Samuel W Durant.

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

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peace and security. I therefore cannot but be astonished to find
the endeavors made use of to obstruct me in my duties, and the weak-
ness of some people in withholding many things frAm me which are
indispeusably necessary for rendering the Indians contented; and I
am willing to hope that you, gentlemen, will duly consider this and
discountenance the same.

" You have been misinformed as to the origin of the reports which
obliged me to fortify my house, and stand on my defense. I had it,
gentlemen, from undoubted authority from Albany, and since con-
firmed by letters from one of the committee at Philadelphia, that a
large body uf men were to make me prisoner. As the cifect this must
have on the Indians might have been of dangerous consequences to
you (a circumstance not thought of), I was obliged at great expense
to take those measures. But the many reports of my stopping travel-
ers were false in every particular, and the only instance of detaining
anyliody was in the case of two New England men, which I explained
fully to those of j'our body who brought your letter, and wherein I
acted strictly agreeable to law, and as a magistrate should have done.

" I am very sorry that such idle and injurious reports meet with
any encouragement, I rely on you, gentlemen, to exert yourselves
in discountenancing them, and am happy in this opportunity of
assuring the people of a county I regard that they have nothing to
apprehend from my endeavors, for I shall always be glad to promote
their true interests.

" Gi'v Johnson.""""

These protestations of Colonel Johnson did not allay the
fears of the inhabitants. In f^pite of his professions it was
generally believed by those who espoused the cause of the
colonies, that he was meditating evil, and secretly working
among the Six Nations in the British interests. These
suspicions were not allayed when they saw him removing
with his armed retainers and effects up the valley; and
they were fully confirmed when he proceeded to Oswego,
and soon afterwards to Canada, where he encouraged and
incited the Indians against the colonies throughout the
war. He established his residence at Montreal, where he
continued to act as Indian agent, and distributed presents
and rewards among the savages.

On his journey to Canada, Johnson made a short halt at
Fort Stanwix, and soon after proceeded to Ontario^ where
lie held a council at which were present 1340 Indians.

^-^ Campboll's Annals of Tryon County.

These movements, notwithstanding his very plausible let-
ters, rendered it certain that he had fully committed himself
to the British interest, and was preparing for a bloody war
against his former neighbors and friends of the Mohawk

Brant and the bulk of his nation accompanied him to
Canada, never again to return to their beautiful homes on
the Mohawk^ except as enemies. The lower castle under
Little Abraham, however, refused to follow the fortunes
of the chief, and remained behind. The Butlers, father
and son, fled along with Guy Johnson to Canada, from
whence they emerged on various occasions at the head of
their merciless bands to spread slaughter and desolation
over the region which had been their former home. In one
of these raids, Walter Butler met his just deserts at the
hands of an Oneida Indian on the banks of West Canada

Soon after Johnson's removal the following letter from
the Proviiiciiil Congress of Massachusetts was sent to the
Congress of New York, and circulated throughout the State.
It plainly shows the state of feeling in the country regarding
Guy Johnson :

" In Provincial Congress,
"Watertown, June 13, ITTS.f
"To THE Honorable Delegates of the Congiiess of the Prov-
ince OF Nkw York :

" Gentlrhfen, — Considering the exposed condition of the frontiers
of the colonies, the danger that the inhabitants of Ciinada may pos-
sibly have disagreeable apprehensions from the military preparations
making in several of the colonies, and the rumors that there are
some appearances of their getting themselves in readiness to act in
a hotitilo way, this Congress have made ap[ilication to the Honorable
Continental Congress, desiring them to take such measures as to
them shall appear proper to quiet and conciliate the minds of the
Canadians, and to prevent such alarming apprehensions. We also
have had the disagreeable accounts of methods taken to lill the miuds
of the Indian tribes adjacent to these colonies with sentiments very
injurious to us: particularly we have been informed that Col. Guy
Johnson has taken great pains with the Six Nations, in order to
bring them into a belief that it is designed by the colonies to fall
upon them and cut them off. We have, therefore, desired the Hon-
orable Continental Congress that they would, with all convenient
speed, use their influence in guarding against the evil intended by
this malevolent misrepresentation; and we desire you to join with
us in such application.

"Joseph AVarreNj President.
"Attest: Samuel Freeman, Secretary."

