The Old New York Frontier/Part 2/Chapter 3

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The Old New York Frontier
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Francis Whiting Halsey[edit]


Part 2. Missionaries and the French War (1650-1769)
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Chapter 3. Gideon Hawley's Coming (1753)[edit]

WITH the close of the war in 1748, missionary work at Stockbridge was taken up with new vigor. In Timothy Woodbridge’s school, in the following year, were fifty-five students, including several from Oghwaga. At the same time a school for Mohawks was in charge of Captain Kellogg, with Kellogg’s sister, Mrs. Ashley, serving as interpreter. In 1750 some twenty Mohawks had arrived, and in 1751 about twenty more, including the celebrated King Hendrick, who a few years later was killed in the battle of Lake George.

In 1749 the mission at Stockbridge lost its leader by the death of Sergeant. Edwards was chosen to succeed him, but this was not until 1751. The mission then contained 218 Indians, of whom 182 had been baptized, and 42 were communicants. Edwards, in the year of his appointment, attended the great Indian council which met in Albany. Here he learned how concerned the English had become in regard to the growth of French influence. The younger Conrad Weiser had heard at Onondaga that a Jesuit had converted one hundred men and taken them to Montreal, where they received as presents gorgeous coats and hats ornamented with silver and gold. Sir Peter Warren, Johnson’s uncle, then one of the leading men on Manhattan Island, gave the Stockbridge school $3,500, and Johnson had been directed to use his influence to aid it all he could.

After Edwards’s return from Albany, Gideon Hawley arrived at Stockbridge and was placed in charge of one of the schools. Woodbridge, who had known Brainerd intimately, and had now been ten years at Stockbridge, had the other. Both teachers were popular with the Indians, and especially with the Mohawks and Oneidas; but a resident trustee, in his ambition to divert society funds from the proper channels, seriously impaired the usefulness of the school, and the Indians, becoming dissatisfied, resolved to return to New York. Some of these Indians had gone to Stockbridge from Oghwaga after Spencer’s return, having “manifested a thirst for Christian knowledge.” One was named Jonah and another Sharrack. In these circumstances it was decided that Hawley and Woodbridge should themselves go to Oghwaga, at which place Edwards told the Boston Commissioners the hope for successful work mainly lay. The chief seat of missionary operations was to be “the country about Oghwaga near the head of the Susquehanna river.” Edwards wrote further:

All but one or two of them are of the nation of the Oneidas and they appear not to be looked upon as contemptible by the rest of the Five Nations:[1] from what was openly said of them at a public council by the sachems of the Mohawks who advised us to treat the Oghwagas with care and kindness as excelling their own tribe in religion and virtue, giving at the same time many instances of their virtue. Oghwaga is within the territory of the Six Nations and not so far from the other settlements but that it may be convenient for making excursions to the other tribes: as convenient perhaps as any place that can be found. It lies in a pleasant, fruitful country, surrounded by many settlements of Indians on every side and where the way is open by easy passage down the river which runs through one of the most pleasant and fruitful parts of America for four hundred or five hundred miles, exceedingly well peopled on both sides and on its several branches by Indians. Oghwaga is on the road by which several of the nations pass as they go to war with Southern nations. There are several towns of the Oneidas and several missionaries might probably find sufficient employment in those parts.

[1] The Iroquois were now the Six Nations, the Tuscaroras having entered the League thirty years before Edwards wrote. [Halsey's note]

Hawley finally departed on his mission, in May, 1753. He left Stockbridge in company with Woodbridge, Ashley, and Mrs. Ashley, the latter destined soon to die at the mission. Hawley says Ashley was taken along from necessity, but he proved to be “a fanatic and on that account unfit to be employed in the mission.” They were to go “about one hundred miles beyond any settlement of Christian people.” Before leaving the Mohawk Valley, introduced probably by Edwards, they “at sunset,” says Hawley, “were politely received at Colonel Johnson’s gate by himself in person. Here we lodged. It was favorable to our mission to have his patronage which I never lost.” Here also they met several Indians who lived at Oghwaga, and Hawley mentions two ministers who were settled near Johnson’s house, one of whom, a Calvinist, seems to have been the Rev. William Johnston who afterward founded the settlement at Sidney.

From the Schoharie country the expedition crossed the hills to the Susquehanna, having obtained, besides a man with a horse to carry two sacks of flour, three or four “blacks ” to accompany them. They also had a “fellow named Pallas, a vagrant Indian, whose company we had reason to regret but could not refuse upon our mission.” Hawley says the road “was generally obstructed by fallen trees, old logs, miry places, pointed rock and entangling roots.” They were “alternately on the ridge of a lofty mountain and in the depths of the valley.”

