The Old New York Frontier/Part 2/Chapter 4

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The Old New York Frontier
Francis Whiting Halsey

Part 2. Missionaries and the French War (1650-1769)
Ch. 4. War Interrupts Mr. Hawley's Work (1756)

MR. HAWLEY had not been long at Oghwaga when a new conflict arose with the French. Johnson in 1751 had made striking headway in his efforts to cement the Indian attachment, but in 1754 so grave was the outlook, that another and greater council, in reality a, congress, was called at Albany, to which were invited delegates from all the colonies in America. Stone calls this "the most august assembly which up to that time had ever been held in the western world." Its primary object was to make still stronger the alliance with the Six Nations, but in American history it has other rank and eminence. At this congress was brought to official attention the famous Plan of Union, mainly drawn up by Franklin, which in an organic sense marks the beginning of the history of the United States. John Bigelow has characterized it as "the first coherent scheme ever propounded for securing a permanent federal union of the thirteen colonies."

England rejected the plan because of its democratic features, and the colonies because it had too much regard for the royal prerogative. Acceptance of it would unquestionably have saved both lands a world of direst trouble, but the name of Washington scarcely could have been known to history. At this congress Gouldsborough Banyar, the Deputy Secretary of the Council of the Province, who afterward had large landed possessions in the Susquehanna Valley, acted as one of the secretaries, and Martin Kellogg was an interpreter, in which capacity Kellogg also saw service at Oghwaga. Indians from Oghwaga were present.

Hawley early realized the risk that attended his stay in the valley, but he remained at his post more than a year longer. Not until war was actually in progress did he depart. A son of Jonathan Edwards, Jonathan, Jr., then only ten years old, who, at his father’s desire, had spent six months with Hawley, learning the Oneida tongue, was, however, sent home. For a part of the distance an Indian carried the boy on his back.

Thirty years afterward, when this boy had become President of Union College, he published a book on Indian languages, in which he referred to his experience among the Indians. When he was six years of age his father had removed with his family to Stockbridge, which at that time was inhabited by Indians almost solely. Indians being the nearest neighbors, he “constantly associated with them; their boys were my daily schoolmates and playfellows. Out of my father’s house I seldom heard any language spoken besides the Indian. By these means I acquired knowledge of that language and a great facility in speaking it. It became more familiar to me than my native tongue. I knew the names of some things in Indian which I did not know in English: even all my thoughts ran in Indian.”

In December, 1755, Indians came to Oghwaga with accounts of discontent in Pennsylvania as a result of the defeat of Braddock. Hawley at once communicated the facts to Johnson, with a strong recommendation that a fort be erected at Oghwaga, the one already existing at Cherry Valley being too far distant from the point of danger. The discontented Indians were Delawares, who, some years before, had left their own river and settled at Wyoming. By the defeat of Braddock they had lost faith in the strength of the English, and under French influence had threatened to desolate the whole Pennsylvania frontier. In Northampton County fifty houses had been burned and over one hundred persons murdered and taken into captivity. Virginia settlements had also suffered. Early in the year I756 the Delawares started northward.

By May so many had departed that from Shamokin to Wyalusing, Mr. Kulp says, "there reigned the silence of the grave." Jonathan Edwards, hearing of these events, wrote that "there is great danger that Mr. Hawley’s mission and ministry there will be entirely broken up." Some friendly Delawares arrived at Johnstown during this season, with word that one hundred others were on their way from Oghwaga in want of food. Johnson at once sent word to John Wells, of Cherry Valley, whom a Tory was afterward to murder during the Revolution, and to Robert Flint to supply them with all that they needed. In August a young sachem named Thomas arrived from Oghwaga with fifty-four men, women, and children, and said he was ready to go to war. John Wells, from plans prepared in Albany, built the fort Hawley had recommended, and Hawley retired from his mission. The fort stood about a mile and a half above Windsor village, on the east side of the river.

Proceeding to Johnstown, Hawley attended an Indian council, and then served as an army chaplain in an expedition from Albany to Crown Point. Johnson himself in the following year commanded the English forces at the battle of Lake George, of which, through his victory, he became the hero. Wounded in the battle, he remained a cripple for the rest of his life. England granted him the sum of $25,000, and the King made him a baronet. Hawley attempted to return to his work at Oghwaga, but the enterprise proved to be "too hazardous to be prosecuted." He went as far as Cherry Valley in December, 1756, "but could not safely penetrate into the wilderness, my mission being nearly one hundred miles beyond any plantation of whites." In the following spring he received a letter from Johnson, "which the Indians desired him to write me," inviting him back to his mission, and again started to return. He got as far as Albany but had trouble to find a companion, and when the small-pox broke out, definitely abandoned the undertaking.

Had Hawley reached Oghwaga, his work could not have prospered. In October of this year chiefs wrote to Johnson that they had news "of a company of about thirty men being at Cheningo,[1] going to war against our brethren, the English." Two men had been sent down to warn them off, but "in spite of all that we and our brethren, the Nanticokes, could do, they marched along until we met them a second time when, after a long council, they turned back but nine." The chiefs begged Johnson "to be strong brother and not keep this news private, but to give notice to all the towns."

[1] In the Oneida dialect written Ochenang, and meaning ball thistles. The place was afterward called Chenango Point, and is now Binghamton.

Information had also reached them of "another great company not far from Tioga, coming the same way, mixed with French, and will be here in a few days." It was after such correspondence, joined to his experience in the war, that Johnson, in 1757, wrote concerning the Oghwagas and others on the upper Susquehanna: "They have always, and during this war constantly, shown themselves firmly attached to our interests, and no Indians have been more ready to come and join his Majesty’s arms." He added that they were "a flourishing and increasing people," and were determined "to live and die with us."

In November of this year fell a blow which sent consternation through the frontier – the massacre and burning of German Flatts. So great was the terror, that at Cherry Valley and other places settlers sent their goods and valuables to Albany and Schenectady. Stone remarks that at one time it seemed "as if these settlements would be entirely depopulated."

Indeed the whole course of that final struggle with France created a state of alarm on this frontier, rendered all the more intense by the attitude of the four western Iroquois nations. The defeat of Braddock had weakened, if not actually broken, their allegiance to the English. Tryon County put eight hundred men into the field, one company being stationed at Cherry Valley in command of Captain Robert McKean of whom in the Border Wars there will be more to chronicle in this history.

In these gloomy circumstances the labors of Gideon Hawley in this valley closed. His work had in no small way been fruitful. Among his aids had been the two “pious Indians,” named Isaac Dakayenensese and Peter Agwrondougwas, whom Spencer had converted. After Hawley’s departure Peter carried on the missionary work alone, preaching at Oghwaga, and making journeys to other villages. In I792 John Trumbull painted a miniature of Peter that may still be seen in Yale University. After Mr. Hawley’s failure to return, Peter made a journey to Lebanon in midwinter, through deep snows, to ask for a new minister. Mr. Hawley continued his labors among Indians elsewhere. In 1758 he was settled over some tribes at Leicester, Conn., and later over others in Massachusetts, where he spent nearly half a century "in the most beneficient and self-denying labors for the salvation of his Indian brethren." He died in 1807 at the age of eighty. He was a native of Bridgeport and a graduate of Yale.