History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Life and Times of
Sir William Johnson, Bart.,
by William L. Stone
Albany: J. Munsell, 78 State Street, 1865.
It will be recollected that on the death of Mr. De Lancey, the government had devolved upon Cadwallader Colden, as president of the council, until the wishes of the ministry could be ascertained. Shortly after his first speech to the assembly, on the twenty-second of October, 1760, news arrived of the death of George the Second, and the accession of his grandson; and as it was the unanimous opinion of the Provincial council that the demise of the king dissolved the assembly, writs were issued for a new one, returnable upon the third of March. Meanwhile, various were the conjectures respecting the name of the future governor. At one time rumor gave the gubernatorial chair to General Gage; again, the public were confident that Pownal would be the fortunate man ; some few suggested Golden, and others General Monckton. All surmises were at length set at rest. Pownal received the governorship of Jamaica;1 Gage remained at Montreal; and Colden, having been appointed lieutenant governor, announced to the assembly, on the second of September, that his majesty had been pleased "to distinguish the
1 "I forgot to acquaint you of an affair of your old acquaintance, Mr. Pownal. He was appointed governor of Jamaica ; then courted a lady of fortune in England, flattered himself of success, gave up his governorship of Jamaica on account of the nuptials. Upon a more intimate acquaintance with the lady, she one day frankly told him he had a positiveness in his temper which she could not bear with, and would certainly make her unhappy. She therefore would not further admit of his addresses. Upon which he applied for his government again, but it was given away, so now he has gone as secretary to one of our ambassadors."-Manuscript letter; William Corey to Sir Wm. Johnson.
services of Major General Monckton, by constituting him his captain general and governor in chief of the province." The administration of Doctor Golden during the interregnum, was marked by no event of special moment; and the intercourse between himself and his assembly-if we except a slight opposition against a theater which he had allowed to be established-was of the most amicable character. But this calm was destined to be of short duration; for shortly after receiving his commission of lieutenant governor, he was instrumental in an act which set not only the assembly, but the whole province in a blaze. As by the death of Mr. De Lancey, the seat of chief justice had become vacant, a general wish was expressed by the community, that the vacancy should at once be filled. The three remaining judges, Horsmanden, Chambers and Jones, having doubts as to their ability to issue processes under their old commissions since the death of the king, likewise urged the lieutenant governor to appoint a successor without delay. Colden, however, was more concerned for his own and his family's advancement, than for the welfare of the colony. In the same letter in which he announced to the lords of trade the death of De Lancey, he had recommended his eldest son for the seat at the council board, made vacant by the lieutenant governor's death; and in the same fawning spirit, he now desired the earl of Halifax, the colonial secretary of state, to nominate a chief justice. The result was, not only the nomination, but the actual appointment of Benjamin Pratt, a Boston lawyer, to the seat, not, as had been usual before the death of his late majesty, during good behavior, but "at the pleasure of the king."
The appointment, in this manner and at this time, was peculiarly unfortunate. The sister colony of Massachusetts was just now writhing under the writs of assistance, which the British ministry had so recklessly determined to force upon the colonies. These writs had been requested by the custom house officers, to enable them the better to enforce the revenue. They were in effect search warrants, and whoever held them, might, with impunity, break open a citizen's house, and violate the sanctity of his dwelling. The inhabitants were justly incensed at this exercise of arbitrary power, and the more so, as they saw no disposition, on the part of those in authority, to resist this infringement upon their liberties. Bernard, the governor of Massachusetts, scrupled not to become the tool of the earl of Egremont, Pitt's successor, and boldly declared himself in favor of adopting the odious plan of the crown for increasing " the revenue. Hutchinson, the chief justice of the province, was equally subservient to the royal authority. An opportunity, however, soon came, in which the temper of the people found vent. A petition having been presented to the superior court by the officers of the customs, that "writs of assistance" might ensue, the question was argued at length in February, before the chief justice and his four associate justices, Jeremiah Gridley, on behalf of the crown, argued for the legality of the wit, on the ground, that as the writ was allowed to the revenue officers in England, to refuse the same powers to the colonial officers, would be to deny that "the parliament of Great Britain is the sovereign legislature of the British empire."