Finally they came to rivulets which poured their waters into the Susquehanna. By one of these they halted, kindled a fire, made their prayers, and passed the night sleeping on the bare earth rolled up in blankets. Late on the following day they reached Towanoendalough, where was a village of “three wigwams and about thirty souls.” Here the Susquehanna was first seen, and its size disappointed them, as well it might, since here the stream is scarcely more than a creek. They lodged in “a little store house set on crotches six feet or more from the ground.” [2]


[2] As Hawley had an Indian guide, we may assume that he followed one of the trails which ran into the Susquehanna from the Schoharie Valley. Thus he might have crossed over to the upper waters of the Charlotte, as the Palatines had done twenty years before, or proceeded to the head of Schenevus Creek, descending which he would have reached the river near Colliers, following the present course of the railroad. [Halsey's note]

At Towanoendalough the party were joined by a trader named George Winedecker and a companion, who had come down from Otsego Lake with a boat-load of goods, including rum, and were bound for Oghwaga and the intermediate Indian villages. The ill effects of Winedecker’s rum were soon to be seen. During the night spent at Towanoendalough the party were awakened by the "howling of the Indians over their dead," and in the morning saw Indian women "skulking in the adjacent bushes for fear of the intoxicated Indians who were drinking deeper." These women were carefully hiding guns, hatchets, and other dangerous weapons.

From this point to Oghwaga Was a journey of three days, "and how bad the travelling is we cannot tell," said Hawley. "Some went by water and others by land with the horses. I went with the land party." In Winedecker’s boat went Woodbridge and the interpreter, and in a canoe purchased at this place were sent the provisions and baggage. The half-intoxicated Indians "pursued the party by water in which was Mr. Woodbridge and the party by land. One came so near us with a club as to strike at us and he hit one of our horses." At Wauteghe they found fruit-trees and a tract of cleared land extending along the river, but there were no inhabitants to be seen. Hawley had a narrow escape from death at the hands of Pallas, who was handling a loaded gun when in liquor. Pallas was aiming to shoot some ducks and fired very close to Hawley. Hawley was always inclined to think Pallas intended to kill him. This incident occurred twelve miles below Wauteghe, "where a small stream empties into the river." The horses were turned out to graze for the night, but by morning three or four of them had returned to Wauteghe.

On the following day, when the horses had been recovered, the party proceeded six or eight miles farther, and stopped at Kaghneantasis or the whirlpool, "because there was herbage for our horses." Next day they arrived at Unadilla, and about noon passed "a considerable village, some families of which were of the Houssautunnuk Indians." As it was Sunday, Winedecker was not permitted to land. The Indians "stood on the banks and beheld us." Pallas was sent ashore at this point and his services dispensed with. From the Northwest, says Hawley, "a stream here rolls into Susquehanna." Its name was "Teyonadelhough." They landed five or six miles farther down and put up for the night. Oghwaga mountain was sighted the next day, and then Hawley knew his journey was nearly ended. He arrived near nightfall, the weather cold and wet. A cordial welcome came from the Indians, but the accommodations for living were rude and unwholesome.

On the following day, June 5th, “many were worse for the rum that came with us,” and one of the horses injured an Indian boy. The Indians became enraged at this and made threats against the whole party, but in the afternoon “came chiefs of the Oghwagas and assured us that these insulting and ill-behaved Indians did not belong to them, but were foreigners.” These chiefs had come up from the lower settlement. Hawley says he opened a treaty with the chiefs “upon the affairs of our advent and the importance of our business in every way.”

All in all, it was a singular expedition that went to Oghwaga, this mixed band of missionaries, traders, and Indians. Here were red men who had expressed a desire for religious teaching; here were red men with a fatal fondness for strong drink, and here, in one party journeying down the valley, were missionaries with the Bible and a trader with the rum – the two gifts of the white man to the Indian. It soon became apparent that the work at Oghwaga which needed attention first was the red man’s fondness for fire-water. Woodbridge, a few weeks later, returned to Albany and carried with him a speech which the Indians had desired him to present to William Johnson. In part it is as follows, and its pathos cannot escape the reader:

My brother Col. Johnson, hear me now. We are both nations together under one head at Oghwaga. My brother Warraghiyagey,[3] here we are assembled under one head. I say, hear me now. The Governor and great men have took pity on us and come so far to bring us to light and religion that we may go straight. My brother, my dear brother, pity us: your batteau is often here at our place and brings us rum and that has undone us. Sometimes on Sunday our people drink and cannot attend their duty, which makes it extremely dificult. But now we have cut it off: we have put a stop to it.
You must not think one man or a few men have done it; we all of us both old and young have done it. It is done by the whole. My brother, I would have you tell the great men at Albany, Schenectady and Schoharie not to bring us any more rum. I would have you bring us powder, lead and clothing which we want and other things what you please; only do not bring us any more liquors.

[3] The name by which the Indians called Johnson after they had adopted him. [Halsey's note]