Samuel W Durant.

History of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers online

. (page 20 of 192)
Online LibrarySamuel W DurantHistory of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 20 of 192)
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spondence with the missionary. The following is a copy
of a letter addressed to him :



76



HISTORY OP ONEIDA COUNTY, NEW YORK.



" Concord, Aprif 4, 1775.
" To THE Rev. Samuel Kirklasd :

" Sir, — The Provincial Congress have thought it necessary to address
the sachem of the MuliaioJz tribe, with the rest of the Six Nations,
upon the subject of the controversy between Grtsat Britain and the
American colonies. We are induced to take this measure, as we
have been informed that those who are inimical to us in Canada
have been tampering with those nations, and endeavoring to attach
them to the interests of those who are attempting to deprive us of
our inestimable rights and privileges, and to subjugate the colonics
to arbitrary power. From a confidence in your attachment to the
cause of liberty and your country,, we now transmit to you the in-
closed address, and desire you will deliver it to the sachem of the
Mnliaicks tribe, to be communicated to the rest of the Six Nations,
and that you will use your influence with them to join with us in
defense of our rights j but if you cannot prevail witli them to take
an active part in this glorious cause, that you will at least engage
them to stand neuter, and not by any means to aid or assist our
enemies ; ond as we are at a loss for the name of the sachem of the
Mohfiir.h tribe, we have left it to you to direct the address to him, in
sucb way as you may think proper."*

At the breaking out of the Revolution there was a set-
tlement of Indians at Stockbridge, Mass., composed of the
remnants of various tribes, — MohickamJers, Narragmi-
setfSj PequodSj etc. They had located there in 1736, and
remained until after the war, when they migiated to
the region of Oneida and Madison Counties, where they
were granted a tract of land by the Oneida nation, six
miles square. It is probable that as early as 1775 they
were negotiating for a removal with the Oneidas, but the
war prevented. These Indians early took up arms for the
colonists, and did good service during the Revolution. The
relations between them and the Oneidas and Titscaroras
were intimate, and it is probable their influence had more
or less to do with the course those two nations pursued
during the contest.

The Oneida Indians determined to remain neutral, though
eventually a strong band, under the leadership of Skenan-
doa, took up arms for the colonies, and did good service.
The people of the colonies were somewhat divided on the
subject of employing Indians, but, on the whole, the feel-
ing was not in favor of it. They simply desired them to
remain neutral, and let the hatchet rest.

The following address was sent by the Oneidas to Gov-
ernor Trumbull, of Connecticut, some time during the
month of May, 1775 :

"the ONEIDA INDIANS TO GOVERNOR TRUMDULL.

"As my younger brothers of the New England Indians, who have
settled in our vicinity, are now going down to visit their friends,t
and to move up parts of their families that were left behind, — with
this belt by them, I open the road wide, clearing it of all obstacles,
that they may visit their friends and return to tlieir settlements here
in peace.

" The Oneidas are induced to this measure on account of the disa-
greeable situation of affairs that way ; and we hope, by the help of
God, they may return in peace. We earnestly recommend them to
your charity through their long journey.

" Now we more immediately address you, our brother, the Governor
and the chiefs of New England.

"Brothers: We have heard of the unhappy differences and great
contention between you and Old England. We wonder greatly, and
are troubled in our minds.

* For further notice of Mr. Kirkland see Protestant Missions,
t This statement would indicate that a portion of the New Eng-
land Indians, at least, had removed to the Oneida country previous
to the war. The general exodus was between 1783 and 1788.



"Brothers: Possess your minds in peace reppecting us Indians.
We cannot intermeddle in this dispute between two brothers. The
quarrel seems to be unnatural. You are two brothers of one blood.
We are unwilling to join on either side in such a contest, for we bear
an equal affection to both Old and New England. Should the great
king of England apply to us for aid we shall deny him; if the
colonies apply we shall refuse. The present situation of you two
brothers is new and strange to us. We Indians cannot find, nor
recollect in the traditions of our ancestors, the like case or a similar
instance.

"Brothers; For these reasons possess your minds in peace, and
take no umbrage that we Indians refuse joining in the contest. We
are for peace.

