History From America's Most Famous Valleys
of Tryon County;
Border Warfare of New York,
During the Revolution.
By William W. Campbell
New York; Printed and Published by J. & J. Harper 1831
Or all the English colonies in North America, none was more loyal than New York; but while her colonial history exhibits her inhabitants professing a warm attachment to the English crown, it presents them also uniformly and zealously maintaining their own inherent rights and privileges. As early as 1691 an act was passed by the colonial Assembly, asserting the grounds of their right of being represented in Assembly. That it was one of the distinguishing liberties of Englishmen, and was not a privilege enjoyed through the grace of the crown; and in 1708 the following resolution, reported by the committee of grievances, was adopted by the Assembly: "Resolved, that the imposing and laying of any monies upon any of her Majesties subjects of this colony, under any pretense, or color whatever, without consent in general Assembly,is a grievance, and a violation of the people's property." From this period down, we find this colony steadily resisting every attempt of her governors to encroach upon her rights, while contributing at the same time freely and largely for their support, and that of the government generally. During the long and harassing French wars, her levies both of man and money, considering her population and resources, were immense. Her territory was the principal scene of action, and she seconded with all her powers the measures adopted by the English to destroy the influence of the French in America: the successful termination of the last of those wars, thus freeing New York from constant alarm, and danger; the common privations and sufferings, endured by the Provincial and English armies; the numerous connections by marriage formed by the officers of the latter; and the extensive and flourishing commerce of the City, all tended to strengthen the attachment of this Province to the mother country.
Still asserting her own exclusive right of taxation, the Stamp act was opposed to this Province with much warmth in 1665, and the first committee of correspondence was chosen, which communicating with the committees of other Provinces, prepared the way for the calling of the Congress which convened in the city of New York the same year. With the repeal of the Stamp act, the loyalty of the inhabitants again returned, and the aforementioned causes still operating, together with the direct influence supposed to have been exerted by the English ministers, prevented the early adoption by the assembly of the measures recommended by the Continental Congress of Philadelphia in 1774.
In Tryon County, during the period between the repeal of the Stamp act, and the assembling of Congress in '74, a state of things existed unfavorable to the cause of the Colonies. Sire William Johnson, respected for this talents, and distinguished by the official stations which he had filled with so much credit, had endeared himself not only to the Indians, who looked up to him as a father, but also to the other inhabitants, who regarded him as the patron of the County, and who consulted him upon all matters of importance. Drawing towards the close of life, his opinions were those of a sage,and expressed, as they would naturally be, in favor of that government which had so highly honored and enriched him, had a tendency if not entirely to change, at least to neutralize many individuals, who otherwise would have espoused with warmth the colonial cause. He was supposed however to have been actuated more by what he considered his duty to the English government, than governed by his own private opinions. He could but view therefore with regret, those acts of the British Parliament which were goading on the Americans to resistance by force. His sons-in-law, Colonel Guy Johnson, and Colonel Claus, and his son Sir John Johnson, especially Guy, and Sir John, espoused the cause of the crown with great ardor. Possessing large estates and occupying splendid residences along the eastern boundary of the county, they presented a formidable barrier to the transmission and circulation of general intelligence relative to existing differences. If they were not individually possessed of the influence and reputation of Sir William, they made up the deficiency by their zeal and activity. In the early part of the disturbance, they formed sagacious plans to prejudice the Six Nations against the American cause, and also to secure the cooperation in favor of Great Britain of their numerous dependents and friends. Among the latter were John and Walter Butler, who lived near Caughnawaga a few miles from Johnstown, and Joseph Brant, (See Appendix, Note C) all of whom visited with such dreadful massacres the settlements of western Pennsylvania and New York. The inhabitants of Tryon County friendly to the American cause, were not idle. They in common with their friends of this, and other provinces, had viewed with alarm and indignation the enactment and operation of the oppressive acts of the English Parliament, and warmly sympathized with the inhabitants of Massachusetts. They hailed with joy the proposition for calling a continental Congress. A meeting for Palatine district was called the 27th of August, 1774, which was attended by a large number of the inhabitants. It was said by Dr. Franklin, upon his examination before the British House of Commons, in 1666 (that has to be a mistake from long ago!) relative to the operation of the Stamp Act, "that the Germans who inhabit Pennsylvania are more dissatisfied with the duty than the native colonists themselves." The following resolutions' adopted at this meeting, will show what were the feelings and sentiments of their brethren on the Mohawk. They contain the sentiments of the times, and they breathe a spirit highly commendable, and which could hardly have been expected to exist, and existing, must have required some decision and courage to publish in this then remote and defenseless county, filled too with loyalists and Indians under their control. It will be remembered that it was in June preceding, the Boston Port Bill went into operation, and when the first measures were adopted by the assembly of that province for the calling of a General Congress.
