contemporary says: "In his character were blended many sterling virtues, with vices that are perhaps to be attributed in a greater degree to the freedom of backwood's life, --- the absence of restraints which the ordinances of civilization imposes, --- than to radical defects. His talents, it must be inferred, were of a high order; his achievements at Niagara alone, would entitle him to the character of a brave and skillful military commander; and in the absence of amiable social qualities, he could hardly have gained so strong a hold upon the confidence and respect of the Six Nations, as we see he maintained up to the period of his death."
In regard to the momentous struggle pending, it has been inferred that his purpose was wavering. He undoubtedly would have gladly avoided any participation therein. As the storm of civil discord was gathering he declared to several of his friends, that "England and her colonies were approaching a terrible war, but that he should never live to witness it." During the court, in session at the time of his death, he received a package of a political nature from England. He left the court house, being unwell when he received it, went to his house, took to his bed and in a few hours died.
His son, Sir John Johnson, succeeded to his titles and estates. His son-in-law, Col. Guy Johnson, who had long been his assistant and deputy, received the authority of General Superintendent of Indian affairs; in this he was assisted by another son-in-law, Col. Dan Claus. These were none of the Sir William's equals in talent, and had not many of the good qualities he possessed. They used the power he transmitted to them, in a manner, we are justified in inferring, it would not have been used had he lived to exercise it.
In 1756, the Six Nations were estimated at twelve hundred warriors, or six thousand souls; in 1760, at seven thousand five hundred; in 1763, Sir Wm. Johnson took the Indian census, from the northwestern, northern and Hudson River Indians to the Mississippi. He stated that the Oneida warriors were two hundred and fifty, the Tuscaroras one hundred and forty, while he estimates that there were in the Six Nations seven thousand seven hundred and fifty souls.
The Revolutionary war broke out. The Johnsons used their great influence to interest the natives in the cause of the British. They were at length aroused by inflammatory appeals, and a large part of the warriors of the Nations, excepting the Oneidas and Tuscaroras, engaged in the sanguinary conflict. By 1777, they were fairly engaged with the British in a series of massacres, which startled the whole country by its terrible bloody details. The retaliation was given in 1779 by the incursion of Gen. Sullivan and his army, which devastated their homes through all their borders, leaving only the neutral Oneidas unharmed. This was the most terrible disaster that had ever befallen the Confederacy. With the defeat of the English the power of the Iroquois was destroyed, and their unity and strength broken. They had involved their homes and forfeited them with their defeat. They, however, still maintain their Castles, and each nation, isolated, surrounded by the white race, still preserve their ancient traditions and customs, though greatly modified by Christianity and schools.
The most ancient knowledge we have of the Oneidas is also derived from tradition. David Cusick particularizes the planting of the Oneidas, at the time when the Great Leader was establishing the families.
After planting the Mohawks, the company journeyed westward two days and a half and came to a creek called Kaw-na-taw-ta-ruh (i.e. Pine Woods Creek.) This creek, according to Cusick, "had its head in Col. Allen's8 Lake about ten miles south of Oneida Castle, and is a branch of the Susquehanna." The Indians usually spoke of the different branches of that river, viz., the Chenango, Unadilla, &c. as the "Susquehanna branches;" this was the Chenango branch. "The second family were directed to take up their residence near that creek, and they were named Ne-haw-ve-tah-go, meaning "Big Tree," and heir language was slightly changed."
Another tradition of the Oneidas, says, that they in all their wanderings were followed by a remarkable stone, (a huge granite boulder,) but which finally rested upon one of the highest hills in the country. Thus they came by the name Oneida or O-ne-i-ta, meaning the "people of the Stone." They looked upon this stone as a body endowed with life and intelligence, hence the word Oneita, in their dialect, from "Onei" meaning "stone" and "ta" signifying "life" or "living stone." O-ne-i-ta was accented on the third syllable and spoken in the softest manner possible. The stone was a symbol of their nationality, and they were every where known by the mark of a stone set in the fork of a tree.
Their earliest home, where the stone rested, was on one of the highest hills in the town of Stockbridge, and the two traditions agree as to the locality. The name given in the latter is pronounced similar to that given by Cusick, though differently spelled --- Ca-nagh-ta-ragh-ta-ragh. It is, however, spelled in various ways. Here, in a valley, south of the eminence where the stone rested, they settled and built their town, and by this stone they assembled to hold their councils and prepare for war, and here they built their beacon fires which might be seen for a great distance by the country round.
The most palpable proofs of the early date of their settlement here, is found in the fact that a new forest has grown up since they cultivated their corn fields, the corn hills of which, a few years ago, were still visible upon those ancient fields. Upon counting the concentric circles, or annular grains formed in these, they are over three hundred years old, showing that the Oneidas ceased to cultivate these fields as far back as 1560, or thereabouts.
From the earliest dates, the Oneidas were regarded by their brethern as remarkable in eloquence, hence great in council, and distinguished for their aptitude in cultivating the arts, and, perhaps weaker in warfare.
When Father Simon Le Moine was sent out to the Iroquois by the French Governor, M. De Lauzon, and established a mission at Onondage in 1654, he met a conference of all the nations, and listened to the congratulations and speeches of all the chiefs. He particularly reports the speech which followed his own, which is the first recorded speech of any Chief of the Oneida Nation. It is to be regretted that Father Le Moine did not give the Chief's name. As Father Le Moine was bearer of words from the Governor, he was addressed as that personage.
"Onnontio" said the Chief --- meaning Governor, --- "Onnontio, thou art the pillar of the earth; they spirit is a spirit of peace, and thy words soften the hearts of the most rebellious of spirits." After other compliments, expressed in a tone animated by love and respect, he produced four large belts, to thank Onnontio for having encouraged them to fight bravely against their new enemies of the Cat Nation, and for having exhorted them never again to war against the French. "Thy voice," said he, "Onnontio, is wonderful, to produce in my breast at one time two effects entirely dissimilar; thou animatest me to war, and softenest my heart by thoughts of peace; thou art great both in peace and war, mild to those whom thou lovest, and terrible to thine enemies. We wish thee to love us and we will love the French for thy sake."
From the Jesuit missionary, Father Jacques Bruyas, who established at Oneida in 1667, we learn further of the characteristics of the Oneidas. They were by him regarded as more vigilant and suspicious than the other nations. He says, the Oneidas had "always embarrassed affairs when they appeared to be about arranged." At the same time he conceded them to be superior to the other natives in intelligence. Undoubtedly their intractibility was owing to the insight they had of the motives of the French. They were considered by the Jesuits as an unfavorable class for Christianizing, as will be seen by the following extract from their Journals in 1668-'9. "The Nation of the Oneidas is about thirty leagues toward the south and west from the Mohawks, and one hundred and forty from Quebec; are of all the Iroquois the least tractable, and the arms of the French not yet having penetrated so far, they fear us only through the experience of their neighbors, the Mohawks. This nation [Oneidas] which despises the others in their defeat, is in a disposition contrary to the Christian faith, and by its arrogance and pride, tries the patience of a missionary very sorely. It was necessary that providence should assign them a pecular man, and chose for them a spirit who might by his mildness, conquer or ally their wild and fierce disposition. Father Bruyas has been the man destined for their service, but his labors has generally been rewarded only by rebuffs and contempt. * * * * The number of baptized amount already to near thirty, most of whom are already in glory."
