The Old New York Frontier/Part 2/Chapter 6

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Part 2. Missionaries and the French War (1650-1769)
Chapter 6. Pontiac's War and After It (1763-1768)

MR. RICE remained at his post until, perhaps, the end of the summer of 1763; but not longer. In the Far West had now been organized the conspiracy led by Pontiac. Pontiac had fought with the French against Braddock, and, with the French cause now lost, aspired on his own account to wrest vengeance from the English. His conspiracy was the last remnant of a European struggle in America, extending over more than three quarters of a century. Ultimately it failed, but not until almost every white man had been driven from the Ohio Valley, and 2,000 men on the western frontier had lost their lives.

  To this uprising and its influence on the Six Nations was due Johnson’s German Flatts conference of September, 1763, to which came two hundred and seventy Indians from the Susquehanna villages. The Indians said they desired to renew the covenant chain, and declared that all their brethren on the river, as far down as Owego, were "friends and determined to remain so." Hostile Indians reached Oghwaga in the same season, their purpose being either to win over the Six Nations to Pontiac or to renew the warfare on the English settlements. By some of them Isaac Hollister, a Connecticut settler, had been taken prisoner in the Wyoming Valley and carried "up the Susquehanna about one hundred and fifty miles."

  So serious became the danger, that Johnson, in February, 1764, sent out an expedition under orders to capture all hostile Indians found on the river. It comprised two hundred men, mostly Indians. Near "the main branch of the Susquehanna" the enemy were heard from, as encamped a short distance away, and already on the road against the settlements. At daybreak Johnson’s men rushed upon the Delawares, took them by surprise, and made prisoners of the whole party, forty-one in number, including their chief, Captain Bull, a son of Teedyuscung [1], "who had discovered great inveteracy against the English and led several parties against them during the present Indian war." When the expedition set out, Johnson had offered rewards of $50 for the heads of two Delawares named Long Coat and Onaperaquedra. The whole party of captives were taken over to the Mohawk Valley, and thirteen of them were sent to New York, where they were lodged in the common jail, after having been much observed by the people of that city, who are described as admiring their sullen and ferocious countenances.

[1] Teedyuscung was a noted chief of the Delaware nation. Although he had been converted by the Moravians, he could never resist the temptation to follow other Indians on the war-path, his sympathies being with the French. Having incurred the hostility of the Six Nations in 1763, a party of their warriors set fire to his house and caused him to perish in its flames.

  In March, shortly after this success, another expedition, in which a share was taken by Joseph Brant, was sent down. Brant had already seen service in war. Besides taking part in the siege of Fort Niagara in 1759, where he conducted himself, according to Stone [2], with "distinguished bravery," he had been in the battle of Lake George. He was then a boy of thirteen, and, according to his own account, "was seized with such a tremor when the firing began that he was obliged to take hold of a small sapling to steady himself."

[2] William L. Stone was born in Ulster County in 1792, and died at Saratoga in 1844. At the age of seventeen he was a journeyman printer in the office of the Cooperstown Federalist, and in 1813 editor of the Herkimer American, where he had Thurlow Weed for a printer. He became in 1821 an owner of the New York Commercial Advertiser, of which he was thenceforth editor until his death, becoming in 1840 one of the many editors whom Fenimore Cooper sued for libel. Stone’s Life of Brant was published in 1838 and went through many editions, one of which appeared in Cooperstown from the Phinney house, and the eighth being issued in Buffalo. In 1865 his son brought out a new edition with an index. Stone wrote other books, but none in repute equal to this, the noblest tribute ever paid by a white man to an Indian’s memory.

  This expedition to the Susquehanna comprised one hundred and forty Indians and a few whites, the latter having for leader Captain Andrew Montour, a half-breed interpreter and frontiersman, whose mother was the more celebrated interpreter, Madam Montour. It reached Oghwaga before the close of March, and on April 1st departed down the river, first calling at Kanhaughton, a town which had been abandoned, and containing thirty-six good houses of squared logs and stone chimneys. It was now burned. Montour proceeded up "the Cayuga branch" and destroyed another town of twenty houses, besides four smaller villages. He afterward burned Kanestio, which had sixty houses, and from which he took away horses, corn, and implements.

  When Captain Montour returned to the Mohawk Valley, with report of his success, Johnson decided to send his son Sir John to Oghwaga with a body of Indians and a small select corps of whites, "to take advantage of the consternation the enemy were thrown into." Sir John followed the river route, and his force had been fitted out with some liberality of display in order to impress the Indians. He made a few prisoners and then returned.

  Tranquillity having been restored, two mission-aries from Lebanon were allowed to leave the Mo-hawk Valley late in the summer. At Oghwaga they gathered a church of fourteen members. They were graduates of Yale, one of them C. J. Smith, the other Theophilus Chamberlain. On leaving Lebanon they had originally been accompanied by eight Ind-ian boys, one of them Brant, who for a time acted as interpreter for Smith; but Pontiac’s War, as we have seen, soon took Brant into the field, where, says Dr. Wheelock, he “behaved so much like a Christian and a soldier that he gained great esteem.” When that war closed, Brant’s house at Canajoharie was described as an asylum for missionaries. The route to the stations was a direct one by way of Bowman’s Creek and Cherry Valley.