The fearless and impulsive James Otis, who had resigned his office of advocate general, that untrammeled he might argue this case against the crown, appeared for the people of Boston. "These writs," he exclaimed, "are the worst instrument of arbitrary power, the most destructive of English liberty and the fundamental principles of law." With impassioned eloquence, he showed to the court the nature of these writs. "In the first place," said he, "the writ is universal, being directed to all and singular justices, sheriffs, constables, and all other officers and subjects; so that, in short, it is directed to every subject in the king's dominions. Every one with this writ may be a tyrant; if this commission be legal, a tyrant in a legal manner also may control, imprison, or murder any one within the realm. In the next place it is perpetual; there is no return. A man is accountable to no person for his doings. Every man may reign secure in his petty tyranny, and spread terror and desolation around him, until the trump of the archangel shall excite different emotions in his soul. In the third place, a person with this writ, in the day time, may enter all houses, shops, &c., at will, and command all to assist him. Fourthly, by this writ not only deputies, but even their menial-servants, are allowed to lord it over us. What is this but to have the curse of Canaan with a witness on us; to be the servant of servants, the most despicable of God's creation? Now one of the most essential branches of English liberty is the freedom of one's house. A man's house is his castle; and whilst he is quiet, he is as well guarded as a prince in his castle. This writ, if it should be declared legal, would totally annihilate this privilege. Custom house officers may enter our houses when they please; we are commanded to permit their entry. Their menial servants may enter, may break locks, bars, and everything in their way; and whether they break through malice or revenge, no man, no court can inquire. Bare suspicion without oath is sufficient. * * * Thus reason and the constitution are both against this writ. Let us see what authority there is for it. Not more than one instance can be found of it in all our law books ; and that was in the zenith of arbitrary power, viz: in the reign of Charles II, when star chamber powers were pushed to extremity by some ignorant clerk of the exchequer. But had this writ been in any book whatever, it would have been illegal; and," continued he, " I am determined to sacrifice estate, ease, health, applause, and even life, to the sacred calls of my country in opposition to a kind of power which cost one king of England his head and another his throne; and to my dying day I will oppose, with all the power and faculties that God has given me, all such instruments of slavery on the, one hand, and villainy on the other."
The opinion of the court was given at the close of the term by the subservient Hutchinson. "The court," said he, "has considered the subject of writs of assistance, and can see no foundation for such a writ; but as the practice in England is not known, it has been thought best to continue the question to the next term, that in the meantime opportunity may be given to know the result." At the next term, the writ of assistance was granted, 1 but such was the feeling of the people, that the custom house officers, although having the writs in their pockets, dared not in a single instance carry them into execution. But although the arguments of Otis failed to procure a decision in favor of the people, yet they did not die within the walls of the court house. Caught up by his hearers, they were borne, as if on the wind, throughout the length and breadth of the land. "I do say in the most solemn manner," writes Mr. Adams, "that Mr. Otis's oration against writs of assistance, breathed into this nation the breath of life."
With these stirring appeals, of James Otis ringing in their ears, it may readily be supposed, that the people of New York were in no mood for this farther encroachment upon their liberties. "To make the king's will," said they, "the term of office, is to make the bench of judges the instrument of the royal prerogative." Chambers, Horsmanden and Jones, refused to act longer, unless they could hold their commissions during good behavior. Champions at once arose to do battle for the people. Conspicuous among these were William Livingston, John Morin Scott and William Smith, all prominent lawyers, and vigorous thinkers and writers; and they protested, through the public prints, against this attempt to render the judiciary dependent upon the crown. Nor were their efforts entirely fruitless; for in the answer of the assembly, on the seventeenth of December, to the request of Doctor Colden that the usual salary of three hundred pounds to the chief justice might be increased, it was resolved, "that as the salaries usually allowed for the judges of the supreme court
1 Minot-who gives as his authority the supreme court records.
have been, and still appear to be sufficient to engage gentle men of the first figure both as to capacity and fortune in this colony, to accept of these offices, it would he highly improper to augment the salary of chief justice on this occasion," nor would they allow even this, unless the commissioners of the chief justice and the other judges were granted during good behavior. To this, Colden refused to accede; and Chief Justice Pratt, having served several terms without a salary, was finally reimbursed out of his majesty's quit rents of the province.1
Thus were the people of New York slowly following in the wake of their Puritan neighbors. Colden, himself, as if he had some glimmerings of the future, began to doubt the result. "For some years past," he wrote to the board of trade, "three popular lawyers, educated in Connecticut, who have strongly imbibed the independent principles of that country, calumniate the administration in every exercise of the prerogative, and get the applause of the mob by propagating the doctrine that all authority is derived from the people."