In 1671, Father Pierre Millet was established at Oneida, and the mission was represented as flourishing. He continued at this place, having great influence with the Oneidas and the neighboring nations till he was recalled during the trouble between the Iroquois and French, between the years 1690 and '96. Father Millet and Father Lamberville (the latter stationed at Onondaga,) had both endeavored to conciliate the parties, in order to avert the impending struggle, but Count Frontenac, the able French Governor, would not longer refrain from his purpose of subjugating the Iroquois.
The year 1696, was one forever to be remembered by the Oneidas as well as by the whole Confederacy, for Count Frontenac's descent upon the Iroquois was attended with the worst consequences to them. The invaders reached Onondaga the 4th day of August, 1696, and found the Indians had all fled; their strong and admirably constructed castle, the triple palisades which protected their fort, and their cabins, had all been destroyed by fire. The scouts reported having seen trails proceeding from the Onondaga village to Cayuga and Oneida, which induced them to believe that the women and children withdrew thither. De Frontenac encamped and secured himself by outposts here. The next day in the afternoon, a Frenchman who had been a prisoner, and an Oneida, arrived from that village with a belt of wampum in the name of that Nation, soliciting peace. Count Frontenac immediately sent them back, promising peace on condition of the removing to Canada, establishing themselves and their families there, where land would be given to them by the government. He added, if their "wives and children were not ready, they should bring five of their most influential Chiefs as hostages, and they should soon be followed by the army to oblige them by force to execute the conditions imposed on them." The report says: ---
"On the morning of the 6th of August, Mons. De Vaudreuil, a prominent commander in De Frontenac's army, departed for the Oneidas with a detachment of six or seven hundred of the most active men of the whole army, soldiers, militia and Indians. He had under him six of the best Captains, and picked Lieutenants and subaltern officers. As it was necessary to use great expedition, they did not march in exact order. M. De Vaudreuil contented himself by throwing out scouts some quarter of a league in advance, and on the wings between the scouts and the main body he placed a detached corps of fifty, commanded in turn by a Lieutenant. They arrived on the same day before sundown, within a league of the village; they would have pushed even farther if the convenience of encamping on the bank of a beautiful river [Oneida Creek,] had not invited them to halt. They were at first dawn, in sight of the village, and as they were about to enter the fields of Indian corn they were met by the deputies of all that nation.
"They requested M. De Vaudreio; to halt, fearing that our savages would spoil their crops, assuming that they would execute in good faith the orders that Mons. Le Compte had given to their first delegates.
"As Mons. De Vaudreuil determined also on his side to obey punctually those which he had received, told them it was useless for them to think of preserving their grain, as, according to the word of their Father, [French Governor,] they should not want for any when retired among us; that therefore he should cut all down; that their forts and cabins would not, either, be spared, having everything ready for their reception.
"He found in the village but twenty-five and forty men, almost all having fled at sight of the detachment, but the most influential Chiefs had remained. M. De Vaudreuil consented that two or three men should follow these fugitives and try to bring them back. On entering this village, a young French woman was found a prisoner, just arrived from the Mohawk. She reported that the nation and the English to the number of three hundred were preparing to attack us. A Mohawk who had deserted from the Sault last year, the same also who had given information of the proposed attack against his Nation, was captured roving around the village. He said he came there intending to surrender himself to us, which it was pretended to believe. An eye was kept on him notwithstanding. He confirmed the report of the young French woman.
"Another savage, also of the same nation * * * assured M. De Vaudreuil that the English and Mohawks had indeed set out to come, * * * and that the consternation was pretty general among the one and the other.
"This last intelligence caused M. De Vaudreuil's detachment s much regret as the first had given them joy. It was received with a thousand yells of satisfaction, particularly by the Abenakis, who said they had need neither of knives nor hatchets to beat the English; that is was idle to waste powder on such a set.
"Mons. De Vaudreuil resolved to await them in the wood without shutting himself up in the fort. He left on the 9th, [August, 1696,] between nine and ten o'clock in the morning, after having seen it burn and the corn entirely cut. He camped the same night two leagues from Onnontague. The celerity of his movements cannot be too much praised, sine he occupied only three days in going, coming and executing all he had to do, although from one village to the other was fourteen good leagues, in the woods, with continual mountains, and a multitude of rivers and large streams to be crossed. He was, therefore, not expected so soon, and Mons. Le Compte [Frontnac,] was agreeably surprised to see him return in so short a time, with thirty-five Oneidas, among whom were, as we have said, the principal Chiefs of the nation, and four of our French prisoners."
This concluded the expedition, and on the 12th, Frontenac returned to Canada via Lake Ontario, with his thirty-five captives, bearing the eternal hatred of the Indian Nations, who harassed his army on its way, and who for years after kept up a desultory warfare upon the French colony at Montreal, which did not cease until the peace treaty of 1700.
On the destruction of their villages the Indians fled to Albany for redress. On the 29th of September, 1696, they met Governor Benjamin Fletcher in council at Albany. Some of the Indian delegates had arrived on the afternoon of the Sunday previous, and in the evening had supped with His Excellency the Governor, "with many expressions of joy and satisfaction they had in meeting him." They tarried several days in Albany as was their custom on such occasions. They received as presents, to build them up again, clothing, brass kettles, knives and other utensils, together with tobacco, rum and ammunition, besides a considerable among of provisions, amounting in all to the value of £660. 4s. II½d.
Before their departure they indulged in a grand flourish of speeches. The meeting was presided over by Gov. Fletcher. There were present Col. Nicholas Bayard, William Pinhorne, Esq., Maj. Peter Schuyler of the Common Council, Matthew Clarkson, Secretary, and the Mayor, Recorder and Aldermen of Albany, &c. Dackashata, a Sachem of the Senecas, speaker, arose:
"Brother Cayenquiragoe [The Governor]: ---
We come to condole the loss you daily receive, having daily alarms skulking parties of the enemy doing mischief." Then laid down a belt of wampum.
"Brother Cayenquiragoe: ---
I am come with the whole House to consider what tends to the common good of the whole House."
"Brother Cayenquiragoe: ---
We come here to quicken the fire and renew the covenant chain.
"Brother Cayenquiragoe: ---
We recommend to all that are in the covenant chain to be vigorous and keep it up.
"Brother Cayenquiragoe: ---
When all is said, I drink to all your healths and then I deliver you the cup.
"Brother Cayenquiragoe: ---
There has been cloud and we come to remove it as the sun in the morning removes the darkness of night.
"Brother Cayenquiragoe: ---
The tree of safety and welfare planted here, we confirm it.
"Brother Cayenquiragoe: ---
As the tree is planted here and confirmed, so we make fast all the roots and branches of it, all the brethren of the Five Nations, and the brethren of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, the Jerseys, New York, Connecticut and New England.
"Brother Cayenquiragoe: ---
We wish we may rest in quietness under that tree. We fill it with new leaves, and wish all that are in the Covenant Chain may have the benefit to sit down quiet under its shadow. * * *
"Brother Cayenquiragoe: ---
We wish the Canoes [ships across the ocean] may go to and again in safety, that the Great King may know what we have here said, and that we may have an answer. We have now made our word good; here is the cup." He then laid down some small bundles of leaves saying, "it is but small, but it is as it were, saved out of the fire."
His Excellency stood up and said: ---
"Brethren, I have heard what you have said and have here renewed the Covenant Chain with all the Five Nations, the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagoes, Cayugas and Senecas, in behalf of the brethren of this province, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, the Jerseys, Connecticut and New England, and I assure the Five Nations of His Majesty's protection. I have provided you with some victuals and drink to drink the King's health, and in confirmation thereof, that it may last as long as the sun and moon endures, I give this belt of wampum."