" Brothers: Was it an alien, a foreign nation, who had struck you,
we should look into the matter. We hope, through the wise govern-
ment and good pleasure of God, your distresses may he soon removed
and the dark clouds dispersed.

" Brothers : As we have declared for peace, we desire you will not
apply to our Indian brethren in New England for their assistance.
Let us Indians be all of one mind, and live with one another; and
you white people settle your own disputes between j'ourselves.

"Brothers: We have now declared our minds. Please to write to
us, that we may know yours. We, the sachems and warriors and
female governesses of Oneida, send our love to you, brother Governor,
and all the other chiefs of New England. "J

The people of Tryon County had an especial dread of
the Indians. Their exposed situation invited attack, and ■
they were conscious that, if once the savages were fairly
'enlisted on the side of the Crown, their worst fears of
Indian invasion would be realized. They were suspicious
of the Johnsons, and greatly feared the result of their in-
trigues.

In a communication of the Palatine committee to that
of Albany it was suggested whether it might not be expe-
dient to prohibit the trafiic in powder and lead in the
Mohawk Valley, except through the hands of a proper
committee.

The question whether the Johnsons were intriguing with
the Indians was solved on the 21st of May, by the finding
of a letter addressed to the chiefs of the Oneidas^ written
in the Mohawk language, and in Thay-en-dan-e-geas hand-
writing. It was discovered in an Indian path, and was
supposed to have been dropped by a runner. The follow-
ing is its English translation :

"Written at Guy Johnson's, Mny, 1775.
" This is your letter, you great ones or sachems. Guy Johnson says
he will be glad if you get this intelligence, you Oneidas, how it goes
with him now ; and he is now more certain concerning the intentions
of the Boston people. Guy Johnson is in great fear of being taken
prisoner by the Bostonians. We Mnhmcks are obliged to watch him
constantly. Therefore we send you this intelligence that you shall
know it; and Guy Johnson assures himself, and depends upon your
coming to his assistance, and that you will, without fail, be of that
opinion. He believes not that you will assent to let him suffer. We
therefore expect you in a couple of days' time. So much at present.
We send but so far as to you Oneidas, but afterwards, perhaps, to all
the other nations. We conclude, and expect that you will have con-
cern about our ruler, Guy Johnson, because we are all united.
(Signed) "Aren Kannexzaron',

"Johannes Tkgarihoge,
"Joseph Brant, " Deyagodeaghnaweagh.

" Guy Johnson's inferpreter,"

This letter, although it did not really indicate any hostile
intention on the part of Guy Johnson, stirred up the people
and still more intensified their suspicions that all was not
right, and that he was busy preparing his immediate re-

\ Stone's Life of Brant.



HISTORY OF ONEIDA COUNTY, NEW YORK.



77



tainers and the Six Nations for hostilities. Rumors were
ripe that omis-saries or agents of the Crown had been among
the Indians, and it was well known that supplies and am-
munition were regularly distributed among them by British
agents.

The suspicions were mutual. Colonel Guy Johnson had
abundant reasons for keeping watch and ward. General
Philip Schuyler kept his eye upon him,* and he was so
closely watched as to produce a feeling of great uncertainty,
as the following letter, addressed about this time to the
magistrates of the upper Muliawk settlements, indicates :

"Gut Park, May 20, 1775.

" Gentlemen. — I have lately had repeated accounts that a body
of New Englanders or others were to come to seize and carry away
my person, and attack our family, under color of malicious insinua-
tions that I intended to set the Indians upon the people. Men of
sense and character know that my office is of the highest importance
to promote peace amongst the Six Nations, and prevent their enter-
ing upon any such disputes. This I effected last year, when they were
much vexed about the attack made upon the Shawaneiie, and I, last
winter, appointed them to meet me this month to receive the answer
of the Virginians. All men must allow, that if the Indians find their
council fire disturbed, and their superintendent insulted, they will
take a dreadful revenge. It is therefore the duty of all people to
prevent this, and to satisfy any who may have been imposed on, that
their suspicions, and the allegations they have collected against me,
are false, and inconsistent with my character and office. I recom-
mend this to you as highly necessary at this time, as my regard for
the interest of the country and self-preservation has obliged me to
fortify my house, nnd keep men armed for my defense, till these idle
and ridiculous reports are removed. You may lay this' letter before
such as are interested in these matters.