An act, which was passed during the winter session, deserves a passing notice from the agency that Sir William Johnson had in it. The act, to which allusion is here made, was "for the more effectual collecting of his majesty's quit rents in the colony of New York; and for partition of lands in order thereto." This latter clause was chiefly designed, by the originators of the bill, for the partition of those lands that had remained long uncultivated, on account of the difficulties and expense to which the patentees or their assigns had been subject in making partition among themselves according to the tedious forms of the common law. The " uncultivated lands" referred principally to those immense tracts of land granted before the year 1708,-of which the vast patent of the Kaiaderaseras furnishes an illustration. As the exact quantity, of land granted, was not generally mentioned in these grants, and
1 Colden to the lords of trade, 8th July, 1763.
the boundaries were consequently in many cases uncertain, it was considered by the crown lawyers that the grants were void in law ; and Governor Monckton, in his forty-sixth instruction, had been directed to annul by every legitimate method, all "such exorbitant, irregular and unconditional grants." But insuperable difficulties, it was at once perceived, would arise, should this instruction be carried into execution, as many of the patentees were persons of great wealth and influence in the Province, who would resort to every method in their power to circumvent the efforts of the governor. Owing, moreover, to the indefiniteness of the boundaries, the patentees had largely infringed upon the king's lands, or in other words, the land owned and occupied by the Indians. This, as we have seen, was the source of numerous contentions between the whites and the Indians, especially the Mohawks; and Sir William Johnson, after his return from Detroit, held a correspondence with Lieutenant Governor Golden upon the subject; suggesting that the only way in which these disputes could be permanently settled, would be to have the lands thoroughly and accurately surveyed by the king's surveyor general, with correct instruments, from whose survey there could be no appeal. " Let the survey," wrote Johnson, "be done in the most plain and intelligible manner, so that every patent or tract, with the patentees' names, the quantity of each, and the year patented, may easily be known." In consequence of these suggestions, the lieutenant governor had a clause inserted in the act under consideration, " whereby the outlines of every tract were to be run by the king's surveyor general of the lands before partition was made." By this clause, two ends were accomplished: first, the king's lands were guarded against the farther encroachments of the patentees; and secondly, the ill feelings of the Indians were in a great measure removed.
Although hostilities had ceased in the American provinces, the war was not yet ended. Spain had long watched with jealousy the English, settlements in the Bay of Honduras, and regarding the present time as favorable for redressing these grievances, formed a secret alliance with France. Before Pitt resigned his office, he had shown to the king and his ministers the hostile intentions of the Spanish cabinet, and strongly urged the withdrawal of the British minister from Madrid, and a declaration of war against Spain. But the English cabinet, blinded by the solemn avowal of the Spanish minister of his pacific intentions, heeded not this wise counsel; and while Egremont and Bute were congratulating the king upon the near prospect of peace, Spain had declared war. In this emergency, the British cabinet, confident in the strength of their resources, which under the administration of the great commoner had been rendered so effective, determined to strike a blow at the French and Spanish possessions in the West Indies; and while a powerful armament was fitting out at home for the capture of Havana, the troops in America received orders to sail against Martinico.
The charge of this latter expedition was entrusted to Brigadier General Monckton, who, preferring the excitement of arms to the cares and troubles of office, had requested and obtained the command. Accordingly, having produced his commission to the council and taken the oaths of office, he sailed from New York on the last day of November, 1761, leaving the government in the hands of Doctor Golden. The forces placed under his command consisted of two ships of the line, the Alcide and Devonshire, and a hundred sail carrying twelve thousand regulars and provincial troops. General Lyman, the second, in command of the forces at Lake George in 1755, commanded the Provincials, seventeen hundred and eighty-seven of whom had been raised by New York. Gates and Montgomery, both of whom were destined to become so distinguished in later years-the one by his victory over Burgoyne, and the other by his glorious death at Quebec- accompanied the expedition. The fleet appeared off Martinico on the seventh of January, and though the most valuable of the French possessions in the new world, and strongly fortified by nature and art, yet on the fourteenth of February, the French governor, M. de la Tonche, surrendered the entire island to Monckton. Grenada, St. Vincent's, and St. Lucia were each in turn occupied by the British; and while Gage, in hopes of promotion, sailed for England as the bearer of dispatches, Monckton returned to New York to resume his government, and receive the plaudits of a delighted people.