At the conclusion of this speech the principal Sachem of the Mohawks called --- "Ohee!" The whole assembly answered --- "Heeeeee Hogh!!"
Other speeches followed, of the same nature as the above. The adroit manner in which one Sachem of the Mohawks alluded to the neglect of the English, is shown in the following extract:
"They [the English,] liked the chain of peace, but where are they now; they do not like to take part with us in the war. They are all asleep; they come not to our assistance against the enemy; their hands hang down straight; their arms are lame. * * * We desire you to write to the Great King and to get us an answer against the next time the trees become green, and let there be no delay. Let it not be said to us the canoes are lost under water, or that the winds have carried them to another country, or the like excuse, but let us have the answer, against the trees grow green, without fail, for we are in great need of it."
He then laid down a beaver skin.
This mode of conducting councils and making speeches, so pleasing to the Indians, was adopted by Sir William Johnson. In one of their conferences, Sir William thus addresses the Oneidas:
"Brethren of Oneida: ---
I am now to set up your stone straight, and rub off all moss and dirt it may have contracted this time past. My best advice is to have your Castles as near together as you conveniently can with the Tuscaroras, who belong to you as children, and the Scanihaderadigroohnes but lately come into your alliance or families, which makes it necessary for me to fix a new string to the Cradle which was hung up by your forefathers when they received the Tuscaroras, as you do now the Scanihaderadighroones to feed and protect." He then gave a belt.
He was answered by a chief of the Oneidas: ---
"Brother Warraghiiyagey: ---
We thank you for clearing the Oneida stone and setting it up right, and shall, agreeable to your advice, collect our people together; also the Tuscaroras, be they scattered where they may, and the Scanihaderadighroones who do unite with us, a small party of whom are here present to hear you, and to take their share of our Brother, the Governor's bounty. We also return thanks for the new string fixed to the cradle contrived by our forefathers, to receive those new brethren we intend to nourish and provide for." They gave a string.
Throughout the State Documents there is less said of the warlike disposition of the Oneidas than of the other Iroquois. They were more engaged in the peaceful arts, and were more devoted to looking after weaker nations, taking them under their especial care, giving them homes, providing for their wants, &c. They thus adopted the Tuscaroras in 1712; the Stockbridges came to the home they had granted them, in 1783, and the Brothertons, emigrated a few families at a time, and settled upon the Oriskany Creek.
They maintained a friendly interest for the white settlements, and abstained from taking part in the wars which agitated Central New York, as much as possible.
During the French war, when Mons. De Belletre, the French General, made an incursion into these parts and destroyed the German Flats, (Nov., 1757,) Sir William Johnson received intelligence that the Oneidas had joined the invaders. He immediately sent two messengers, George Croghan and Mr. Montour the interpreter, to learn why the Oneidas had taken such steps. His messengers learned, that Mons. De Belletre in his march had halted near the Oneida town at the Lake side, from which the Indians, in fear, had withdrawn their women and children; that Mons. De Belletre had so intimidated them that they had begged his protection, and that some of the Oneidas had joined his expedition. The messengers repaired to the German Flats and there learned that the Chief Sachem of the Upper Oneida Town, with a Tuscarora Chief and an Oneida Indian, were but four miles from Fort Herkimer. They were sent for, to give an account of themselves. They listened with apparent surprise and grief that their intentions were so misrepresented, for they disclaimed all participation in the massacre of German Flats. They called in several influential Germans who were acquainted with the horrible details of the massacre, and desired they would listen to the story they told Sir William's messengers. The Oneida Chief, Conaghquieson, declared that fifteen days before it happened, they sent the Germans word that some Swegatchie Indians had told them that the French were determined to destroy the German Flats, and desired them to be on their guard. "Six days after that," said the Chief, "we had a further account from Swegatchie, that the French were preparing to march. I then came down to the German Flats, and in a meeting with the Germans told them what we had heard, and desired them to collect themselves in a body, at their fort, and secure their women and children, and effects, and make the best defense they could; and at the same time told them to write what I said to their brother, Sir William Johnson; but they paid not the least regard to what I had told them, and laughed at me, slapping their hands on their buttocks, saying they did not value the enemy; upon which I returned home and sent one of our people to the lake [Oneida Lake,] to find out whether the enemy were coming or not; after he had staid there two days the enemy arrived at the carrying place, and sent word to the Castle at the Lake that they were there; and told them what they were going to do; but charged them not to let us at the Upper Castle know anything of their design. As soon as the man I sent heard this, he came on to us with the account that night, and as soon as we received it we sent a belt of Wampum to confirm the truth thereof to the Flats, which came here the day before the enemy made their attack; but the people would not give credit to the account even then, or they might have saved their lives. This is the truth, and those Germans here present know it to be so." The aforesaid Germans did acknowledge it to be so; and that they had such intelligence. This statement was certified to by the messenger, George Croghan.
Other authorities relate, that the Indians who brought this belt of wampum, finding the Germans still incredulous, the next morning just before the attack, laid hold of the German minister and in a manner forced him over to the other side of the river, by which he, and some who followed, escaped the fate of their brethren.
The Oneidas maintained a neutrality throughout this harassing war, holding to the interests of the English, chiefly through their regard for the white settlers. It is, therefore, not to be wondered at that their hearts were with the Colonists in the Revolutionary war; but the British engaged them in the warfare whenever they could gain them. After the death of Sir William Johnson, his sons and sons-in-law, together with John and Walter Butler and Joseph Brant, filled with zeal for the British cause, exerted their powerful influence to the utmost to win the Iroquois. They succeeded in enlisting many of the western nations, but the Oneidas were not to be enticed from their allegiance to their neighbors and friends. Insinuating appeals were made, in which their Mohawk neighbors joined-appeals to their honor, magnanimity and their love of freedom, but of no avail. They continued neutral until they regarded it their imperative duty to take up arms in defence of their friends, against the savage hordes of Butler and Brant.
Rev. Samuel Kirkland, and the great Chief, Skenandoah, had ever exerted a wise influence for peace, but the latter seeing the emergency, gave his influence, in favor of Oneidas turning to the rescue of the Colonies.
The Oneidas rendered signal services as scouts and spies. There is an anecdote related concerning the seige of Fort Stanwix, in which these spies were very useful. Arnold, with his command, was approaching Fort Stanwix to relieve Col. Gansevoort. On his way he captured a notorious tory spy, Hans Yost Schuyler, whom he sentenced to be hung. The friends of the tory applied to Arnold to spare his life. He was inexorable, but was prevailed upon by Major Brooks to use the tory for their advantage. The plan was, to allow Han Yost to escape the guard house, and his life be spared on condition that he should repair to the Indian and tory camps, in the vicinity of Fort Stanwix, and by an exaggerated report of Arnold's force, induce them to desert their leader, in sufficient numbers to cause St. Leger to raise the siege. If he failed, his brother, who had consented to remain as a hostage, was to "grace the same noose which had been prepared for Han Yost." The commander then communicated the plan to the sentinel, who secretly let the tory out. The life of his brother held Han Yost true to his pledge. An Oneida embarked in the enterprise, and following Han Yost at a distance, fell in with two or three other Oneidas of his acquaintance, who readily engaged in furthering his design. Han Yost was acquainted with St. Leger's Indians, and on arriving at their camp, told a sad story of his having been taken by the rebels and sentenced to be hung-how he had escaped, and showed them several bullet holes in his coat where he had been fired upon when he fled. When asked as to the number of men Arnold had, he shook his head mysteriously and pointed to the leaves of the trees; and upon being further questioned, he said the number could not be less than ten thousand. This news soon spread through the camp. At this juncture the Oneida arrived, and with a belt confirmed Han Yost's statement. Presently, one after another of the Oneidas in the secret, dropping into the camp as if by accident, spoke of the great numbers of warriors marching against them. They gave the Indians to understand that the Americans did not wish to injure the Indians, but if they continued with the British they must all share one common fate. Alarm and consternation pervaded the whole body of Indians and they resolved on immediate flight. Says Jones in his Oneida History: "St. Leger used every effort to detain them in this critical juncture, but in vain. As a last resort he tried to get them drunk, but the dram had lost its charms and they refused to drink. After he had failed in every attempt to induce them to remain, he tried to pursuade them to fall in the rear and form a covering party to his army, but this only increased their dissatisfaction, and they charged him with designs of sacrificing his red allies to the safety of the whites. In a mixture of rage and despair, St. Leger immediately ordered the siege to be raised, and with his entire force of regulars, tories and Indians, he left in such a haste as to leave his tents standing, abandoning all his artillery, and some accounts state that they left their dinners cooking over the camp fires. The Oneida Indian it seems had a spice of the wag in his composition, for he followed in the rear and occasionally raised the cry, 'They are coming! they are coming!' for his own diversion in seeing the red coats take a foot race, and the retreating army never felt entirely safe until fairly embarked on the Oneida Lake.