meeting looking with concern and heartfelt sorrow on the alarming and calamitous
condition which the inhabitants of Boston are in, in consequence of the act
of Parliament blocking up the Port of Boston, and considering the tendency
of the late acts of Parliament, for the purpose of raising a revenue in America,
has to the abridging the liberties and privileges of the American colonies,
That King George the third is lawful and rightful Lord and Sovereign of Great
Britain, and the dominions thereunto belonging, and that as part of his dominions
we hereby testify, that we will bear true faith and allegiance unto him, and
that we will with our lives and fortunes support and maintain him upon the
throne of his ancestors, and the just dependence of these his Colonies upon
the Crown of Great Britain.
That we think and consider it as our greatest happiness, to be governed by
the laws of Great Britain, and that with cheerfulness, we will always pay
submission thereunto as far as we consistently can with the security of the
constitutional rights and liberties of English subjects, which are so sacred,
that we cannot permit the same to be violated.
That we think it is our undeniable privilege to be taxed only with our own
consent, given by ourselves or our representatives. That taxes otherwise laid
and exacted are unjust and unconstitutional. That the late Acts of Parliament,
declarative of their right of laying internal taxes on the American Colonies,
are obvious encroachments on the rights, and liberties of the British subjects
That the act for blocking up the port of Boston is oppressive and arbitrary,
injurious in its principles, and particularly oppressive to the inhabitants
of Boston, whom we consider brethren suffering in the common cause.
V. That we will unite, and join with the different districts of this county, in giving whatever relief it is in our power, to the poor, distressed inhabitants of Boston; and that we will join and unite, with our brethren of the rest of this colony in any thing tending to support and defend our rights and liberties.
VI. That we think the sending of delegates from the different colonies to a general continental Congress, is a salutary measure, and absolutely necessary at this alarming crisis, and that we entirely approve of the five gentlemen chosen delegates for this colony by our brethren of New York, hereby adopting,and choosing the same persons to represent this colony in the Congress.
VII. That we hereby engage faithfully to abide by, and adhere to such regulations, as shall be made and agreed upon by the said Congress.
That we consider it necessary that there be appointed a standing committee
of this county, to correspond with the committees of New York and Albany,and
we do hereby appoint Christopher P. Yates, Isaac Paris, John Frey,and Andrew
Fink, who together with persons to be appointed by the other districts of
this County, are to compose a committee of correspondence to convey the sentiments
of this County, in a set of resolves to New York.
IX. It is voted by this meeting, that copies of the proceedings of this day, certified by the chairman, be transmitted to the supervisors of the different districts of this County, and that we recommend it to the inhabitants of the said districts, to appoint persons to compose a committee of correspondence."
The Continental Congress which met in Philadelphia in September following, after a session of eight weeks adjourned until May, 1775. Several important and patriotic addresses had been sent forth, well calculated to awaken the people to a knowledge of their rights.
At a court held in Johnstown in the spring of 1775, a declaration was drawn up, and circulated by the loyalists of Tryon County, in which they avowed their opposition to the measures adopted by the Congress. Warm altercations and debates ensued, but it was signed by most of the Grand Jury, and nearly all the magistrates.