Although the attention of Sir William Johnson had been almost exclusively directed during the war to the interests of the public welfare,-often indeed to the detriment of his private fortune-yet his spare moments were devoted, to the management of his personal concerns, and the improvement of those lands of which he had become the possessor. With a view of encouraging settlements, he had sold to industrious persons lots upon the most reasonable terms; so that, since the beginning of the war, he had located upon the north side of the Mohawk over one hundred families; which settlement became in later years the flourishing village of Johnstown. As an additional inducement to settlers, he gave the Lutherans and Calvinists, in March, fifty acres of land each, upon which to erect a parsonage, should they so desire. Previous to his journey to Detroit, he erected an elegant summer villa on the northwestern edge of the great Vlaie, in the present town of Broadalbin, conferring upon it the name of Castle Cumberland, in honor of the vanquisher of the Pretender.2 At
1 Manuscript agreement between the Lutherans and Calvinists relative to the church land-March 2d, 1762."
2 In the early part of the revolution, Castle Cumberland was fortified, under the impression that the enemy from the north might possibly attack that point by water. "Part of a regiment of continental troops under Colonel Nicholson was stationed here much of the summer of 1776. An entrenchment six feet wide, and several feet deep, was cut across the eastern end of the point. The point as a military post was abandoned at the end of the summer."-Simms. Both Castle Cumberland and the Fish House were burned in the Revolution, in 1781.
the same time, he built a rustic lodge on the south bank the Sacandaga, four miles west of Castle Cumberland, which afterward was called the Fish House, from the fact of his resorting thither, in the latter part of his life, to seek recreation in the pleasures of angling, of which he was passionately fond. He also took great delight in horticulture and fine stock, having, indeed, been the first one to introduce sheep and blood horses into the valley of the Mohawk.l There is scarcely a letter of his to his agent, Sir William Baker, in London, that does not contain orders for various choice seeds; while his correspondence with the "Society for the Promotion of Arts," of which he was a valued member, is full of judicious and valuable information upon the science of agriculture. It may readily be supposed, therefore, that the interval of leisure which the close of hostilities allowed, was eagerly seized by him to gratify this favorite taste. "If you wish to see good husbandry," he wrote, in the spring, jocularly to a friend, "you must come up here and make me a visit."
But this playing spell was to be of not long duration. The public interests again demanded his attention. It was now more than a year, since he had received from the king the order to examine into the complaints of the Delawares against the Proprietaries of Pennsylvania, for defrauding them of their lands. The Baronet, it will be recollected, was ready at the time to obey the wishes of the king, and and had so written Teedeyuscung; but it had then been put off by that chief, and since then, he had been occupied with other matters. Now, however, he wrote in April to Governor Hamilton and the Delaware king, appointing a meeting for this purpose at Easton, on the fifteenth of June.
1 "Before I set the example, no farmer on the Mohawk, river ever raised so much as a single load of hay; at present, some raise above one hundred. The like was the case with regard to sheep, to -which they were entire strangers, until I introduced them." Manuscript letter; Johnson to the " Society for the improvement and promotion of Arts," 27th February, 1765.
Meantime, the Six Nations were invited to Fort Johnson to hear the result of his mission to Detroit, and to have the opportunity, which they had so long desired, of laying their complaints before the superintendent. Another object that the latter had in view in calling this meeting, was, to thoroughly investigate the truth of those reports which had met him everywhere on his western journey of the disaffection of the Senecas, and their efforts to excite a revolt among the western and northern tribes. Of the details of this council, with the exception that there were four hundred Indians present, nothing has been preserved, either in manuscript or in print. All that I have been able to find upon the subject, is contained in a letter from Sir William Johnson to the lords of trade, written some months after the meeting.