"Han Yost kept with St. Leger's army on the retreat until it arrived at the mouth of Wood Creek, when he returned to Fort Stanwix, and gave Col. Gansevoort the first intelligence of the approach of Gen. Arnold's command. From thence he returned to Fort Dayton, and having fulfilled his contract, his brother was at once discharged."
The Oneidas were at the battle of Oriskany, where they lost their beloved interpreter, Thomas Spencer. They were at the battle of Johnstown, where Col. Butler fell by the hands of an Oneida Chief, it is said. [By others it is said to have been a Mohawk Chief who killed Butler. See Jones' Oneida, p. 856.]
At the conclusion of the Revolutionary war, the American Congress appointed commissioners to hold conventions with the Indians, who arranged amicable treaties with those nations in regard to their rights, lands, &c. Notwithstanding that most of the nations had been hostile to the United States during the war, yet the policy of Congress was humane. The resolutions of this body respecting them, were adopted October 15th, 1783. The following was the resolution respecting the Oneidas and Tuscaroras:-
"Sixthly. --- And whereas the Oneida and Tuscarora tribes have adhered tot he cause of America, and joined her armies in the course of the late war, and Congress has frequently assured them of peculiar marks of favor and friendship, the said Commissioners are therefore instructed to reassure the said tribes of the friendship of the United States, and that they may rely that the land which they claim as their inheritance will be reserved for their sole use and benefit, until they may think it for their advantage to dispose of the same."
The Commissioners were Oliver Wolcott, Richard Butler and Arthur Lee. A grand Council of the Six Nations was called at Fort Stanwix in 1784, and a treaty made, by which the Six Nations, except the Mohawks, had reservations assigned them, which established the line between this State and the Oneidas, upon the "old line of property," as fixed by the treaty of 1768.9
Their earliest location, according to all statements, was at Stockbridge. Maps, of the centuries past, trace a trail from Fort Schuyler to this place, which, said maps designate with the name "Old Oneida Castle," and the trail to our present Oneida Castle, had also a route far to the northward of this. The present Oneida Castle is given on those maps as "New Oneyda Castle." From the Old Oneida Castle, far to the southward of the trail through Lenox, is traced a trail to Canaseraga, which must have passed through Smithfield and Fenner. The Oneidas also had a village at the Lake side, where they dwelt in considerable numbers, and where they fortified themselves. Schoolcraft speaks of this as the second village they inhabited, and of one afterwards built at Conowaloa (present Oneida Castle).
Speaking of their first Castle-in Stockbridge-Schoolcraft says: "The eminence where the Stone was located, was formerly a butternut grove. * * * * The ancient town extended in a transverse valley south of this ridge of land, covered as it was by nut wood trees, and was completely sheltered by it from the north winds. A copious, clean spring of water issued out at the spot selected for their wigwams. * * * * This Stone became the national altar. * * * * When it was necessary to light their pipes and assemble to discuss national matters, they had only to ascend the hill through its richly wooded groves to its extreme summit, at the site of the Oneida Stone. * *
"The Stone is a large, but not enormous boulder of syenite of the erratic block group, and consequently geologically foreign to the location. * * * * There are no rocks like this till we reach the Adirondacks. The White Stone which stood near the spring, and which has been removed to make a part of Mr. Francis' fence, is a carbonate of lime, and is not the true Oneida Stone."
[A boulder of gneiss, which tradition identified as this palladium of the Oneidas, a few years since was taken from the farm of James H. Gregg, in the town of Stockbridge, and placed in a prominent position near the entrance of the Utica Cemetery, on the Bridgewater Plank road, about a mile south of Utica.]
The Oneidas affirm that they sprung from the Stone. At the time the Oneidas came to fix their location at the Stone, the Kononshioni had not confederated. At the time of the confederation, the delegate from the Oneidas was Osatschechte. He lived at the Stone.
Although trees have grown upon the ancient settlement, yet a few years since the cornhills could be distinctly seen. This is accounted for, by the fact that in ancient times the cornhills were made so large, that three clusters of stalks, or sub-hills, were raised on each circle or hill. There being no plough or other general means of turning up the earth, the same hill was used year after year, and thus its outlines became large and well defined.
One individual, writing to Schoolcraft, states that "the syenite stone on the hill was the true Oneida Stone, and not the White Stone at the spring [as many have claimed]; was so pronounced by Moses Schuyler, son of Hon Yost, who knew it forty years ago [written in 1846,] that the elevation gave a view of the whole valley, so that they could descry their enemies at a distance by the smoke of their fires; no smoke, he said, without fire. They could notify also from this elevation by a beacon fire. The name of the Stone is One-a-ta; auk, added to render it personal, --- people of the Stone."
Joncaire, a French writer before the middle of the eighteenth century, says, that "the Oneidas who are neighbors to the Mohawks, are one hundred warriors, and whose village has the device of a stone in the forks of a tree, or a tree notched with some blows of an ax."
The following account of the ancient council ground of the Oneidas was taken in 1845, from the lips of an aged person, Mrs. Daniel Warren, one of the pioneers of that vicinity. We give it from the manuscript, word for word, as the writer penned it at that date.