This proceeding applied the torch to that train of combustible materials which had been accumulating, and which immediately kindled into a blaze. The minds of men were generally prepared for a decisive step, and meetings were called, and committees appointed in all the districts,and subcommittees in almost every precinct and hamlet in the County. On the day appointed for the meeting in Cherry Valley, the little church was filled with the inhabitants of every age. Parents took their children with them, that they might early breathe the air of freedom, and that their first lispings might be in favor of the liberties of their country. Thomas Spencer, a resident in the place, and an Indian interpreter, addressed the meeting in a strain of rude, though impassioned eloquence. The noblest efforts of a Henry or an Otis, never wrought more sensibly upon the feelings of the respective congresses which they addressed, than did the harangue of this unlettered patriot upon that little assembly. The article of association was carried round to the different persons, most of whom subscribed it.
These meetings were called early in May, and the following was the article of association: "Whereas the grand Jury of this County, and a number of the magistrates, have signed a declaration, declaring their disapprobation of the opposition made by the Colonies to the oppressive and arbitrary acts of Parliament, the purport of which is evidently to entail slavery on America, and as the said declaration may in some measure be looked upon as the sense of the county in general, if the same be passed over in silence; we the subscribers, freeholders, and inhabitants of the said County, inspired with a sincere love for our country, and deeply interested in the common cause, do solemnly declare our fixed attachment and entire approbation of the proceedings of the grand continental congress held at Philadelphia last fall, and that we will strictly adhere to, and repose our confidence in the wisdom and integrity of the present Continental Congress; and that we will support the same to the utmost of our power, and that we will religiously and inviolably observe the regulations of that august body.'
On the 18th of May the Palatine Committee met and wrote a letter to the Committee of Albany, which, as it gives a full view of the affairs of the County, is inserted at length.
"We are so peculiarly circumstanced in the County, relating to the present struggle for American liberty, that we cannot longer defer laying the situation of this County before you. This district we represent has been foremost in avowing its attachment to liberty, and approving the method of opposition adopted in America, and are now signing an association similar to what has been signed in other counties in this Province, and we hope in a few days to have the pleasure to transmit it down for the press. The County being extensive, it takes a considerable time before the people who are favorable to the cause can be got to sign: for we have caused copies of the association to be dispersed in divers parts of the County. This County has for a series of years been ruled by one family, the different branches of which are still strenuous in dissuading people from coming into congressional measures, and even have, last week, at a numerous meeting of the Mohawk District, appeared with all their dependents armed to oppose the people considering of their grievances: their number being so large, and the people unarmed, struck terror into most of them, and they dispersed. We are informed that Johnson Hall is fortifying by placing a parcel of swivel guns round the same, and that Col. Johnson has had parts of his regiment of militia under arms yesterday, no doubt with a design to prevent the friends of liberty from publishing their attachment to the cause to the world. Besides which, we are told that about 150 Highlanders (Roman Catholics) in and about Johnstown are armed and ready to march upon the like occasion. We have been informed that Col. Johnson has stopped to New Englanders and searched them, being, we suppose, suspicious that they came to solicit aid from us or the Indians, whom we dread most, there being a current report through the County, that they are to be made use of in keeping us in awe.
We recommend it strongly and seriously to you to take it in your consideration whether any powder and ammunition ought to be permitted to be sent up this way, unless it is done under the inspection of the Committee,and consigned tot he Committee here, and for such particular shop keepers as we in our next shall acquaint you of. We are determined to suffer none in our district to sell any but such as we approve of, and sign the association. When any thing particular comes to our knowledge relating to the Indians, (whom we shall watch,) or any other thing interesting, we shall take the earliest opportunity in communicating the same to you. And as we are a young county, remote from the metropolis, we beg you will give us all the intelligence in your power. We shall not be able to send down any deputies to the Provincial Congress, as we cannot possibly obtain the sense of the County soon enough to make it worth our while to send any, but be assured we are not the less attached to American liberty. For we are determined, although few in number, t let the world see who are, and who are not such; and to wipe off the indelible disgrace brought on us by the declaration signed by our Grand Jury and some of our magistrates; who in general are considered by the majority of the County as enemies to their country. In a word, gentlemen, it is our fixed resolution to support and carry into execution every thing recommended by the Continental Congress and to be free or die."
This same Committee met on the 21st of May, when the following letters were laid before them. The first, being a letter from some of the Mohawk Indians to the Oneidas, had been found in the road where it was supposed to have been lost by some Indian.
