History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Excerts from "The History of Montgomery Classis, R. C. A., 1916", by W. N. P. Dailey
(These Historical Notes are added because they illumine the story of the Mohawk Valley, as well indicate the part played by the Dutch Church in those stirring days of Settlement and Revolution. So long as the Mohawk flows the Iroquois, the Palatines, and this Valley will never be forgotten.)
In Van Ortelius "Universal Geography" (published in 1570) is to be found a map of New France which comprised all that was then known of North America. The land was divided into nine provinces or districts, and what is now Northern New York, including the Valley of the Mohawk was called "Avacal." On the map of the New Netherlands (1616) the country lying on both sides of Lake Champlain was called Ir-o-coi-sia, the hereditary land of the Iroquois. This vast region as is well known is almost entirely surrounded by water, on the north the St. Lawrence, on the east the Hudson, on the south the Mohawk and on the west Oneida Lake and Oswego river. The Indian paddled his canoe around it excepting two short carrying places, one at Fort Edward to Wood Creek and the other at Fort Stanwix to the other Wood Creek that empties into Oneida Lake. When the white man first explored this region, early in the seventeenth century, Northern New York was a part of the territory and hunting grounds of the great Indian Confederacy, called by the French, the "Iroquois," by the English, the "Five Nations," and by themselves the "Ho-de-no-sau-nee," the "People of the Long House," or the "People of many fires." Another name the Iroquois applied to themselves was the "On-gue-hon-we," that is, "the men surpassing others"---"the real men." The rest of the Amerind were practically without knowledge or genius and possessed nothing of ability, or influence, or appeal, such as characterized the Indians of this League. In 1715 the Confederacy adopted into their league the Tuscaroras who had lost a thousand of their tribe thro wars in North and South Carolina, Thereafter they were known in England as "The League of the Six Nations."
The country of the Iroquois, called by them, "Ho-de-no-sau-nee-ga," extended from the Hudson to Lake Erie, from the St. Lawrence to the valleys of the Delaware, the Susquehanna and the Alleghany, the whole of Central and Northern, and large parts of Southern and Western New York. The territory of Northern New York belonged principally to the Mohawks and Oneidas, the Onondagas owning a narrow strip along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario. The New York league of the Amerind, as their name signified, were of a superior type of red men. They matched the European in diplomacy, while in knowledge of human nature and sagacity, they were superior. Man to man the Iroquois matched the white man. In a certain sense civilized, yet at heart barbarous, cruel, savage, rapacious, treacherous. The Indian had no peer in oration. The conviction of his free birth made him a proud man, and everywhere his ability was recognized. Here in the wilderness of what has become the Empire State the Iroquois built up the strongest confederacy that existed in America north of the Aztec monarchy in Mexico. It was an ideal condition of Aboriginal life that the white man found when he came over the seas to dwell in this western land. Up to the time of Sullivan's expedition (1779) which was the direct resultant of the Cherry Valley and Wyoming massacres in 1778, the Iroquois had ruled their vast unknown territory, undisputedly, for five centuries. They held the gateway that opened into the great west, and this made them arbiters between the great nations of the Old world who in that day were fighting for supremacy in the New.
Among all the Amerind of the New World there were none so politic and intelligent, none so fierce and brave, none with so many germs of heroic virtues mingled with their savage vices-as these people of the Long House. All other nations feared them. They overrun the country of the Hurons in 1650, in 1651 utterly destroyed the Neutral Nation, in 1652 exterminated the Eries, and in 1672 made the Andastes a slave nation. As far west as the Mississippi and as far south as the great gulf was their war-cry heard. The tribes along the Hudson and the nations in New England paid tribute to them. They were the Conquerors of the New World, the "Romans of the West," of whom Father Ragueneau wrote in 1650, "my pen has no ink black enough to describe the fury of the Iroquois." They built their castles (villages) on the banks of the streams, lived in long narrow houses and raised vegetables and tobacco. For more than two hundred miles along the narrow valley of the Mohawk stretched their "long house." The Mohawks (Ga-ne-a-ga-o-no, i.e. "People Possessors of Flint") guarded the eastern door of this "long house" while the Senecas (Nun-da-wa-o-no, i. e. "Great Hill People") kept watch at the west. Between these doors of their country dwelt the Oneidas (0-na-yote-ka-o-no, i. e. "Granite People"), the Ononodagas (0-nun-do-ga-o-no, i. e. "People on the Hills"). the Cayugas (Gwe-u-gweh-no-no, i. e. "People at the Mucky Land") and the Tuscaroras (Dus-ga-o-web-o-no, i.e. "Sbirt-Wearing People"). Of their system of government, their festivals and religious beliefs, and their social life it is not our purpose to speak.