October 2, 1845."Forty years ago the hill known as 'Primes Hill,' and celebrated as the great council ground of the 'Six Nations,' was covered with a dense wilderness, save a small spot on the summit, comprising an area of about an half acre, and in shape a complete circle, bordered all around with a thick growth of shrubs, consisting of alders, wild plums and hazels. On the east was a narrow place of entrance of barely sufficient width to admit two persons abreast. Not far from this entrance place, and within the area, was a circle of earth of some 20 feet in diameter, which was raised about two feet above the general level, and covered over with fine coals-having the appearance of a coalpit bottom of the present day. The remainder of this oasis in the wilderness was overgrown in summer with wild grass, wild flowers and weeds, and appeared as if a tree had never encumbered it since the dawn of creation. When, or by whom this spot was cleared, is not known, nor will it ever be known. In all probability hundreds of years have rolled over it and found it the same, save the different races have been born and swept away successively around the same spot. The face of the earth around, indeed, indicates that it has once been peopled with a race considerably advanced in civilization. Within a radius of three miles from this spot, are found graves, with trees growing over them, so that the roots spread from the head to the foot. A great many of these graves were some years since been excavated, and found to contain various bones, and in some cases entire skeletons of a people of giant proportions, the skulls and jawbones of which would cover the head and face of the most fleshy person of our day. In these graves were also found hatchets of very symmetrical shape, brass vessels somewhat in the form of our brass kettles, smoking pipes of various shapes, small metal bells, beads of all shapes and sizes, and various other articles of use and ornament, some of them bearing letters, characters, or devices in an unknown language. The trees found growing upon these ancient graves count from two to four hundred grains --- making (according to the usual way of reckoning the age of trees) the same number of years. Not many years since a skull was dug up which contained a bullet of common size; the skull bone was a sound one, and had a hole in it of the size of the ball. From this, and other like circumstances, it is inferred that this race, or those who made war upon them, knew the use of fire-arms. There is no one among the oldest of the Indians who are now or have been residents anywhere in this region of the country, who can give any traditionary account reaching so far back as to tell the fate of these people. Such traditions as we do get come orally, and go no further back than about one hundred years, though there is a tradition, that a long time ago there was a very destructive war waged between some tribes in this section of the country and those of Canade. A great battle was fought between them upon this very ground, and with such fury and determination on both sides, that each were nearly all slaughtered. So runs the tradition."
The writer goes on further to say of his own personal view of the spot at that date (1845), and the thoughts suggested thereby:
"I passed over 'Primes Hill' on my way home, and paused upon the spot to let my thoughts dwell for a moment upon the scenes that had been in years long since past, upon the very earth I trod. It seemed like holy ground! Here was the 'Council Rock,' which had often been the seat of the head Chief in grand council, when the ancient trees of the forest spread their sheltering arms over it, and the free, unsophisticated Indians were the only possessors of the soil it stood on; and yonder, and all around in every direction, were the graves of an unknown race, with the bones of their aboriginal successors mingling with theirs in one common dust! But the magic hand of civilized man has waved over the sacred spot-the wilderness has disappeared, and the plough of the farmer has traced and retraced over it for years-but Nature yet claims her own in many respects; the lofty hill still lifts its proud summit far above any around it, and 'Council Rock' yet bares its iron bosom to the blasts of winter, and remains unscathed.
With the help of a stone as heavy as I could swing with both hands, I succeeded in crumbling off a few small pieces from this natural monument of other days, for the purpose of carrying them home to keep as curiosities. I then sat myself down a few feet from it, and took out my pencil, and on a blank leaf of a volume of 'Rollins' Ancient History,' which I happened to have in my pocket, I sketched the Rock and the scenery about it, with a piece of woods and the little village of Durhamville in the distance. Whilst I was doing this, wife had the kindness to keep the sunshine off my work with her bonnet. We then proceeded a few rods south, and crossed a piece of ground where are yet found a great variety of old Indian ornaments, such as have been mentioned. These are turned up by the plough every time it passes over it-and as the ground had lately been ploughed we succeeded in finding several little relics to bring away with us."
This hill and these famous grounds, here so graphically described, were some years since owned by the Gregg and Francis families.
There is a burial ground about a mile southeast of Munnsville, on the hillside. In excavations here, iron and steel axes, bun barrels and fragments of gun locks, kettles, and a small bone image of a woman, have been found. The axes are hatchet shaped, and marked under the eyes with three stars.
After the destruction of the Oneida village (Canawaloa) by Mons. De Vaudreuil, in 1696, they rebuilt at the same place. This is the present Oneida Castle, situated on Oneida Creek, in Vernon and Lenox, of Oneida and Madison counties. When the Tuscaroras came they placed some of them at the old Oneida Castle in Stockbridge, where the latter set out an orchard which had many trees standing and bearing fruit, when the first settlers came to this country. The Oneidas also had a village at Canaseraga, where many Tuscaroras also settled, and they had another village on the Susquehanna, the inhabitants of which, however, they gathered home when the Revolutionary war broke out. After the country was at peace, settlers who came in were witnesses to the frequent migrations of the Indians to the Susquehanna, for the purpose of hunting and fishing. Sir William Johnson speaks of building forts in 1756, in the Oneida Castle, also at Onondaga, Seneca and Scoharie.10 Whether they were built, and if so, when they were destroyed, we have no data to inform us.
Schoolcraft describes the ruins of a fort which he discovered in Lenox, Madison County, in the neighborhood of the "Lenox Furnace." It was situated within the junction of two branches of a stream. He describes the indication of a picketed work and excavations, which he says "are now but mere indentations." Mons. De Belletre, in 1757, who came in to the country with his detachment of 300 men, says the route from Canaseraga "goes to the Great Oneida village. A picket fort with the four bastions was once constructed in this village by the English. It was destroyed by the Oneidas in observance of promises given to De Vaudreuil. Each of its sides might have been 100 paces. There is a second Oneida village, called the little village, situated on the bank of the lake. There is no fort in the latter. From this large village is a path to Forts Bull and William, also one to Fort Kouari, which can be traveled without being obliged to pass the said two forts."
The traversing of armies of the ancient time used oftener to go by water than otherwise. In coming from the westward they camp up the Oswego River into Oneida Lake; from the lake they entered Vilcrick (Wood Creek) and ascended to Fort Bull. From this Fort there is a carrying place across the height of land to Fort William, [Rome,] about one league and a quarter, from where the boats take the Mohawk River.
After this country was open for white settlements, Capt. Charles Williamson, a traveler through there, in 1792, thus remarks on the route, and the taverns and distances between them, from Fort Schuyler to Onondaga Hollow: ---
|"From Fort Schuyler to Lairds on the Great Genesee|
Road, - - - -
|"Lairds to Van Epps near Oneida Reservation,||6|
|"Van Epps to Wemps on Oneida Reservation,||6|
|"Wemps to Sills at the Deep Spring, -||11|
|"Sills to Keelers Junior, - -||12|
|"Keelers to Tylers Onondaga Hollow, -||10|
The Flats of Conasweaga were cleared, and Louis Dennie was the head Chief of the village. Deep Spring, always famous on this road, was regarded by the Iroquois as the location of the eastern door of the Onondagas. The peculiarity of this spring is, that it comes out of the ground and a few rods farther on goes into the hill again. It is surrounded on all sides by trees carved with the initials of visitors.
The Missions among the Oneidas, after the Jesuits, were not for a century perhaps very successful. In 1712, Rev. William Andrews was appointed missionary among the Mohawks and Oneidas, and after a residence of six years among the Mohawks, visiting the Oneidas often, he became discouraged and asked to be recalled, saying "there is no hope of making them better-heather they are and heathen they still must be." Rev. Mr. Barclay, Rev. Mr. Andrews, Rev. Mr. Ogilvie, and Rev. Gideon Hawley from Stockbridge, Mass., were missionaries to these nations, visiting the Oneidas occasionally.
In 1753, Rev. Mr. Hawley, Deacon Timothy Woodbridge, and Rev. Mr. Ashley and wife, the latter a remarkable interpreter, went to Oquago to re-establish the mission there, where they arrived after many hardships and troubles. Mrs. Hawley laid her bones at Onohoghgwaga in August, 1757. She was much lamented by the Indians, many of whom were Oneidas. Her Indian name was Wausaunia.