Translated into English, it was as follows: "Written at Guy Johnson's, May 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 intention of the Boston people. Guy Johnson is in great fear of being taken prisoner by the Bostonians. We Mohawks 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 believe 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 afterward perhaps to all the other nations. We conclude and expect that you will have concern about our ruler, Guy Johnson, because we are all untied." This letter was signed by Joseph Brant, secretary to Guy Johnson, and four other chiefs.
The following letter was from Guy Johnson to the magistrates, and other of the upper districts, dated Guy Park, May 20th, 1775. "Gentlemen, I have lately had repeated accounts that a body of New Englanders, or others, were to come and seize, and carry away my person, and attack our family, under color of malicious insinuations, 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 entering into any such disputes. This I effected last year when they were much vexed about the attack made upon the Shawnese, and I last winter appointed them to meet me this month to receive the answer of the Virginians. All men must allow, that is 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 recommend this to you as highly necessary at this time, as my regard for the interest of the County, and self preservation, has obliged me to fortify my house, and keep men armed for my defense, till these idle and malicious reports are removed."
The committee taking these letters into consideration adopted unanimously the following resolutions:
I. That it is the opinion of this committee that the Indians who signed the letter never would have presumed to write or send the same, if they had not been countenanced.
II. That as we have unanimously adopted the proceedings of the grand Continental Congress, and mean virtuously to support the same, so we feel and commiserate the sufferings of our brethren in the Massachusetts Bay, and the other Colonies in America, and that we mean never to submit to any arbitrary and oppressive acts of any power under Heaven, or to any illegal and unwarrantable action of any man or set of men.
III. That as the whole Continent has approved of the actions and proceeding of the Massachusetts Bay,and other of the provinces of New England, we do adopt and approve of the same. Wherefore we must and do consider that any fortification or armed force raised to be made use of against them, is evidently designed to overawe and make us submit.
IV. That Col. Johnson's conduct in raising fortifications round his house, keeping a number of Indians and armed men constantly about him, and stopping and searching travelers upon the king's highway, and stopping our communication with Albany, is very alarming to this County, and is highly arbitrary, illegal, oppressive, and unwarrantable; and confirms us in our fears, that his design is to keep us in awe, and oblige us to submit to a state of slavery.
V. That as we abhor a state of slavery, we do join and unite together under all the ties of religion, honor, justice,and a love for our country never to become slaves, and to defend our freedom with our lives and fortunes."
The following letter was at the same time written, and sent by express to the committee of Albany.
"Upon the alarming news that expresses were gone to call down the upper nations of Indians to Col. Johnson's, we caused ourselves to be convened this day, to take the state of this County into our consideration; upon which we have determined to order the inhabitants of this district to provide themselves with sufficient arms and ammunition,and to be ready at a moment's warning. We are sorry to acquaint you that all communication with your County is entirely stopped by Col. Johnson, who has five hundred men to guard his house, which he has fortified, under pretense that he is afraid of a visit of the New England men, as will appear by a copy of a letter we intercepted this morning. We have not 50 pounds of powder in our district; and it will be impossible for you to help us to any till the communication is opened, not a man being suffered to pass, without being searched. Tomorrow is to be a meeting of Canajoharie district, when we expect they will adopt Congressional measures very heartily, and we purpose to have a meeting of the Committees of both districts, and propose the question, whether we will not open the communication by force; if which question is determined in the affirmative, we shall dispatch another express to you acquainting you with the day, when we hope you will be on your way up with some ammunition. We have just sent off an express to the German Flatts,and Kingsland districts desiring them to unite with us and give us their assistance; which districts, or at least a great majority of them we are credibly informed, are very hearty in the present struggle for American liberty. We are, Gentlemen, perhaps in a worse situation than any part of American is at present. We have an open enemy before our faces,and treacherous friends at our backs, for which reason we hope you will take our case into your immediate consideration,and give us an answer by the bearers,who go express by the way of Schoharie, as we dare not trust them any other way. They have orders to wait for an answer. We have reason to think that a great many of the Indians are not satisfied with Col. Johnson's conduct, for which reason we have thought it would not be improper to send a couple of men, well acquainted with the Indian language, to dissuade them from coming down. And we think it would be of service to us if you could send two also, who are able to make the Indians sensible of the present dispute with the mother country and us. We have the pleasure to acquaint you, that we are very unanimous in our district, as well as in Canajoharie, and we are determined by no means to submit to the oppressive acts of Parliament, much less to Col. Johnson's arbitrary conduct."