Upon the receipt of this communication, the Congress of
New York addressed a letter to Colonel Johnson, disclaim-
ing in foto the designs imputed to the Provincial authorities,
both as regarded the Indians and himself But Johnson
was suspicious and wary, and would never relax any vigi-
lance which he deemed necessary to guard against a surprise
by the Whigs, which he constantly feared. This letter
was handed to Johnson during his sojourn at Ontario, and
he wrote the following reply on the 8th of July :


"Ontauio.J July 8, 1775.
" Sir, — Though I received your letter from the Provincial Con-
gress several days ago, I had not a good opportunity to answer it

f Four days before the battle of Bunker Hill.

:|: The location of "Ontario" is uncertain. It may have bsen Os-
wego or the junction of the rivers which form the Oswego River
below Oneida Lake, or still farther west in the Seneca country, most
probably the latter.



until now. I suppose, however, this will reach yon safe, notwith-
standing all the rest of my correspondence is interrupted by ignorant

"As to the endeavor you speak of to reconcile the unhappy differ-
ences between the Parent State and these Colonies, be assured I
ardently wish to see them; as yet, I am sorry to say, I have not
heen able to discover any attempt of that kind but that of the Assem-
bly, the only true legal representative of the people; and as to the
individuals who, you say, officiously interrupt (in my quarter) the mode
and measures you think necetsary for these salutary purposes, I am
really a stranger to tht:m. If you mean myself, you have been grossly
imposed on. I once, indeed, went, with reluctance, at the request of
several of the principal inhabitants, to one of the people's meetings,
which I found had been called by an itinerant New England leather-
dresser, and conducted by others, if possible, more contemptible^'*
Iliad, therefore, little inclination to re-visit such men or attend to
such absurdities. And although I did not incline to think that you
gentlemen had formed any designs against me, yet it is most certain
that such designs were formed. Of this I received a clear account by
express from a friend near Albany, which was sonn corroborated by
letters from other quarters, particularly one from a gentleman of the
Committee at Ph'ladelphia, a captain in your levies, who was pretty
circumstantial; and, since, I have had the like from many others.
I have, likewise, found that mean instruments were officiously em-
ployed to disturb the minds of the Indians, to interrupt the ordinary
discharge of my duties, and prevent their receiving messages they
had long since expected from me. To enter into a minute detail of all
the falsehoods propagated, and all the obstructions I met with,
though it could not fail astonishing any gentleman disposed to dis-
countenance them, would far exceed the limits of a letter or the
time I have to spare, as I am now finishing my congress entirely to
my satisfaction, with 1340 warriors, who came hither to the only
place where they could transact business or receive favors without
interruption, and who are much dissatisfied with finding that the
goods which I was necessitated to send for to Montreal were obliged
to be ordered back by the merchant, to prevent his being insulted or
his property invaded by the mistaken populace. That their ammu-
nition was stopped at Albany, the persons on this communication
employed in purchasing provisions for the congressf insulted, and
all my letters, as well as even some trifling articles for the use of my
own table, stopped. And this moment the ]\Iayor of Albany assured
me that he was the other day roused out of his bed, at a certain Mr.
Thompson's, above the German Flatts, by one Herkimer and fifteen
others, who pursued him to search for anything h& might have for
me. You may be assured, Sir, that this is far from being agreeable to
the Indians; that it might have produced very disagreeable conse-
quences long since, had not compassion for a deluded people taken the
place of every other consideration ; and that the most important
endeavors of a missionary^ ("who has forfeited his honor, pledged to
me), with part of one of their tribes, is a circumstance that, however
trifling, increases their resentment.

"I should be much obliged by your promises of discountenancing
any attempts against myself, etc., did they nfft appear to be made on
conditions of compliance with Continental or Pi'ovincial Congresses,
or even Committees formed or to be formed, many of whose Resolves
may neither consist with my conscience, duty, or loyalty. I trust I
shall always manifest more humanity than to promote the destruction
of the innocent inhabitants of a Colony to which I have been always
warmly attached ; a declaration that must appear perfectly suitable
to the character of a man of honor and principle, who can, on no ac-
count, neglect those duties that are consistent therewith, however
they may differ from sentiments now adopted in so many parts of

"I sincerely wish a speedy termination to the present troubles,
and I am,

" Sir,

" Your most humble Servant,

"G. Johnson.
" P. V. B. Livingston, Esq."