REV. SAMUEL KIRKLAND, commenced his missionary labors among the Oneidas in 1766, with whom he lived and labored many years and with great success. He was the son of Rev. Daniel Kirkland, of Norwich, Connecticut, and was born December 1st, 1741. He was the tenth child of a family of twelve children. At the age of twenty-three he undertook a mission to the Senecas, and spent two years among them. Returning to his native country a short time he was commissioned to work among the Oneidas. In the summer of 1769, he again went to Connecticut and there married Jerusha Bingham, an excellent woman, "well fitted by her good sense and devout heart to become the wife of a missionary." He soon returned to his post, accompanied by his wife, and the two shared the cares, trials and labors in their chosen field. They felt repaid in the consciousness of having accomplished some good, when they saw the progress of the nation in acquiring the habits, arts and Christianity of civilized life. Mr. Kirkland's influence was remarkable among the Oneidas, and his counsel was sought in every emergency. Upon the breaking out of the Revolutionary war, his influence, chiefly, deterred the Oneidas from taking part with the British. He was obliged to remove his family from the Castle, but he continued his labors among them. During a portion of the war he officiated as chaplain to the American forces in the vicinity; he also accompanied the expedition of Gen. Sullivan in 1779, through the western part of the State.
Mr. Kirkland received a present from the Oneidas of a tract of land, and the State of New York in consideration of valuable services during the war, granted him also an additional trace, lying in the town of Kirkland, known as "Kirkland's Patent," upon a portion of which Hamilton College stands. To these lands he removed his family in 1792, and fixed his residence near the village of Clinton, where he continued till his death, March 28th, 1808, in the 67th year of his age.
Mr. Kirkland's labors among the Oneidas were in many instances attended with happy results; a large portion of the nation espoused the Christian religion while he was with them, among whom was the Great Chief, Skenandoah. Through the influence of the Christian faith he taught, in time the whole nation gave up their pagan ceremonies and professed themselves Christians. About 1791, Mr. Kirkland conceived the project of establishing a seminary for the education of Indian youths, as well as the whites. Through his exertions a charter was obtained in 1793 for the school he had planted, and it bore the name of "Hamilton Oneida Academy." In 1794, a building was erected which for many years afterwards continued to be known as "Oneida Hall," till the seminary was raised to the rank of a college. Mr. Kirkland was a generous benefactor of this institution, and expenced much of his time and means in promoting its interests.
SKENANDOAH. --- "But the name which stands more prominently upon the page of history, and which will be remembered until the original inhabitants of this continent are forgotten, is that of Skenandoah, 'the white man's friend.' He was born about the year 1706, but of his younger days little or nothing is known. It has been stated, but upon what authority the writer does not know, that he was not an Oneida by birth, but was a native of a tribe living a long distance to the northwest and was adopted by the Oneidas when a young man. * * * In his youth and early manhood, Skenandoah was very savage and intemperate. In 1755, while attending upon treaty in Albany, he became excessively drunk at night, and in the morning found himself divested of all his ornaments and clothing. His pride revolting at his self-degradation, he resolved never again to place himself under the power of fire water, a resolution which it is believed he kept to the end of his life. In appearance he was noble, dignified and commanding, being in height much over six feet, and the tallest Indian in his nation. He possessed a powerful frame, for at the age of eighty-five he was a full match for any member of his tribe, either as to strength, or speed on foot; his powers of endurance were equal to his size and physical power. But it was to his eloquence and mental powers, he owed his reputation and influence. His person was tattoed, or marked in a peculiar manner. There were nine lines arranged by three extending downward from each shoulder, and meeting upon the chest, made by introducing some dark coloring matter under the skin. He was, in his riper years, one of the noblest counsellors among the North American tribes; he possessed a vigorous mind, and was alike sagacious, active, and perservering. As an enemy he was terrible-as a friend and ally he was mild and gentle in his disposition, and faithful to his engagements. His vigilance, once preserved from massacre the inhabitants of the little settlement of German Flats; and in the revolutionary war his influence induced the Oneidas to take up arms in favor of the Americans. Soon after Mr. Kirkland established his mission at Oneida, Skenandoah embraced the doctrines of the Gospel, and for the rest of his life he lived a consistent Christian. He often repeated the wish that he might be buried by the side of his old teacher and spiritual father, that he might 'group with him at the great resurrection;' and several times in the latter years of his life he made the journey from Oneida to Clinton, hoping to die there. Although he could speak but little English, and in his extreme old age was blind, yet his company was sought. In conversation he was highly decorous, evincing that he had profited by seeing civilized and polished society in his better days. He evinced constant care not to give pain by any remark of reply. * * * To a friend who called upon him a short time before his decease, he thus expressed himself by an interpreter: 'I am an aged hemlock; the winds of a hundred winters have whistled through my branches; I am dead at the top. The generation to which I belonged has run away and left me; why I live the Great Good Spirit only knows; pray to my Jesus that I may have patience to wait for my appointed time to die.' * * *
"After listening to the prayers read at his bedside by his great-grand-daughter, Skenandoah yielded up his spirit on the 11th day of March, 1816, aged about one hundred and ten years. Agreeably to a promise made by the family of Mr. Kirkland, his remains were brought to Clinton, and buried by the side of his spiritual father. Services were attended in the Congregational meeting house in Clinton, and an address was made to the Indians by Dr. Backus, President of Hamilton College, interpreted by Judge Dean, and after prayer, and singing appropriate psalms, the corpse was carried to the grave preceded by the students of the College, and followed in order by the Indians, Mr. Kirkland and family, Judge Dean, Rev. Dr. Norton, Rev. Mr. Ayers, Officers of the College and Citizens.
"Skenandoah was buried in the garden of Mr. Kirkland, a short distance south of the road leading up to the College. A handsome monument stands in the College burying ground, with the following inscription:-
" 'SKENANDOA. This Monument is erected by the Northern Missionary Society, in testimony of their respect for the memory of Skenandoah, who died in peace and hope of the Gospel, on the 11th of March, 1816. Wise, eloquent and brave, he long swayed the Councils of his Tribe, whose confidence and affection he eminently enjoyed. In the war which placed the Canadas under Great Britain, he was actively engaged against the French; in that of the Revolution, he espoused that of the Colonies, and ever afterwards remained a firm friend to the United States. Under the ministry of Rev. Mr. Kirkland he embraced the doctrines of the Gospel; and having exhibited their power
Of a personage so remarkable as Sir William Johnson, something more than a passing notice should be given, as
JAMES DEAN, was a famous interpreter among the Oneidas. He was born in Groton, Conn., in 1748. He was educated for a missionary among the Indians, and while very young was sent among them at Oquago, to learn their language. He was adopted into an Indian family, and to his Indian mother he always manifested and ardent attachment. He learned to speak their language more perfectly than any other white man known. The Oneidas said he was the only white person whom they had ever known, who could speak their language so perfectly that they could not at once detect him, if hid from view. He was a graduate of Dartmouth College, in its first class. In 1774, he was sent among the natives to learn their views toward the Colonists, and proved himself to be a valuable person in the work assigned him. He was retained in public service at the commencement of the Revolution, with the rank of Major in the Staff, as agent for Indian affairs and interpreter, being stationed most of the time at Fort Stanwix and Oneida Castle. Ever after the war Mr. Dean enjoyed the confidence of the Oneidas. For his services the Oneidas gave him a tract of land two miles square, which was located upon the north side of Wood Creek, in the present town of Vienna. This was known a few years since as "Dean's Place." The selection proved to be an unfortunate one on account of unundations, and it was given up, the Indians agreeing to change his location to any place he desired. He selected it in the present town of Westmoreland, since known as "Dean's Patent." He settled upon this in 1786. Jones, in his Oneida County History, gives some thrilling and deeply interesting incidents concerning Judge Dean and his Indian friends; one, in which an Indian woman saved his life, as Pocahontas did that of Capt. John Smith, which richly repays perusal.