On the 22d of May, the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonality of the City of Albany, to whom a letter similar to the one address to the magistrates of Tryon County had been sent by Guy Johnson, returned the following answer. "We this day received yours without date, directed to the Magistrates and Committee of Albany and Schenectady, and to the Mayor, Corporation, &c. of Albany, wherein you write that you have received repeated accounts that either the New Englanders, or some person in or about this city, or the town of Schenectady are coming up to a considerable number to seize and imprison you, on a ridiculous and malicious report, that you intend to make the Indians destroy the inhabitants, or to that effect, and that you, in consequence thereof, have been put to the great trouble and expense of fortifying your house,and keeping a large body of men for the defense of your person, &c. You proceed and say, that the absurdity of the apprehension may easily be seen by men of sense, but that as many credulous and ignorant persons may be led astray,and inclined to believe it, &c. it is become the duty of all those who have authority or influence to disabuse the public, and prevent consequences which you foresee with very great concern. We are very sorry to learn from you that any groundless reports should have arisen, and be propagated to your prejudice, considering your character, station, and the large property you have in the country. And we trust that you are so well acquainted with the nature and duties of your office, that you will pursue the dictates of an honest heart, and study the interest, peace and welfare of your country. In which case, we presume you need not be apprehensive of any injury in your person or property; neither can we learn nor conceive that there either is, or has been any intention of taking you captive, or offering you any indignity whatever, either by the New England people, or any of the inhabitants of this city, or any one else,and we have but too much reason to think that these groundless reports have been raised and industriously propagated, in your own phraseology, by some busy people in your county, to rouse up the Indians from their peaceful habitations, and take up arms against such of our American brethren as are engaged on the part of America in the unhappy contest between Great Britain and her colonies.
"As it appears from your letter, that you consider the station wherein you are placed, as superintendent of Indian affairs, to be of the highest importance to the public, we hope that you will use all possible means in your power to restore peace and tranquility among the Indians, and assure them, that the report propagated prejudicial to you or to them, is totally groundless of any just foundation,and that nothing will afford his majesty's subjects in general, a greater satisfaction, than to be, and continue with them on the strictest terms of peace and friendship."
A letter was also written by the Albany Committee to Guy Johnson, of the same purport, also one to the Tryon County Committee, informing them that they had no ammunition for them, and advising, as the most prudent course, not to attempt to open by force the communication between the two countries. This proposition was abandoned. Four members were, whoever, sent to Albany, who were directed to obtain all the information possible relative to the situation of the country, and also to procure a quantity of powder and lead, for the payment for which the Committee themselves became responsible. In consequence of some threats of Guy Johnson, the following resolution was unanimously adopted.
"That, whereas the persons of some of the members of this committee have been threatened with imprisonment on account of their being concerned in our just opposition, in which case we do associate and unite together, that to the utmost of our power, we will do our endeavors by force, or otherwise, to rescue them from imprisonment, unless such person or persons are confined by a legal process issued upon a legal ground,and executed in a legal manner."
Secrecy as to all proceedings, except those which were to be published, was enjoined upon all the members. Resolutions were adopted by which they bound themselves to have no connections or dealing with those who had not signed the association. The owners of slaves were directed not to suffer them to go from home, unless with a certificate that they were employed in their master's business. They assumed the exercise of legislative, executive, and judicial powers. The members scattered over the County as subcommittees,and aided by the Whigs, who entered upon the measures proposed by the committee with great zeal, were generally enabled to bring their plans to a successful termination.