From this letter, it would appear that the Indians came to the council in no very amiable frame of mind. Always tenacious of their liberties, they looked with ill-concealed distrust upon the growing power of the English; and regarding with jealousy the numerous forts which were springing up in every direction, they saw in them only a design to check their growth, and eventually hem them completely in. The treatment, moreover, which they were constantly receiving from the English-so different from that which the French had ever used toward the neighboring nations-was another source of grievance. The presents which during the war had been so freely lavished upon them, were now suddenly withheld; and it was in reference more especially to this latter source of irritation, that in this same letter Sir William writes: "I am very apprehensive that we, who always fell greatly abort of the enemy in presents and kindnesses to them, may become too premature in a sudden retrenchment of some yet necessary expenses, which, on due consideration, I flatter myself your lordships will be of opinion they should be gradually weaned from, and that by a prudent conduct and due distribution of some little favors to them for a time, we may effect without much trouble, what we should, find no small difficulty in compassing by force, namely, a quiet possession distant posts, and an increase of settlements on the back parts of the country, so as within a few years to have a well settled frontier, in itself strong enough to repel any sudden attempt from the Indians.
"I have likewise made," continues the Baronet, "the best use I could, of his majesty's late instructions to his governor of this province concerning the Indian lands, thereby to convince them of his royal intentions to do them justice. As this was a subject which had created much jealousy and uneasiness, what I said thereon afforded them a general satisfaction, except the Mohocks, who still remain very discontented on account of the lands which, they allege, they have been unjustly deprived, of that is to say;-a large tract of several hundred thousand acres of land called Kaidarasseras, alias Queensborough, patented in the year 1708, and as yet undivided and unsettled, comprehending a great part of the country lying between the Mohock and Hudson's river; also the Low Lands called the Mohock Flatts, or planting grounds, whereon they live, claimed by the corporation of Albany; also their lands at Canajoharie called the "Upper Mohock castle or village, which complaints of theirs, I formerly laid before your lordships, and as they frequently solicit me for an answer, I hope to be honored with your lordships' sentiments thereon."1
Meagre, however, as are these details, the general result, so far as regarded the Senecas, was encouraging: "I have had a general meeting with all the Six Nations," wrote Johnson to Amherst soon after the council, " when the Senecas very satisfactorily accounted for the reports concerning them, and declared in the warmest terms their intention to preserve and cultivate the peace subsisting
1 Manuscript letter; Johnson to the lords of trade, 20th August, 1762.
2 Manuscript letter; Johnson to Amherst, 29th April, 1762.
The Baronet set out for the treaty at Easton, the latter part of May, accompanied by Witham Marsh, who had been appointed by the crown secretary of Indian affairs, in-the room of Peter Wraxall, who had died in the summer of 1759, At the beginning of the treaty, the Quakers showed a disposition to interfere, trying their best to prevail on the Delawares to insist as a preliminary to all negotiation, that the troops should be removed from Fort (Shamoken) Augusta, and that it should be converted into a trading post or store. The dignity and tact of the superintendent, however, soon silenced them, and he was left to proceed in his own way. The council continued several days, and its results were even more successful than had been anticipated. The disputes between the Proprietaries and Teedeyuscung were, in the main, adjusted, and a firm treaty with the Delawares consummated.
This was, however, the last council that the ill fated Delaware king ever attended. It has already been seen that at the great council held at Easton, in 1758, the Six Nations had-observed with no very cordial feelings, the important position which Teedeyuscung had attained in the opinion of the whites, by the force of his talents and the energy of his character; and this last visit of Sir William's was not calculated to allay this jealousy. Long accustomed to view the Delawares and their derivative tribes as their subjects, the haughty Mengues could not brook this advancement of a supposed inferior, and the reflection had been rankling in their bosoms ever since the meeting of the former council, until it was determined to cut off the object of their hate. For this purpose, in October, 1763, a party of warriors from the Six Nations came to the valley of Wyoming upon a pretended visit of friendship, and after lingering about for several days, they in the night time treacherously set fire to the house of the unsuspecting chief, which, with the veteran himself, was burnt to ashes. The wickedness of this deed of darkness was heightened by an act of still greater atrocity. They charged the assassination upon the white settlers of Connecticut, and had the address to inspire the Delawares with such a belief. The consequences may readily he anticipated. Teedeyuscung was greatly beloved by his people, and their exasperation at "the deep damnation of his taking off," was kindled to a degree of corresponding intensity.