Arent Van Corlaer (1630-1667), and Peter Schuyler afterwards were on the friendliest terms with these Aboriginies. Indeed the earliest history of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of America is replete with the splendid service record of the ministers in the old churches at Manhattan, Fort Orange, Schenectady. and elsewhere, who ministered unto the Indians, visited them in their forest homes, and welcomed them to the privileges of the parsonage and the worship of the church. After 1744 and for thirty years Sir William Johnson wielded a great influence over the Iroquois. In the paragraph devoted to the education and christianizing of the Indians there comes out in striking illustration the marked attitude of the Indians thro all the century and more before the Revolution between the Dutch settlers and the French, or even between the Dutch and the English settlers. The three castles of the Mohawks were all on the south side of the river, and in 1693, March 8, were captured by a French-Indian band of six hundred. As early as 1665 De Curcelles with 1,300 made an expedition against the Mohawks and burned five of their palisaded villages. In 1669 La Salle took possession of Lakes Eric and Ontario and built Fort Niagara (destroyed in 1689). In 1673 other Frenchmen erected Fort Frontenac at what is now Kingston, Ont. The French sought to win the Indian over, first by jesuitism, and later by force of arms. With the English it was different. They sought the aid of the Indian to help the crown put down the rebellion, to match the plodding settlers of the new world with the wonted savagery of the forest. All the while the colonists wrought with the Indians to remain neutral, well knowing what would happen both to the Indian and the colonist if they were brot into the conflict.
Just before the Revolution. on his visit to London, Brant entered into an agreement with Lord George Germaine who was Lord North's cabinet member who had charge of the war in America, whereby the Indians were to receive in lieu of their loyalty to the crown, and as an exchange for their savage service, immediate rewards together with future care, no matter which side won. It was also stipulated that for every prisoner taken they were to receive eight dollars, but the scalps of the prisoners would also be honored at this price. Is it any wonder that for generations it was not thot to be a crime in the valleys of the Mohawk or Schoharie to kill an Indian. Under the floor of the old church at German Flatts, whose erection was begun about 1740, the settlers buried their dead that they might save their bodies from mutilation by the savage. England broke every promise it made to the Indian, vacated the treaty made with them in 1683, and at the close of the war utterly forsook them. The Iroquois paid dearly for their allegiance to the Butlers and the Brants, to the Johnsons and the Tories, and to England. Capt. Dalton, Supt. Indian Affairs of the Government, himself a prisoner for several years among the Indians. under date of August 5, 1783, estimates the number of Indians engaged by the British during the Revolution as a few short of 13,000. The most of these were Uchipweys (3.000), Sues (1,300), Creeks (700), Choctaws (600), Senecas (600), Cherokees (500), Kackopoes (500), Delawares (500), Sokkie (450), Plankishaws (400), Chickasaws (400), Ononodagas (300), Shawanaws (300), Mohawks (300), Ottaways (300), Puvons (350), and 2,500 from the other eleven tribes.
Indian Border Wars-1662-1713
In 1614 a Dutch trading post was built at Fort Orange (Albany). The Five Nations held all the land north and west of this point to the St. Lawrence and the Lakes. They scourged and terrified their neighbors, and from 1615 to the close of the French war in 1763, they kept up an intermittent warfare with the Canadian French. At the same time they were at peace with the Dutch and English, but always distrusted by both because of the Indian's fickle nature. He depended on the white man for his powder, and rum and camp duffle. Hence arose the necessity for protecting the settlements that were always apprehensive of impending danger. Among the settlements thus fortified were Claas Gravens Hoek (Cranesville), Post Jackson (Amsterdam), Caughnawaga, Canajoharie, Palatine, and German Flatts. During the years of 1688 to 1760, when the French power ceased to create alarm in America, the New York Province was more than half the time in a state of war or of imminent danger. Never but once (1690) did any formidable body of the French ever cross the Mohawk, but skulking bodies of their Indian Allies made constant reprisals from the settlers. The expedition of M. De Courcelles against the Mohawks December 29, 1665, is referred to elsewhere. In 1669 another battle was fought on the western edge of the town. The River Indians (Mahikanders) attacked the stockade village of the Mohawks at Caughnawaga. After repulsing them the Mohawks followed and gave battle to their foe on Towereoune Hill, near Hoffmans. During the last quarter of the seventeenth century England and France were at peace with each other, but their provinces in America were at the same time at the point of war with each other. In December, 1688, King James, failing to make England a Papal nation, abdicated the throne and joined Louis, his royal ally, in France. In America Governor Andros was imprisoned and Leisler headed a popular anti-papal government. At Montreal in August, 1669, the Five Nations sacked the City and held it until October. A French attack on the Mohawk and Hudson settlements was looked for by all. The blow fell first upon Schenectady, February 9, 1690. In April following the French Indians attacked Canastagione (Niskayuna), killing some ten persons. In 1693 the French attacked and took the first three Mohawk castles and burned them. In 1695 there were many conflicts between the Five Nations- and the French. In July, 1696, the French attacked and burned the castle of the Oneidas. The Onondagas, too weak to fight the French, burned their own castles and retreated. Schenectady was greatly alarmed when a party of French Indians on September 17th, 1696, killed some settlers. The anticipated raid of the winter of 1696-1697 did not occur but in the spring of 1697 small bands of Indians harassed the settlements along the Mohawk. On September 20, 1697, terms of peace were signed (Peace of Ryswick) between England and France. But the Canadian French remained openly imimical to the Five Nations, and preserved their army intact, while the fortifications and soldiery in the valley were neglected. In 1709 Governor Lovelace received orders from England to prepare for an attack upon Canada and Nova Scotia. A Naval Squadron and five regiments were to be sent over, with whom 1,500 of the New England Militia, the Five Nations and the River Indians were to join forces. Like the 1691 attempt, the whole thing fell through. England sent her force to Portugal, During the English-French war (1701-1713) the neutral Five Nations became corrupted, and lost much of their former spirit of loyalty to the English, In 1771 another attempt was made to conquer Canada, which also ended in failure. These abortive attempts had the effect of increasing the marauding spirit of the Indians in the Mohawk Valley. From 1712 until the "Old French War" (1744) there was peace between England and France and comparative peace in the New York province, especially in the Mohawk Valley.