Judge Dean was for many years one of the Judges of Oneida Common Pleas, and was twice member of the Legislature. He honored every position he was called to fill. He was a good scholar, and as a writer, his style was beautiful and chaste. He wrote a lengthy essay upon Indian mythology. The manuscript was lent to President Dwight, but never returned.
In 1816, Bishop Hobart of the Protestant Episcopal Church, established a mission at Oneida Castle and placed Rev. Eleazer Williams in charge. The latter was the reputed son of Thomas Williams, a distinguished Chief of the Mohawk branch of the St. Regis tribe, and was a descendant of the Rev. John Williams, who, with his family and parishoners, were taken captives by the Indians at Deerfield, Mass., in 1704. Mr. Eleazer Williams was liberally educated for the purpose of being useful to his people, and was placed at Oneida as a lay-reader, catechist and school teacher. [Rev. Eleazer Williams is the person about whom there was at one time considerable speculation as to his being heir to the throne of France. It was said, and an endeavor was made to prove that he was the lost Dauphin, the son of Louis XVII, whose fate had been enshrouded in mystery. The efforts made, and evidence brought forward, created no small stir in certain circles, which was but temporary, subsiding as soon as the romance of the affair had died away.] So great was Mr. Williams' success, that a large portion of the Oneidas who had hitherto been known as the Pagan Party, embraced the Christian faith, and on the 25th of January, 1817, sent an address to Governor DeWitt Clinton, requesting to be henceforth known as the Second Christian Party of the Oneida Nation. The address was adopted in council, and signed by eleven chiefs and head men. Bishop Hobart visited the mission, and confirmed in all five hundred Indians. In 1818, the Second Christian Party sold a piece of land to enable them to erect a chapel. It was consecrated by Bishop Hobart, September 21, 1819, by the title of St. Peter's Church. Mr. Solomon Davis succeeded Mr. Williams in 1822, the latter having removed to Green Bay with a portion of the Oneida nation. Mr. Davis subsequently removed to Green Bay with another portion of the nation. In 1840 the meeting house was removed to Vernon.
In 1829, a Mission Church was formed among the Oneidas, consisting of about twenty-four members. Rev. Dan Barnes originated the mission. Previous to this the Oneidas belonged to the Presbyterian and Episcopal missions. They had been converted from Paganism to a belief in Christianity, but their morals had been sadly neglected, and intemperance and all the evils attendant, was fast demoralizing the race.
After the Methodist Mission Church was formed, they were supplied with missionaries from among their own race, --- Indians who had been educated for this purpose. William and John Doxtater, Indian preachers from Canada, served for a time. The Rev. Dan Barnes, their first white preacher, then came and located among them for about three years. During his mission a revival of great power pervaded the Indian settlements. The Orchard Party (Which included the present Windfall Party), the First and Second Christian Parties, all united in this revival. It was witnessed by white people who had never seen anything like it before, for its power and remarkable religious manifestations. One who recollects the scenes of their nightly meetings (that continued for months), where the Holy Spirit slew its hundreds, were the Indians' impassioned feelings found vent only through their imperfect language, and in their melodious rendering of the few hymns they knew, thus remarks: "The effect produced was a strange one to the wondering looker on, and the scene was impressive if not affecting; half a dozen females could be seen, at once, rocking to and fro, the ardor of their religious feelings amounting to intoxication, when presently they were prostrated with the power; half a dozen more could be seen at the same moment, entering into the same state, and as many more recovering from this temporary trance." Such rejoicing and wild praises as went up to the Throne of Heaven, was never known before. The Indians were happy in an altogether new-found religion. "Such shouting, such slapping of hands, such praising God!" says Cornelius, when conversing of this remarkable period in their history; and adding, with enthusiasm kindling his eye, "I tell you, nothing like Methodist! They drink no more, then; all sober; in every house singing or praying; at logging bees they sing, then pray, then go to work-all day praising God." It was a happy time, for they had become reduced, been so wholly united as now. In a council held by the chiefs, viz: Jacob Cornelius, William Cornelius, William Dan and Moses Cornelius, with the head Chief of the Six Nations, Moses Schuyler-all the Oneidas, including the First and Second Christian Parties and the Orchard Party, were, by their own desires, and by the counsel and acquiescence of these Chiefs, constituted members of the M.E. Church. A few years subsequently, the same Chiefs, in solemn council, appointed two ministers from among their own race, to preach the Gospel. Thomas Cornelius and his brother John Cornelius, were thus made Methodist exhorters, who were under the supervision of the M.E. Church. Subsequently, other exhorters were raised up among them, viz: David Johnson, then Isaac Johnson, and next Thomas Bread.
At the Orchard, the first Methodist Mission House was built. This orchard is an old and very large one, situated in the southwest corner of Vernon. It was set out by the Indians long before the arrival of the first white settler, it being apparently an old orchard in 1794. As it was a famous locality, the Indian tribes living in this vicinity were denominated the "Orchard Party." The house of worship built here, was sold with the land, by the company of Indians who emigrated to Green Bay in 1833. Those remaining were much opposed to having the mission house sold, and made efforts to have is reserved, which, however, were of no avail. Another house was soon erected near their burying ground, which is also in the southwest part of Vernon. This is yet called the Orchard Church, as the families who reside about it are of the Orchard people.
About the same time, the Windfall Party built another house of worship. This is situated in the town of Lenox, about three miles south of Oneida Castle, on the west road leading to Knoxvile. Their churches now being in the care of M.E. Conference, are never more to be sold from them, for which the Indians are heartily glad.
Before so many had emigrated, the church society was very large, numbering hundreds; it is now comparatively small, though most of the natives are professing Christians, and many are very devout. The pastor stationed at Bennetts Corners M.E. Church, (white) has the care of the Indian Mission, and preaches at the Orchard, at the Windfall House, and also at the Bennetts Corners Church. Rev. Mr. Wadsworth was pastor at one time. Rev. George W. Smith, who is with them now, has been with them ten years this Conference year. The Indians are greatly attached to him, and rely upon him as their counselor in all matters. In councils of their own race, they regard his presence as indispensable. There are among themselves two head men --- not Chiefs, they say, as that office ceased to be of use, when they no longer held lands in common. These head men, Rev. Thomas Cornelius and Daniel Skenandoah, are counselors in Indian matters. They are always made their deputies in public matters, to take care of the interests of their race.
DANIEL SKENANDOAH, a great-grandson of the noted Chief, lives here in the neighborhood of the Windfall Church. He has a noble, well cultivated farm, a good dwelling, its interior arranged as his white neighbors have theirs --- books, pictures, a large melodeon, &c., &c. Mrs. Skenandoah, is a fair woman, and dresses and appears like white people. The sons and daughters are active, intelligent and high spirited. Two of the daughters attend the Cazenovia Seminary. Daniel Skenandoah was sixty years old in April, 1872. He is a man of great physical strength and endurance, and in intelligence will compete with any of the white men around him. He has good practical judgment, sound common sense, and a keen eye to business.