^' Colonel Johnson appears to have been haughty and aristocratic
to the last degree, affecting to despise all who labored for a living.
Little did he anticipate the powerful nation of lahoruiy freemei} to
which puch a course as he was pursuing was even then giving birth.

f Referring to his congress with the Indians.

J Rev. Mr. Kirkland.

Johnson held another council at Oswego before his final
departure for Canada, the particulars of which were not
preserved; but he no doubt still further inflamed the pas-
sions of the Indians against the colonies. On this occasion,
it is said, he roasted an ox and broached a pipe of wine for
the warriors.§

Sir John Johnson, the son of Sir William, remained at
the baronial mansion, which he proceeded to fortify, and
armed all the Loyalists in his neighborhood. The move-
ments of these leaders of the king's party created alarm
among the people who favored the colonies, and immediate
steps were taken to counteract them. Whije Guy Johnson
was at Ontario a rumor spread through the Moliawk Valley
that he was organizing a powerful expedition to invade the
country. His force was estimated at 800 or 900 Indians,
besides a large number of Tories, and it was rumored that
the attack would be made from the woods below Little Falls.

On the 11th day of July, 1775, upon receipt of this
intelligence. Colonel Nicholas Herkimer, who lived a few
miles below Little Falls,|| wrote from Canajoharie to the
Palatine committee, notifying them of the above intelli-
gence being received, and proposed sending immediately to
Albany for a force to meet the invaders. The committee
immediately wrote an urgent letter to Albany and Schenec-
tady, calling for the necessary forces " to prevent these bar-
barous enterprises, and to enable them to resist their inhu-
man enemies with good success, that they might not be
slaughtered like innocent and defenseless sheep before rav-
aging wolves." But the invasion did not occur, and for
the time being the valley quieted down.

In this connection the following extract from the remarks
of M. M. Jones, Esq., at the Oriskany centennial celebra-
tion, are appropriate, as an explanation of the manner in
which the colonial government of New York was consti-
tuted and conducted during the years elapsing between the
close of English rule and the adoption of a State constitu-
tion in 1777 :

" At the commencement of the Revolution, all branches
of government in the colony of New York, the Governor,
Council, and General Assembly were loyal to George III.
and his crown. In the Assembly were a few patriotic men,
like George Clinton, Philip Schuyler, Simon Boerum, Rob-
ert R. Livingston, Jr., Abraham Ten Broeck, Nathaniel
Woodhull ; but they were too few to accomplish more than
keeping the people advised of the designs of the British

■' The incipient machinery for beginning a government in
this State was, from the necessity of the case, an emanation
from the people. It had no law for its basis, except that
natural law which gives man the YvA\t of self-government.

^ Colonel Guy Johnson appears upon the scene at various times
during the war, but always as a bitter enemy of the colonists. He
was with the forces that opposed General Sullivan during his inva-
sion of the country of the Six Nations in 1779, and, according to
Colonel Stone, took part, along with Colonel John Butler, Sir John
Johnson, Major Walter N. Butler, and Thayendancgea, in the battle
of Newtown, or Chemung. He lived at Niagara for some time fol-
lowing Sullivan's campaign, and at the close ol' the war went to Eng-
land, and died in London on the ytli of March, 17S8. IGentieiutm'a

|l The old Herkimer mansion was above Little Falls, but the gen-
eral constructed a residence below, and removed there about 17fiO.



" Tlie first and subsequent Colonial Congresses of New
York were elected as we this day elect our political conven-
tions. They made laws and pas.9ed resolutions and enforced
them. They assumed all the powers of a State govern-
ment. The men who composed them were patriots, and
many of them statesmen. Several became members of the
Continental Congress, and others rose to distinction in the