On the 25th of May, the Indian council which had been called, met at Guy Park. Delegates from Albany and Tryon counties were present. The Mohawks alone appear to have been represented in it. Little Abraham, Chief of the Mohawk's speaker said: "He was glad to meet them and to hear the reports concerning taking Guy Johnson, their superintendent, were false. That the Indians do not wish to have a quarrel with the inhabitants. That during Sir William Johnson's life time,and since, we have been peaceably disposed. That the Indians are alarmed on account of the reports that our powder was stopped. We get our things from superintendent. If we lived as you do, it would not be so great a loss. If our ammunition is stopped we shall distrust you. We are pleased to hear you say, you will communicate freely, and we will at all times listen to what you say in presence of our superintendent."
The committee, after consulting, replied -- That they were glad to hear them confirm the old friendship of their forefathers -- that the reports were false -- whenever they had any business they would apply at their council fires in presence of their superintendent.
The speaker of the Mohawks replied. -- "The Indians are glad that you are not surprised we cannot spare Col. Johnson. The love we have for the memory of Sir William Johnson,and the obligations the whole Six Nations are under to him, must make us regard and protect every branch of his family. That we will explain these things to all the Indians, and hope you will do the same to your people." The council broke up with apparent good feeling on all sides, which it was hoped and expected would continue.
On the 2d day of June, 1775, a meeting of the Committee was held, at which the members from the Mohawk district were for the first time present, having been kept away by the Johnsons. The whole county was now represented, and as this was the first united meeting, it may be interesting to some to give the names of this body of men, who had so often professed their willingness to peril their lives and property in defense of the liberties of their country. (From Palatine district,) Christopher P. Yates, John Frey, Andrew Fink, Andrew Reeber, Peter Waggoner, Daniel McDougal, Jacob Klock, George Ecker, Jun. Harmanus Van Slyck, Christopher W. Fox, Anthony Van Veghten, (Canajoharie district,) Nicholas Herkimer, Ebenezer Cox, William Seeber, John Moore, Samuel Campbell, Samuel Clyde, Thomas Henry, John Pickard -- (Kingsland and German Flatts districts,) Edward Wall, William Petry, John Petry, Augustine Hess, Frederick Orendorf, George Wentz, Michael Ittig, Frederick Fox, George Herkimer, Duncan McDougal, Frederick Helmer, John Frink -- (Mohawk district,) John Morlett, John Bliven, Abraham Van Horne, Adam Fonda, Frederick Fisher, Sampson Simmons, William Schuyler, Volkert Veeder, James McMaster, Daniel Lane,42, Christopher P. Yates was chosen Chairman of this body, He had been chairman of the Palatine Committee, and had drafted most of the foregoing letters, and spirited resolutions. The following letter was written to Guy Johnson at this meeting: --
"According to the example of the Counties in this, and the neighboring 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 colonies, 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 manner, by enforcing oppressive, and unconstitutional acts of the British Parliament, 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, except those which are laid on them by their representatives, and think we have a right, not only by the laws and constitution 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 assembly would have been noticed more than the united petition of almost the whole continent of America, by their delegates in Congress. Which, so far from being any ways compiled with, was treated with superlative contempt by the ministry, and fresh oppressions were, and are, daily heaped upon us. Upon which principles, principles which are undeniable, we have been appointed to consult methods to contribute 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 England suffering in the common cause, and commiserate 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 our 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 entirely unconcerned as to any thing 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 never have entertained the most distant thoughts of. We are not ignorant of the very great importance of your office, as superintendent of the Indians, and therefore, it is no more our duty, than inclination, to protect you in the discharge of the duty of your proper province, and we meet you with pleasure in behalf of ourselves and our constituents, to thank you for meeting the Indians in the upper parts of the County, which may be the means of easing the people of the remainder of their fears on this account, and prevent 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 colonies. 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 account of the receipt of certain papers, to persons who had not the least color of right to demand any thing 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 the council which had been held at this house, yet professing to be desirous to promote peace between the Indians and the inhabitants, Guy Johnson had called another council to meet in the western part of the County. Under pretense of meeting the Indians in this council, he had removed with his family and retinue from Guy Park to the house of Mr. Thomson, in Cosby's Manor, a little above the German Flatts, where he was waited upon by Edward Wall and Gen. Nicholas Herkimer, with the letter of which the foregoing is a part. To this letter he returned the following answer:
"Cosby's Manor, June 6th, 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 Oneidas, I really knew nothing of it till I heard such a thing had been by some means obtained from an Indian messenger, and from what I have heard of its contents, I can't see any thing material in it, or that could justify such idle apprehensions, but I must observe that these fears among the people were talked of long before, and were, I fear, propagated by some malicious 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 exercise of my own judgment, and that all others should have the same privilege; but with regard to your saying you might have postponed the affair, if there had been the least kind of probability that the petition of the General Assembly would have been noticed, more than that of the delegates, I must, as a true friend to the country, in which I have a large interest, say, that the present dispute is viewed in different lights according to the education and principles of the parties affected, and that however reasonable it may 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 assemblies, they 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 was principally my design, though I cannot sufficiently express my surprise at those who have, either through malice or ignorance, misconstrued my intentions, and supposed me capable of setting the Indians on the peaceable inhabitants of this county. The 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 suppressed.