" I am, gentlemen, your humble servant, G. Johnson."

" In view of these letters — the intercepted di.spatch from
Joseph Brant and others to the OneiJuXj and Johnson's
letter to the committee — the latter body adopted a series of
resolutions renewing their expressions of sympathy for the
sufferings of their brethren in Massachusetts and the other
colonies; declaring their approbation of the proceedings of
the New England colonies in the existing crisis ; denouncing
the conduct of Colonel Johnson in keeping an armed force
constantly about him, and stopping travelers upon the king's
highway, as arbitrary, illegal, oppressive, and unwarrantable;
and declaring their determination never to submit to any
arbitrary acts of any power under heaven, or to any illegal
or unwarrantable action of any man or set of men what-
ever."')'

Events thickened. Colonel Guy Johnson kept an armed
force of 500 men constantly around him, and he controlled
the roads through the valley, and effectually cut off all com-
munications between the friends of the colonies east and
west. He had also sent messages inviting the Six Nations
to a council at his residence.

The inhabitants of the districts west of Johnstown were
nearly unanimous in their support of the measures of Con-
gress, but they were without adequate arms and ammunition,
and consequently powerless to act. Under these circum-
stances their committee sent an urgent letter to Albany,
explaining their situation, and suggesting the opening of
the road through the Loyalist settlements by force. They

'^Washington, in a letter to General Schuyler, in June, 1776, cau-
tioned him to be watchful of Guy Johnson,
t Stone.



also recommended sending two trusty messengers to the
upper or western members of the Six Nations, to lay the
situation before them, and dissuade them, if possible, from
following the advice of Guy Johnson.

The Albany committee immediately replied that there
was no ammunition to spare in the river towns, and advising
the people of the western districts to remain quiet for the
present. The project of employing force was accordingly
abandoned, but the committee sent four of their number to
Albany for the purposes of obtaining information of the
general state of the country and procuring ammunition.
" Meantime they pushed their measures of internal organ-
ization with great energy and success, establishing sub-
committees wherever it was deemed expedient, and assuming
the exercise of legislative, judicial, and executive powers.
Secret articles for mutual succor and defense were proposed,
and very generally signed by the Whigs ; and threats
having been uttered by Gny Johnson that, unless the com-
mittee desisted from the course they were pursuing, he would
seize and imprison certain of their number, they solemnly
bound themselves to rescue any who might be arrested
by force, ' unless such persons should be confined by legal
process, issued upon a legal ground, and executed in a legal
manner.'

" It is here worthy, not only of special note, but of all
admiration, how completely and entirely these border men
held themselves amenable, in thS most trying exigencies, to
the just execution of the laws. Throughout all their
proceedings the history of the Tryon committees will show
that they were governed by the purest dictates of patriotism,
and the highest regard for moral principle. Unlike the
rude inhabitants of most frontier settlements, especially
under circumstances where the magistracy are, from ne-
cessity, almost powerless, the frontier patriots of Tryon
County were scrupulous in their devotion to the supremacy
of the laws. Their leading men were likewise distinguished
for their intelligence ; and while North Carolina is disputing
whether she did not, in fact, utter a declaration of inde-
pendence before it was done by Congress, by recurring to
the first declaration of the Palatine committee, noted in
its proper place, the example may almost be said to have
proceeded from the valley of the Mohawk. "J

Colonel Guy Johnson, at the time of addressing the
magistrates of the upper Mohawk, also addressed a similar
letter to the mayors, aldermen, and commonalty of the
cities of Albany and Schenectady,§ in which he adroitly
sets forth that the people have no just cause to be alarmed
at his course, and explaining the beneficial results of his
endeavors to promote peace and good will among the
Indians, while at the same time gloomily foreshadowing
the terrible vengeance which the Indians would take on
those who should dare to disturb their superintendent ;
and closing by advising them to take measures at once to
check the propagation of further insinuations and false-
hoods against him.

The Albany municipality replied to this, disclaiming any
belief in the rumors afloat, and advising Johnson to attend



I Stone's Life of Brant.

J The latter was not strictly a city till 1798.



78



HISTORY OF ONEIDA COUNTY, NEW YORK.



strictly to his duties, " with an honest heart," and assuring
him that he need fear no trouble so long as he carried him-
self in a proper manner.