" The second Continental Congress was to meet at Phila-
delphia, May 10, 1775. As the General Assembly of New
York had refused to appoint delegates to that body, the
committee of the ' Sons of Liberty' for the city and county
of New York, in March, 1775, issued a call to the several
counties of the colony, asking them to send delegates to
meet in New York City, April 20, to elect such delegates.
This body, designated a Provincial Convention, was com-
posed of fifty of the leading men of New York, among whom
were Governors George Clinton and John Jay, Messrs.
Floyd, Lewis, Livingston, and Morris, signers of the De-
claration of Independence, and Generals Schuyler and Mc-
Dougall. It met April 20, 1775, and its powers being
exhausted by the election of delegates to Congress, dissolved
itself April 23. The next day, Sunday, the news of the
battle of Lexington arrived in New York. Electrified by
the intelligence, the people began the work of revolution
with a high hand. The general committee, increa.sed in
numbers and in powers, called upon the counties to .send
delegates to a ' Provincial Congress,' to be held in New
York on the 22d of May, 1775.

" Tills first Provincial Congress elected Peter Van Brugh
Livingston its first president, and James McKesson secre-
tary. It held three sessions, Jlay 22, July 2(3, and Octo-
ber 4, and dissolved Nov. 4, 1775.

" The second Provincial Congress was elected May 7,

1775, and held three sessions, commencing Dec. 6, 1775,
Feb. 12 and May 8, 1776.

" The third Provincial Congress was elected in April,

1776, convened in New York May 18, and remained in
session until June 30, when it was dissolved, as the British
troops were about taking possession of the city.*

" The fourth Provincial Congress assembled at White
Plains, July 9, 1776. The Declaration of Independence
was read and unanimously adopted. As the colonies had
now become States, the style of the Provincial Congress of
the Colony of New York was changed to ' The Convention
of the Representatives of the State of New York.'

" This Convention removed to Harlem July 29, and to
Fishkill August 29, where it held various short sessions
until Feb. 11, 1777, when it adjourned to King,ston. It
met at the latter place March 6, and having formed a State
constitution, was finally dissolved May 13, 1777.

" The Convention had established a temporary govern-
ment by electing a Council of Safety, with power to act in
all cases under the mlw constitution until the new govern-
ment should be elected.

" During the recesses of the Colonial Congress, its powers,
or those assumed by it, were exercised by committees of
safety. These bodies took upon themselves all the powers

and duties inherent in the people. They raised troops and
issued commissions to their officers ; they collected and dis-
bursed the taxes ; they defined and punished offenses
against the government, including treason ; and by resolu-
tions defined offenses against society and their punishment.
" In the summer of 1777 the people elected their Gover-
nor, Lieutenant-Governor, Senate, and Assembly, and then
the government of the Empire State was set in motion.
General George Clinton, who was then in the field at the
head of the New York militia, found himself elected both
Governor and Lieutenant-Governor. After due considera-
tion he chose the first-named office, which he held from
1777 to 1795, and from 1801 to 1804, and died while
Vice-President of the United States."

' The city was occupiod by them about the I5th of September.



Indian Commissions and T]-eaties — Sir John Johnson — Events in the
JIuhawk Valley — The Canadian Campaign — Declaration of Inde-
pendence — Fort Stanwix — Brant and General Herkimer — Brant at
Cherry Valley — Council at Oswego.

The second Continental Congress, composed of delegates
from the various colonies, a.ssembled at Philadelphia on
the 10th of May, 1775. The war was now in progress,
and heavy reinforcements were on their way to the Bi'iiish
army, and Congress at once took measures to prepare for
the common defense, while at the same time protesting
that they were only resisting the odious laws of the govern-
ment, and would return to their allegiance whenever their
just rights were recognized, and the hostile armieswithdrawn.
They also resolved once more to draw up and present " a
humble and dutiful petition to the king," and prepared ad-
dresses to the people of Great Britain, to those of Canada,
and to the Assembly of Jamaica. A bill was passed for
the immediate equipment of 20,000 men, and for raising
13,000,000 on bills of credit for the prosecution of the war;
and George Washingtoj?^, of Virginia, wa.s nominated by
John Adams, of Massachusetts, and commissioned Com-
mander-in-Chief of the American army. " On the 4th of
July Congress denounced the two acts of Parliament of the
preceding session, restraining the trade and commerce of
the colonies, as ' unconstitutional, oppressive, and cruel ;'
and on the 6th they agreed to a manifesto, ' setting forth
the causes and necessity of their taking up arms.' After
a spirited but temperate preamble, presenting a historical
view of the origin, progress, and conduct of the colonies,
and of the measures of the British government since the
peaue of 1703 ; and after an eloquent recapitulation of the
grievances which had produced the collision, and proclaim-
ing their confidence of obtaining foreign aid if necessary,
and of ultimate success; disavowing, moreover, any inten-
tion to dissolve the connection between the parent country
and the colonies, the declaration proceeded : ' We most
solemnly, before God and the world. Declare, that, exert-
ing the utmost energy of those powers which our beneficent
Creator hath bestowed upon us, the arms we have been