The white settlers, however, being entirely innocent of the transaction,-utterly unconscious that it had been imputed to them,-were equally unconscious of the storm that was so suddenly to break upon their heads. Their intercourse with the Indians, during the preceding year, had been so entirely friendly that they had not even provided themselves with weapons of defence; and although there had been some slight manifestations of jealousy at their onward progress, among the Indians, yet their pacific relations, thus far, had not been interrupted. But they were now reposing in false security. Stimulated to revenge by the representations of their false and insidious visitors, the Delawares, on the fourteenth of October, rose upon the settlement, and massacred about thirty of the people in cold blood, at noon day, while engaged in the labors of the field. Those who escaped ran to the adjacent plantations, to apprise them of what had happened, and were the swift messengers of the painful intelligence to the houses of the settlement, and the families of the slain. It was an hour of sad consternation. Having no arms even for self-defense, the people were compelled at once to seize upon such few of their effects as they could carry upon their shoulders, and flee to the mountains. As they turned back during their ascent to steal an occasional glance at the beautiful valley below, they beheld the savages driving their cattle away to their own towns, and plundering their houses of the goods that had been left. At nightfall the torch was applied, and the darkness that hung over the vale was illuminated by the lurid flames of their own dwellings-the abodes of happiness and peace in the morning. Hapless deed was the condition of the fugitives. Their number amounted to several hundred-men, women and children-the infant at the breast-the happy wife a few brief hours before-now a widow in the midst of a group of orphans. The supplies, both of provisions and clothing, which they had seized in the moment of their flight, were altogether inadequate to their wants. The chill winds of autumn were howling with melancholy wail among the mountain pines, through which, over rivers and glens, and fearful morasses, they were to thread their way sixty miles, to the nearest settlements on the Delaware, and thence back to their friends in Connecticut, a distance of two hundred and fifty miles. Notwithstanding the hardships they were compelled to encounter, and the deprivations under which they labored, many of them accomplished the journey in safety, while many others, lost in the mazes of the swamps, were never heard of more.
Thus fell Teedeyuscung, who, with all his faults, was one of the noblest of his race,-and thus was his death avenged upon the innocent.
Upon his return from Pennsylvania, the Baronet tarried a few days in New York, that he might again take his oath as one of his majesty's council,-a form, which, the death of the late king rendered necessary. Having taken the oath, and held a personal consultation with General Amherst in relation to the general conduct of Indian affairs, he returned to Fort Johnson the last of July, in time to celebrate the nuptials of his eldest daughter, Nancy, with Captain Claus.
The fleet destined against Havana, under the command of Admiral Pococke, consisted of nineteen ships of the line, eighteen frigates, and one hundred and fifty transports ; together with a land force of ten thousand men, commanded by the earl of Albemarle. On its arrival at Havana, it was increased by four ships conveying a reinforcement of four thousand Provincials, chiefly from the colonies of New England and New York. Owing, however, to the change of climate, this latter force, when it joined the fleet, was reduced by sickness to but three thousand effective men.
The harbor of Havana was defended by two fortresses of immense strength,-Moro and Puntal-commanding, respectively, the east and west side of the channel. The British forces having landed and invested castle Moro, a terrific fire was opened upon that fortress, which continued without intermission for twenty-nine days. The garrison consisted of five thousand marines and sailors, and during the seige, it was farther increased by fifteen hundred fresh troops from St. Iago." The sallies," says a writer of that day, " were made by the sailors, who behaved well but were always beat." On the morning of the thirtieth of July, two mines were sprung under the fortress, and although the breach, thus effected, was scarcely large enough to admit more than one man at a time, yet the troops received orders to storm the castle. Had the assault been expected by the garrison, the Beige Would doubtless have been prolonged a much longer time. "One hundred men," writes a cotemporary to Sir William Johnson, "would have kept out the whole army." But the English entered at noon day, and the Spaniards, entirely off their guard, made little or no resistance.
The Spanish governor, although his loss was over a thousand men, was still unwilling to yield; but Albemarle having turned his guns against the town, he demanded terms of capitulation, and on the twelfth of August, surrendered the city, and all the ships in the harbor, to the crown of Great Britain. Although vast quantities of coin had been sent for safety to St. Iago, yet the booty was immense, and included, besides ten millions of dollars, twelve seventy and sixty-gun ships, two sail of the line, and one frigate on the stocks. But this brilliant victory was not without cost. Twelve hundred of England's yeomanry were either killed or wounded; while seven hundred more, falling victims to the distemper, never again heard from the lips of kindred the joyful "welcome home."