On the 25th of May, 1775, a council of Muliawk chiefs
was held at Guy Park, the seat of Colonel Guy Johnson.
The principal speaker for the Indians was Little Abraham,
a brother of the famous Hendrick, who fell at Lake George
in 1755, and chief of the lower castle of the nation. Dele-
gates were also present from Albany and Tryon Counties.
The proceedings were not important, the principal expres-
sion of the Indians being a reiteration of their respect for Sir
William Johnson and his son-in-law, Colonel Guy. They
also congratulated the colonel that the rumors of his in-
tended capture were unfounded, and expressed the hope
that their supply of ammunition would not be cut oiF.

On the 2d of June there was a meeting of the Tyron
County committee, at which all the delegates were present
from the different districts. The names of the delegates
were as follows :

Palatine District. — Christopher P. Yates, John Frey,
Andrew Fink, Andrew Reeber, Peter Waggoner, Daniel
McDougal, Jacob Klock, George Ecker, Jr., Harmanus
Van Slyck, Christopher W. Pox, Anthony Van Vaghten.

Camijoliane District. — Nicholas Herkimer, Ebenezer
Cox, William Seeber, John Moore, Samuel Campbell,
Samuel Clyde, Thomas Henry, John Picard.

Kiiigshind and German- Flatts District. — Edward Wall,
William Petry, John Petry, Augustine Hess, Frederick
Orendorf, George Wentz, Michael Ittig, Frederick Fox,
George Herkimer, Duncan McDougal, Frederick Helmer,
John Fink.

Mohawk District. — John Morlett, John Bliven, Abraham
Van Home, Adam Fonda, Frederick Fisher, Sampson Sam-
mons, William Schuyler, Volkert Veeder, James McMaster,
Daniel Line — ^42. Christopher P. Yates was chosen chair-
man. He had been chairman of the Palatine committee,
and drafted most of the letters and resolutions. He was a
■volunteer in Montgomery's army, and subsequently com-
manded a company of rangers.

The following letter, written at the dictation of this com-
mittee, to Colonel Guy Johnson, is so full of the spirit and
character of the times that we give it as a sample doc-
ument :

" According to the example of the counties in this and the neigh-
boring colonies, the people of the district we represent have met in
a peaceable manner to consider of the present dispute with the mother-
country and the colonics, signed a general association, and appointed
us a committee to meet in order to consult the common safety of our
rights and liberties, which are infringed in a most enormous manuer,
by enforcing oppressive and unconstitutional acts of the British Par-
liament by an armed force in the Massachusetts Bay.

" Was it any longer a doubt that we are oppressed by the mother-
country, and that it is the avowed design of the ministers to enslave
us, we might perhaps be induced to use argument to point out in what
particulars we conceive that it is the birthright of English subjects
to be exempted from all taxes e-xeept those which are laid on them by
their representatives, and think we have a right by the laws and con-
stitution of England to meet for the purpose we have done; which
meeting we probably would have postponed a while had there been
the least kind of probability that the petition of the General As-
sembly would have been noticed more than the united petition of
almost the whole continent of America, by their delegates in Con-
gress, which, so far from being anyways complied with, was treated
with superlative contempt by the ministry, and fresh oppressions



were, and are, daily heaped upon us. Upon which principles (which
are undeniable) we have been appointed to consult methods to con-
tribute what little lies in our power to save our devoted country from
ruin and devastation ; which, with the assistance of divine providence,
it is our fixed and determined resolution to do; and if called upon
we shall be foremost in sharing the toil and danger of the field. We
consider New Enghand suffering in the common cause, and commiser-
ate their distressed situation ; and we should be wanting in our duty
to our country and to ourselves if we were any longer backward in
announcing our determination to the world.