The office I hold is greatly for the benefit and protection of this country, and on my frequent meetings with the Indians depends their peace and security; I therefore cannot but be astonished to find the endeavors made use of to obstruct me in my duties,and the weakness of some people in withholding many things from me, which are indispensably 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 much 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 confirmed by letters from one of the committee at Philadelphia, that a large body of man were to make me prisoner. As the effect 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 these measures. But the many reports of my stopping travelers were false in every particular, and the only instance of detaining anybody was in the case of two New England men, which I explained fully to those of your 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, but I shall always be glad to promote their true interests."
During this correspondence, the fears not only of the inhabitants of western New York, but of all the northern Provinces were excited. They had suffered too much from Indian warfare, to be indifferent to the course which should be adopted by the Six Nations. The Provincial Congress of Massachusetts had this subject under consideration on the 13th of June, and sent a circular to the Provincial Congress of New York, The conclusion is as follows: -- "We also have had the disagreeable account of methods taken to till the minds 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 honorable 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."
A letter was immediately written by the New York congress to Johnson, disclaiming, as had often been done, by the committee, any,and every intention to injure him or the Indians. (He had removed with his retinue to Fort Stanwix, and thence on to Ontario, where he met 1340 Indian warriors in council.) Pretending unjust interference in the former council, he was sure at this place, so far removed from the settlements of the whites, of exerting to the best advantage that influence which he derived from British gold, and the merited reputation of his father-in-law. From this place, under date of the 8th of July, he wrote an answer to P. V. B. Livingston, Esq. the President of the Congress, in which he complained bitterly of the malcontents and those who disturb regular governments. This letter is a very loyal one, and concludes thus: -- "I should be much obliged by your promised of discountenancing any attempt against myself, did they not appear to be made on conditions of compliance with Continental or Provincial 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 always warmly attached, a declaration that must appear perfectly suitable to the character of a man of honor and principle, who can on no account neglect those duties and are consistent therewith, however they may differ from sentiments now adopted in so many parts of America."
To the last, Col. Johnson persisted in allegations which had no foundation -- allegations, which, if true, present the people of Massachusetts and New York warring against their own important interests -- a charge which their conduct at this time, and during the war, was far from warranting. They had the desired effect upon the Indians. Having by these and other means secured for the English the attachment of the Indians, Col. Johnson went from Ontario to Oswego, and thence to Montreal, where he took up his residence. During the war he continued to act as agent, distributing to the Indians liberal rewards for their deeds of cruelty, and, by promises, stimulating them to future exertions. It required no uncommon sagacity to penetrate his motives, though eh had professed his attachment to this Province so warmly and frequently in his letters, and pretended to shudder at the thought of employing the savages against its "innocent inhabitants."
The committee entertained suspicions of his ultimate designs, too well founded,when they saw him moving up the Mohawk with his family, and accompanied by a large number of dependents. The unarmed state of the inhabitants would not, however, warrant any attempt to check his movements. Besides, such a step, though recommended by some, would not have been considered justifiable by a majority of Whigs, as Johnson had not yet committed any act of hostility.