REV. THOMAS CORNELIUS has also a handsome and very productive farm, and a good, white farm cottage, situated in the same neighborhood. Thomas Cornelius was born at the Orchard, and belonged to that party. He was converted under the ministration of Rev. Mr. Barnes, joined the M.E. Church, and has remained a devoted Christian ever since. He was made a local preacher, as before stated, and subsequently was ordained Elder. His influence is great among his people; he is verily an apostle to his race, lifting the erring out of their degradation, teaching them as none but an Indian can, the blessed way of righteousness, he, himself hath found. He is respected and loved by his white neighbors, for his noble heart, his great integrity, and his devotion to all that is good and Christ-like. His Christianity beams in his countenance, and pervades his whole manner. In person he is very tall, well proportioned and erect. He has a pleasant brown eye, an expressive countenance, and his motions and manners, are very graceful. He had some advantages in youth --- was a student at Cazenovia Seminary for a time, where he readily acquired accomplishments. His remarkable physical presence, which his size, dignity and grace make up, together with his noble Christian spirit, impresses one with a sense of his magnificent individuality. And yet he has no haughty pride; his kindness of heart and gentleness are proverbial. He was sixty years old the 20th day of March, 1872. He has a family of well developed children, and still lives with the wife of his youth.
The Indians own farms all along the Oneida valley, from Oneida Castle southward to the old tavern called "Five Chimneys," though many white people own farms in among them. They live on terms of friendliness with their white neighbors. Many of their farms are as valuable and well cultivated as are those of any civilized people, and there are some good farm houses. Isaac Webster is a goof farmer. He is a man of good sense and is quite prominent among them.
The oldest man in the settlement is Antone, (believed to be a brother of Abram Antone) who is said by good authority, to be one hundred years old. Dr. John Denny alias "Sundown," was formerly an interpreter, as was also Peter Doxtater. Aaron Antone, a grandson of Abram, lives at the settlement.
The Indians in the mission are devout Christians, attentive to all the means of grace, and to the observance of the Sabbath, even excelling many white Christians in the respect. The great hindrance to their spiritual progress is intemperance. They have some superstitions yet lingering among them; their customs in doctoring the sick are not yet eradicated, and there is still a belief in witches in the minds of many. Jones, in his History of Oneida County, says: "About 1805 occurred the last execution at Oneida for witchcraft. Two women suffered for this supposed crime. Hon Yost, an Indian somewhat noted in the Revolution, was chosen executioner, and he entered their lodge and tomahawked them according to the decree of a council. Luke Hitchcock, Esq., then a lad, was present at the execution."
The whole charge, now in Mr. Smith's pastoral care, is denominated "Bennetts Corners and Oneida Indian Mission." The white M.E. Society at Bennett's Corners was formed about twenty-five years ago, and their house of worship, pleasantly situated on the old Oneida turnpike, in full view from the Midland Station there, was soon afterwards built. It was then called Pine Bush Station (so named from the remarkable great pines which once grew in this valley.) The charge presented at first an uninviting prospect, but during the past ten years, under Mr. Smith's care, the whole charge has rapidly improved. The white church has now about sixty-five members. The Rev. Mr. Smith lives in a white cottage close by the church --- a quiet country situation --- but with plenty of work for the pastor in looking to the spiritual needs of his peculiar parishioners.
There are at Green Bay about fifteen hundred Oneidas, the last remove from here being in 1844, when the Reservation was broken up at Oneida. There are about two hundred now in the Oneida Mission. They have two schools, one at the Orchard, and one at the Windfall settlement. Their progress in education is somewhat hindered, by the Indians speaking almost exclusively their native language in their families. Great care has been exercised to obtain the best of teachers. It they would more willingly accept the benefits of civilization, and eschew its evils, particularly intemperance, theirs might be a happier lot. They are not necessarily under the doom of extinction, for they are physically a healthy race, and increase as rapidly as any. The impending doom is brought about by the evils of civilization. It is believed that if they should intermarry with the white race, their color, in a few generations, would disappear.
It is proposed that the new Oneida Cemetery have a burial place for the Oneidas, and that there be a monument erected to perpetuate their memory, which shall be inscribed the names of their greatest Chiefs, from the first, down to that of Moses Schuyler, the last head Sachem. It is a tribute justly due them from the people who now cultivate the lands which were theirs, and live in villages on their hunting grounds.
THE ONEIDA RESERVATION was originally a vast domain held in common, where all enjoyed equal privileges, and lived for the primitive style. As the Indians became surrounded by white settlers, they became easily induced by payments of money and annuities, to sell their reservation and try the civilized mode of cultivating farms, or to remove to a freer, wider range, if their tastes did not incline to civilized life.
Therefore, by treaty in 1788, they ceded to the State of New York, the vast domain of about seven million acres of land, reserving to themselves and their posterity forever, "the free right" of hunting in all the woodlands, and fishing in all the streams of that extensive territory.
Thus did they endeavor to preserve for ever their hunting grounds, and sacred to them and their posterity to the remotest period.
But civilization has leveled the forests, and covered the streams with mills and dams, effectually destroying the privileges thus looked upon by those "Children of Nature," as precious in prospect.
During this winter past, (1872,) an application has been made to the State by the remnant few of the tribe, for some equivalent, by way of compensation, for that which has been lost by the deprivation of the privilege thus reserved, of hunting and fishing, as a last act of justice to a nation all but faded away.
Judge Thomas Barlow, of Canastota, Madison County, made the application, and spoke for the Indians before the authorities at Albany.
The great body of the Oneidas, removed to Green Bay at different periods, between 1822 and 1833, and small parties have emigrated since. By report of the U.S. Indian Agent in 1849, the Oneidas at Green Bay were in a prosperous condition.
In 1845, there were upon the Oneida Reservation, in all, thirty-one families of Oneidas --- seventy-one males and eighty-six females; total one hundred and fifty-seven; besides one Delaware, one Mohawk, one St. Regis, and four Stockbridges. Of these, one hundred and thirty-three were still professed Pagans, the remainder attending upon the Methodist Mission. They then owned four hundred and twenty-one acres of land tolerably improved. Several of the Indians lived in frame housed, some of which were painted.
There were two Indian schools in the reservation, in which are employed teachers, about thirty-two weeks in the year
Nathaniel T. Strong, an educated Seneca, who was employed by Government to take the Indian census in 1855, makes the following remarks on the condition of the Indians throughout the State, which may not be inappropriately added here:
"The subject of the reclamation of the Red man is one of deep and absorbing interest. There are now four thousand members of the Six Nations residing in the State of New York. In many respects they have become assimilated to the dense white population which surrounds them. Necessity has compelled them to resign the arrow and the spear for the plow, and the fertile soil now yields that sustenance which they but recently sought in the pathless forests and prolific streams. Reluctantly diverted from the exciting chase and perilous war-path, the mind of the young warrior now seeks another aliment, is quickened by new aspirations. He sees a new field opened before him, with pressing inducements to enter and emulate his white brethren, in the friendly contest for the triumphs of industry and civilization. Hereditary pride, the prejudice of complexion, and, it may be, the remembrance of past indignities and wrongs, may have hitherto prevented him from relaxing his tenacious grasp on the customs and memories of his fathers, and initiating himself into a new and better life. But a change has been gradually wrought in his condition and mode of life and habits of thought. * * * * It is conceded that there are but two means of rescuing the Indian from his impending destiny, these are education and Christianity."
Mr. Strong mentions the large sums of money expended for the benefit of the Red men, but it is his opinion that much of it has been used injudiciously. He concludes his remarks by recommending to the government that this sacred trust be placed in the hands of missionaries, who, he believes, will exert their self-denying efforts for the elevation and redemption of this almost friendless race.
Rev. John Sergeant was buried in the burial ground near his last residence. The following epitaph was placed upon the headstone that marks his grave:
Fort Johnson May 28th, 1756"