compelled by our eneinies to assume, we will, in defiance of
every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance,
employ for the preservation of our liberties, being with one
mind resolved to die PUEEMEN rather than live SLAVES.'
They protested that they would lay down their arms when
hostilities should cease on the part of the aggressors, and
not before. Reposing their confidence in the mercy of the
Impartial Judge and Ruler of the Universe, and imploring
His goodness to protect and carry them through the con-
flict, they appointed the 20th day of July to be observed
as a day of public humiliation, fasting, and prayer. It was
generally observed, and was the first national fast ever pro-
claimed in the New World."*

There was another subject demanding immediate atten-
tion, and it was not forgotten : this was the Indian ques-
tion, and measures were at once taken by Congress to con-
ciliate the Six Nations, and, if possible, prevail upon them
to remain neutral in the contest. In order to a more sys-
tematic administration of Indian affairs, a general depart-
ment, with three subdivisions, was created on the 12th of
July, and commissioners were appointed for each, " with
power to treat with the Indians in their respective depart-
ments, to preserve peace and friendship, and to prevent
their taking any part in the present commotions." The
departments were named the Northern, Middle, and South-
ern ; and the Commissioners for the Northern Department
wore Major-General Philip Schuyler, Major Joseph Haw-
ley, Mr. Turbot Francis, Mr. Oliver Wolcott, and Mr.
Volkert P. Douw.

An address (to be used according to local necessities) was
drawn up, and copies sent to the various nations, setting
forth the history of the colonies, recapitulating their
services to the mother-country and their grievances, and
closing with an exhortation to the Indians to remain neu-
tral in the contest, and to cultivate friendly relations with
one another.

With !i view to making permanent and satisfabtoiy ar-
rangements with the Indians, a treaty was arranged to be
held at Albany, and Colonel Francis and Mr. Douw held
a preliminary conference with a portion of the Six Nations
at the German Flatts, on the 15th and 16th of August,
1775. This conference was very thinly attended, and the
commissioners urged upon the Indians the great necessity
of a full attendance at the treaty to be held at Albany. All
the Six Nations were expected to send delegates, and Colo-
nel Francis requested that mes.sengers be sent to them, and
also to the '' Seven Nations" of Canada. Colonel Francis,
Little Abraham, the Mohawk, and Kanaghquaesa, an
Oneida sachem, made speeches at this preliminary meeting.

The Board of Commissioners (with the single exception
of Major Hawley, who had declined the appointment on
account of ill health) met at Albany on the 2;jd of August.
On the 24th the committee and a delegation of gentlemen
from the civil authorities and others, of Albany, paid the
Indian sachems and warriors a complimentary visit. An
address was delivered to them, and replied to by Seaghna-
gerat, an Oneida chief.

The council opened for regular business on the 25th,

"■ SlOdo's Life of Brant.

with a speech from the Oneida chief who spoke the even-
ing before. On the 2Gth, an address from the Congress was
presented, and interpreted by Rev. Mr. Kirkland, which
the Indians pronounced " pleasant and good." After a
deliberation of several days, an answer to the addr&ss
was delivered by Little Abraliam, the Mohawk sachem,
on the 31st. It was an able effort and thoroughly pacific
in its tone. One singular feature of the speech was the
rehearsal of the advice given the Indians by Colonel Guy
Johnson, to remain neutral and let the white men settle
their own difficulties. The chief declared a strong attach-
ment for Sir John Johnson, and earnestly desired that
whatever might be the lesult of the war, he might remain
unmolested. He also desired that the same favors be shown
their missionary. Rev. Mr. Stewart, for, said he, " he never
meddles with civil affairs, but is intent only on instructing

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 21 of 192)