  With the coming of winter, famine was threatened in the valley. The food-supply had been exhausted in consequence of the war, and the mission was removed to Otsego Lake. Here was opened a small school, into which was put as teacher a Mohawk boy, educated at Lebanon, named Moses. One of the missionaries, the Rev. C. J. Smith, sent to Mr. Wheelock the following report of the school:

I am every day diverted and pleased with a view of Moses and his school, as I can sit in my study and see him and all his scholars at any time, the school-house being noth-ing but an open barrack. And I am much pleased to see eight or ten and sometimes more scholars sitting under their bark table, some reading, some writing and others a study-ing, and all engaged to appearances with as much seriousness and attention as you will see in almost any worshipping assembly and Moses at the head of them with the gravity of fifty or three score. I expect this school will he much larger when it comes to Oghwaga, as there are but a few here, and many of these that are, on account of the present scarcity, are obliged to employ their children. The school at Oghwaga will doubtless be large enough for Joseph [3] and Moses both.
[3] Joseph Woolley, an "eminently pious" young Delaware Indian, who had been educated at Lebanon and duly licensed to preach. While making one of his trips into the Susqaehanna Valley, he fell ill at Cherry Valley and died.

  While the school remained at the lake, one of the missionaries returned to Lebanon to obtain a carpenter to build houses and make agricultural implements. Two of the Indians, Isaac Dakazenensere and Adam Wavonwanoren, in a letter dated at the lake in the summer of 1765, asked Mr. Wheelock to “assist us in setting up husbandry by sending a number of white people to live with us who, when they come, should build us mills, teach us husbandry, and furnish us with tools for husbandry.” But, they added, “we should have you understand, brothers, that we have no thoughts of selling our lands to any that come to live among us. For if we should sell a little land to-day, by and by they would want to buy a little more and so our land would go by inches till we should have none to live upon.” A letter dated in September of the same year found these Indians back in Oghwaga.

  Besides this school, others had been established among the Oneidas. Mr. Wheelock at Lebanon still had eighteen boys. Five Mohawks whom he had educated were teachers in various parts in Central New York. In the Mohawk and Oneida coun-tries one hundred and twenty-seven children were then attending schools, and another school was soon to be started with twenty.

  Best known among the missionaries on whom Mr. Wheelock had influence is Samuel Kirkland, forty years of whose life were devoted to the work. As Dr. Wheelock afterward became the founder of Dartmouth, so was it Kirkland who founded Hamilton College. Scarcely more than a dozen miles southeast of Lebanon lies Norwich, where Kirk-land, in 1741, was born. He was a student at Lebanon in his youth, and was there ordained for the ministry. During the first years of his life in the wilderness he had for housekeepers two Indians, once companions of Samson Occum, named David and Hannah Fowler, who had been educated at Lebanon. In the neighboring town of Windham, Kirkland finally married Dr. Wheelock’s niece.

  In the year 1764 Mr. Kirkland, who had already been to Oneida with Brant in 1761, and who had learned the Mohawk tongue from Brant, began his labors among the New York Indians. Joseph Woolley accompanied him. They passed down the Susquehanna in November to Oghwaga, where Joseph was established as a school-master. Mr. Kirkland then returned to the Mohawk Valley, whence he set out for the wilderness west of him, the scene of his life-long labor, without a penny in his pockets, and entirely dependent on the natives. Within a few months famine was threatened, and he was obliged to return to Oghwaga to escape starvation. He was forced to live for several days on “white oak acorns fried in bear’s grease.” At a later period he complained that he had lived “more like a dog than a Christian minister.” Many a time he would have begged on his knees for a bone such as he had often thrown to a dog. For ten months he had not slept &ee from pain m his bones, with a pain in his chest. “The devil,” he said, “ has tried for three years to starve me to death.”

  A son of Mr. Wheelock’s, named Ralph, who spent two years in a tour among the missionaries, came down to Oghwaga about 1768, and afterward passed considerable time with Mr. Kirkland among the Oneidas farther north. Ralph Wheelock does not appear to have possessed much knowledge of human nature. During this time his relations with Mr. Kirkland ceased to be cordial. Joseph Brant used to delight in telling a story of his school-days at Lebanon, in which Ralph did not figure as precisely the hero. With Brant in the school was an Indian boy named William Johnson, a natural son of Sir William. Ralph Wheelock one day told William to saddle a horse for him. William refused to do it on the ground that he “was not a menial, but a gentleman’s son.” "Do you know what a gentleman is.?" asked Ralph. "I do," was the answer. “A gentleman is a person who keeps race horses and drinks Madeira wine, and that is what neither you nor your father does – therefore saddle the horse yourself.” William was among those who were slain at the battle of Oriskany in 1777.