Returning again to the progress of events in the Mohawk valley, different scenes demand our attention. Late in the night of the thirty-first of July, Sir William Johnson was roused from his slumbers, by the startling intelligence that the Indians had risen upon the settlers of the upper valley and were burning and ravaging the whole country. Additional color was, moreover, given to this news, as there had been quite a serious disturbance between the garrison of Fort Schuyler and the Oneidas, but a few weeks previously. Hastily collecting all the militia and Mohawks he could muster, the Baronet set out the same night for the scene of the trouble, and arrived at the house of Mr. Fry near Canajoharie at daybreak. From this point he wrote to General Amherst and the commanding officer at Albany for reinforcements, and ordered all the militia from the surrounding country to rendezvous at Canajoharie. In the meantime scouts were dispatched in different directions for farther information. Happily, however, they soon returned with the welcome news that it was a false alarm. It seems that an Indian, maddened by liquor, having stripped off his clothes, swam the Mohawk, and rushed into a house near at hand, terrifying two little girls, who were alone at the time, their parents being absent. The children in the wildest fright ran out of the house, and meeting some men who were mowing in a neighboring field, told them that there were a number of naked Indians in the house armed with tomahawks and guns. The men stopped not to question the children, but throwing down their scythes, swam the river, and fled in terror to the settlement on the other side, telling every one they met that the savages had broken loose. By the time they reached the settlement, the number of Indians, in their excited state, had increased to several hundred. The entire settlement took the alarm, and while the inhabitants were flying down the valley in the wildest panic, the Indian in a drunken stupor, lay snoring on the kitchen hearth, utterly unconscious of the disturbance he had created. The fright of the settlers from so trivial a cause, may at first appear ludicrous, but when it is recollected that but a short time had passed since the horrid massacres of the German Flats and Burnetsfield, and that these bloody scenes were still vividly before their minds, the disposition to smile ceases. When the cause of the alarm was known, tranquility was restored; and thus what might have proved a serious outbreak, turned out to be nothing more than the drunken frolic of a harmless and unarmed Indian.1
The Baronet did not immediately return. Dismissing the militia to their homes, and countermanding his orders for reinforcements, he continued his journey to Seneca, where he held a meeting with upward of twenty-four hundred Indians. The political results of the meeting were of but little importance, it having been chiefly devoted to the interchange of friendly feeling. At Seneca he was laid up for several days by illness. This delayed his return, so that it was not until the middle of August that he arrived at Fort Johnson.
I have dwelt more particularly upon the occasion of this journey, because-this alarm being only one of many similar instances-it gives us an insight into the duties which were constantly devolving upon the Baronet in his office of superintendent. By the conquest of Canada, all the Indian nations from the farthest limits of Nova Scotia to the waters of the Superior and Illinois, had come directly under his supervision; and while he was thus obliged to keep up a constant-almost daily correspondence with his deputies at Fort Pitt, Detroit and Montreal,2 he did not
1 Of a similar character was the incident that occurred at Goshen, Orange county, in the summer of 1763. A party of four or five hunters, out after partridges, having raised a large flock, fired at the same moment. The inhabitants in the vicinity were at that time in constant fear of Indian incursions, and inferring from the report of the guns that the Indians were upon them, fled in great terror, communicating their panic to all whom they met. Before the true cause of the firing was ascertained, more than five hundred families fled across the Hudson into New England.
2 Sir William Johnson had now three deputies-George Croghan, stationed at Fort Pitt, for the Ohio and its dependencies; Captain Daniel Claus, at Montreal, for Canada; and Lieutenant Guy Johnson, for the Six Nations and the neighboring Indians. The one at Detroit wag, perhaps, more properly an assistant.
allow himself any relaxation in his care of the Six Nations, whose extremely sensitive and jealous natures, required as much attention as ever.
The remainder of the summer and fall was occupied by Sir William in preparing the timber for the commodious mansion which he built the following spring, one mile west of his new settlement-conferring upon it when completed the name of Johnson Hall-and into which he proposed removing for the farther encouragement of the settlers.1 His time was also much taken up in various plans for the education of his Indian neighbors-especially the Mohawks; and his exertions to improve the moral and social condition of the latter, which have already been alluded to in a former portion of this work still continued. Having aided in the building of churches and locating missionaries among them, he selected, at the request of the Rev. Mr. Kirkland and others, numbers of young Mohawks, and sent them to the Moor Charity School, established at Lebanon, Connecticut, under the immediate direction of the Rev. Doctor Eleazer Wheelock, afterward president of Dartmouth college, of which, by its transfer, that school became the foundation. It was in reference to this school that, shortly after his return from Detroit, he addressed the following letter to Doctor Wheelock:
FORT JOHNSON, Nov. 17, 1761.