" We know that some of the members of this committee have been
charged with compelling people to come into the measures which we
have adopted, and with drinking treasonable toasts. But as we are
convinced that these reports are false and malicious, — spread by oar
enemies with the sole intent to lessen us in the esteem of the world, —
and as we are conscious of being guilty of no crime, and of having
barely done our duty, we are eutirely unconcerned as to anything
that is said of us, or can be done with us. We should, however, be
careless of our character did we not wish to detect the despicable
wretch who could be so base as to charge us with things which
we have never entertained the most distant thoughts of. We are not
ignor.ant of the very great importance of your office as superintendent
of the Indians, and, therefore, it is no more our duty than our inclina-
tion to protect yon in the discharge of the duty of your proper prov-
ince, and we meet you with pleasure in behalf of ourselves and our
constituents, to thank you for meeting the Indians of the upper posts
of the county, which may be the means of easing the people of the re-
mainder of their fears on this account, and preventing the Indians
committing irregularities on their way down to Guy Park. And we
beg of you to use your endeavors with the Indians to dissuade them
from interfering in the dispute with the mother-country and the col-
onies. We cannot think that, as you and your family possess very
large estates in this county, you are unfavorable to American freedom,
although you may differ with us in the mode of obtaining a redress
of grievances. Permit us further to observe that we cannot pass over
in silence the interruption which the people of the Mohawk district
met in their meeting, which, we are informed, was conducted in a
peaceable manner ; and the inhuman treatment of a man whose only
crime was being faithful to his employers, and refusing to give an ac-
count of the receipt of certain papers, to persons who had not the
le.ast color of right to demand anything of that kind. We assure
you that we are much concerned about it, as two important rights of
English subjects are thereby infringed, to wit, a right to meet, and to
obtain all the intelligence in their power."

Dissatisfied with this council, which had been held at his
house, but at the same time professing to be desirous of
peace between the Indians and the inhabitants, Guy John-
son had called another council in the western part of the
county. Under pretense of meeting the Indians he had
removed his family and retinue (armed retainers and others)
from Guy Park to the house of Mr. Thompson, a resident
of Cosby's Manor, a short distance above the German Flatts,
where he was waited upon by Edward Wall and General
Nicholas Herkimer, with the letter of which the foregoing
is a part. To this letter he returned the following answer :

"Cosby's Masok, June 6, 1775.

" I have received the paper signed Chris. P. Yates, chairman, on
behalf of the district therein mentioned, which I am now to answer,
and shall do it briefly, in the order you have stated matters. As to
the letter from some Indians to the Oneidnsi, I re.ally knew nothing
of it until I heard such a thing had been by some means obtained
from an Indian messenger, and from what I have heard of its con-
tents, I can't sec anything material in it, or that could justify such idle
apprehensions ; but I must observe that those fears among the people
were talked of long before, and were, I fear, propagated by some ma-
licious persons for a bad purpose.

" As to your political sentiments, on which you enter in the next
paragraph, I have no occasion to enter on them or the merits of the
cause. I desire to enjoy liberty of conscience and the exorcise of my
own judgment, and that all others should have the same privileges;
but with regard to your saying you might have postponed the affair



HISTORY OF ONEIDA COUNTY, NEW YORK.



79



if there had been the lenst kind of probability that the petition of the
Geueral Assembly would have been noticed more than that of the
delegates, I must, as a true friend to the country, in which I have
II large interest, say, that the present dispute is viewed in different
lights, according to the education and principles of the parties af-
fected, and that however reasonable it mny appear to a considerable
number of honest men here, that the petition of the delegates should
merit attention, it is not viewed in the same light in a country which
admits of no authority that is not constitutionally established; and
I persuade myself you have that reverence for his majesty that you
will pay due regard to the Royal assurance given in his speech to
Parliament, that whenever the American grievances should be laid
before him by their constitutional nssemblies tbcy should be fully
attended to. I have heard that compulsory steps were taken to induce
some persons to come into your measures, and treasonable toasts
drank ; but I am happy to hear you disavow them. I am glad to
find my calling a congress on the frontiers gives satisfaction. This
waa principally my design, though I cannot sufficiently express my
surprise at those who have, either through malice or ignorance, mis-
construed my intention", and supposed me capable of setting the In-
dians on the peaceable inhabitants of this country. Tne interest our
family has in this county, and my own, is considerable, and they
have been its best benefactors; and malicious charges, therefore, to
their prejudice are highly injurious, and ought to be totally sup-
pressed.

" The office I hold is greatly for the benefit and protection of this
country, and on my frequent meetings with the Indians depends their



Online LibrarySamuel W DurantHistory of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 20 of 192)