Few of the Mohawks returned to their native homes upon the banks of that river which bears their name. The graves of their ancestors were abandoned. Their council fires were extinguished. Every movement indicated the gathering of that storm so much dreaded, and which afterward burst with such desolating effects upon the inhabitants of this defenseless frontier. Those inhabitants had the satisfaction of reflecting that it was a calamity which they had not called down upon themselves, but which they had labored with all their powers to avert. They had proffered to their red brethren the Calumet of peace, though in vain. That the Indians, and especially the Mohawks, should have remained attached to the English government is by no means strange; for they had been furnished by that government with the necessaries of life,and with arms and other munitions, both for the chase, and for war; and the chain of their friendship had been brightened by constant use for more than an hundred years. We find therefore not so much to censure in the conduct of the Indians themselves, as in that of the British ministers, who recommended the plan of employing them in the war, and in that of their agents,who carried that plan into effect. It has rendered infamous the names of men who might otherwise have been ranked among the great and good of our country, and it has imprinted a dark spot upon the pages of English history. This was pretended at the time to be a retaliatory measure, and was justified on that ground. But no plan for employing the Indians is believed to have been recommended or adopted, by either the continental or any of the provincial Congresses. If such a course was ever mentioned, it was probably by private, unauthorized persons. It would have argued an extreme of weakness to have provoked, by setting the example, the employment of such a foe in a war which was to be carried on in their own territory, and where if acts of cruelty were committed, their own wives and children must necessarily be the sufferers.
The Rev. Samuel Kirkland, missionary to the Oneidas, was requested to use his influence with that tribe, and endeavor to persuade them to remain neutral during the war. Several conferences were held with them. On the 28th of June, the Oneidas and Tuscaroras assembled at the German Flatts, where they were met by the inhabitants of that district, and the delegates from Albany. The inhabitants of the Flatts delivered to them the following speech:--
"Brothers! We are glad to have you here to return you thanks. We should have been much pleased to have spoken with you at the appointed place; that is, by your superintendent, where of late you kept your council fire; but since his removing so far from us, we do not think it wrong or imprudent to communicate our sentiments of peace to you here. It is at this place, brothers, it has often been done,and here again we renew it, and brighten the old chain of peace and brotherly love.
"Brothers! We cannot see the cause of your late council fire, or superintendent going away from us. We did him no harm, and you well know that none of us ever did, and you may depend on it, there was no such thing meant against him. He hold our people he was going up to Thompson's (Cosby's Manor) to hold a council fire with our brothers the Five Nations there. We helped him to provisions to support you there,and every thing we had that he wanted. But he is gone away from among us, and told some of our people, that he would come back with company which would not please us; which, if true, it is certain his intentions are bad,and he may depend that whatever force he may or can bring, we regard not.
"Brothers! Our present meeting does not arise from any unfriendly thoughts we entertain of you, or from any fear of ourselves. It is purely on account of the old friendship which has so long been kept up between us, that friendship we want to maintain. It is that friendship which will be an equal benefit to use. It is as much wanted on your side as ours.
"Brothers! We cannot too much express our satisfaction of your conduct toward us by your late proceedings with the superintendent, at the carrying place, for which we are also obliged to you, and do not doubt but that your conduct will be blessed with greater benefits than any other of those who will hurry themselves into mischief; which can never be of any other benefit to them but sorrow for the innocent blood that may be shed on an occasion wherewith they have no concern.
"We look to you particularly, to be men of more understanding than others, by the benefits you have received in learning; wherefore we confide and trust the more freely in you, that you can communicate to the other tribes and nations, the error they want to lead you in, and cannot doubt but your wisdom and influence with the other nations will be attended, with that happy success which will hereafter be a blessing to you and your posterity.
"Brothers! What we have is supposed to be sufficient to convince you that our meaning is for our joint peace and friendship; in which we hope that we and our children may continue to the end of time."
Most of the Oneidas agreed to remain neutral; a few joined the English. When Gen. Schuyler had command of the northern army they asked permission to take up the hatchet. But he always dissuaded them. It shows not only the consistency but the amiableness of character of that man so much esteemed by his contemporaries. Some of the Oneidas rendered very important services by traversing the country, and notifying the inhabitants of approaching danger. Others, contrary to advice, joined in the war. The latter were a small part of the tribe. Among them was Skenando (See Appendix--Note D.) distinguished along the border by the appellation of the "white man's friend."
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