"Yours of the second Instant I had a few days ago the pleasure of receiving by the hands of Kirkland. I am pleased to find the lads I sent, have merited your good opinion of them. I have given it in charge to Joseph to speak in my name to any good boys he may see, and encourage them to accept the generous offer now, made them, which
1 Manuscript letter ; Sir William Johnson to Sir William Baker, 4th Dec., 1762. For an engraving and a short account of Johnson Hall, see appendix No. v.
he promises to do and return as soon as possible. In case there should not a sufficient number go now, I will on the return of the Indians from hunting, advise them to send as many as is required. I expect they will return, and hope they will make progress in the English language and their learning, as may prove to your satisfaction and the benefit of the Indians, who are really much to be pitied. My absence these four months has prevented my design of encouraging some more lads going to you and since my return, which is but lately, I have not had an opportunity of, seeing old or young, being all on their hunt. "When they come back, I shall talk with, and advise their parents to embrace this favorable opportunity of having their children instructed, and doubt not of their readiness to lay hold of so kind and charitable an affair.
"Kirkland's intention of learning the Mohawk language I must approve of, as after acquiring it he could be of vast service to them as a clergyman, which they much want and are very desirous of having.
"The present laudable design of instructing a number of Indian boys, will, I doubt not, when more known, lead several gentlemen to contribute towards it, and enable you thereby to increase the number of scholars, with whom I shall not be backward to contribute my mite. * * *
"I wish you all success in this undertaking, and am with
truth and sincerity,
"Your most humble serv't.,
Joseph, who is mentioned in this letter, was no other than the celebrated Thayendanegea, of revolutionary fame. He was a special protege of Sir William, and had accompanied him in all of his military expeditions, having conducted himself during the siege of Niagara with distinguished bravery. The interest which the Baronet took in his education, is fully shown by the letters of his teacher,
1 Manuscript letter.
Dr. Wheelock, tinder whose tuition the Baronet had placed him. " Joseph and the rest of the boys are well, studious and diligent"-" Joseph and the other boys behave very well"-"Joseph is indeed an excellent youth"-and numerous other similar allusions are of constant occurrence.1 He was moreover, at this time in communication with Rev. Mr. Graves, of New London, Rev. Dr. Pomeroy, of New Haven, and other kindred spirits, in relation to the feasibility of establishing schools among the Indians; and at his own expense, he stationed a schoolmaster at the Tuscarora castle, who was in the habit of giving him from time to time accounts of the progress of his pupils. We also find the Baronet, during the fall, busily engaged in preparing a new edition of the prayer book in the Mohawk language. In revising the manuscripts for the press, he was greatly aided by his son-in-law, Captain Claus, who, as well as Sir William, thoroughly understood the Mohawk tongue. The Rev. Mr. Barclay, who, it will be remembered, had left his mission station among the Mohawks, to assume the charge of Trinity church in New York, was also deeply interested in the project, and gave valuable assistance. "I now, therefore," wrote the Baronet to him under date of October sixteenth, 1762, "herewith transmit you the old edition which, as it wanted the singing psalms, therefore I send such in manuscript as I have been able to procure, together with the common service and public baptism of infants, which they are desirous to have inserted, as also some prayers, of the propriety of which you are the most proper judge." An edition of four hundred copies was ordered in the same letter, twenty of which were to be printed on fine paper and bound in gilt, and were designed as presents for the principal chiefs.
In these praiseworthy efforts for the improvement of the Indians, the year passed away. "We have nothing new here," wrote Sir William Johnson to George Croghan, "and all is peace and quietness."
1 Manuscript letters: Doctor Wheelock to Johnson during the fall of 1762.
to James F. Morrison for loaning his book for the purpose of putting it on
Copyright © 1998, -- 2003. Berry Enterprises. All rights reserved. All items on the site are copyrighted. While we welcome you to use the information provided on this web site by copying it, or downloading it; this information is copyrighted and not to be reproduced for distribution, sale, or profit.