Missions Among the Mohawk Valley Indians
Rev. Johannes Megapolensis, the first Reformed Dutch pastor at Rensselaerswyck (Albany) from 1642 to 1649 was the first Protestant Missionary to the Indians in America, antedating by several years the work of John Eliot in New England. Even the Jesuit missionaries who had been in the Mohawk country, but for a short time before his coming, and whom Megapolensis and Van Curler rescued, were captives in the country. Megapolensis was born in Holland in 1601. He came of a Romanist family, but early in life espoused the cause of Protestantism. His coming to America in 1642 was purely a religious impulse on his part, tho the Patroon, Kilian Van Rensselaer, who was behind the movement financially, and who had established Rensselaerswyck in 1637, doubtless, saw a good deal of profit commercially. Megapolensis' ministry in America included forty years, half of which was spent in the New Amsterdam church. He was a man of splendid scholarship, energetic character, and devoted piety. He saw the infancy of the Dutch Province, watched its growth, and witnessed its surrender. Indeed he got into no little difficulty when he advised Stuyvesant to surrender to the English in 1664, when he saw that there was no defense they could make and to hold out inevitably meant a great loss of life-and of property. Megapolensis' father was a minister at Egmont on the sea, and, later at Koedyck and Pancras in North Holland. His youngest son, Samuel, also became a minister of the Dutch church, and with his father, went out to meet the fleet that were menacing the city, and was one of the commissioners to prepare the terms of surrender and saw to it that the rights of the Dutch church were well guarded, and that the separation of church and state was fully established. Megapolensis learned the heavy language of the Mohawks and wrote an interesting story of the Mohawks and their country which was published in Holland. The domine freely mingled with the Indians, received them into his church as members, lived with them in their tepees, and kept his own Dutch manse always open for their welcome. And this was true ofall who succeeded him in the old Dutch church at Albany, and of the ministers in the old Dutch church at Schenectady.
Megapolensis had left Albany in 1649 and spent twenty years later in New York but his work for the Indians at Albany was continued by his successors, Rev. Gideon Schaats, who spent forty years in the Dutch church at Fort Orange, frequently supplying Schenectady. During his pastorate in Fort Orange, Gov. Andros compelled him to receive Van Rensselaer, an Episcopalion, as a colleague, but the friction ensuing was ended after two years by the death of the latter. Following him Godfreidus Dellius gave sixteen years to definite Indian mission work. Gov. Leisler and Dellius were inimical to each other. Immediately on Leisler's illegal execution (1691) Gov. Slough ter sent Dellius as a missionary among the Indians, and, like the Dutch predecessors (and successors) he had great influence over them. Both Father Milet and Father Dablon, Jesuit missionaries, wrote Dellius, proferring thanks not only, but pecuniary gifts for his kindness toward them. When he went with Peter Schuyler to Canada in April, 1698, to confer with Frontenac, he took nineteen French prisoners with him. Some writers severely censure Dellius and others of his day because of the large areas of land they secured from the Indians, some of the tracts being fifty and sixty miles long and several miles wide. But the crown was behind these transactions, the purpose of which was to prevent Jesuit occupation. A super-abundance of letters, documents, etc., to be found in the State archives, and in the history of the church of the day show that Dellius was right and that the giddy headed governor (Bellomont) was all wrong.
Rev. John Lydius spent ten years (1700-1709) with the Mohawks and brot many of them to a high state of civilization. In later years his son, John Henry Lydius, a counsellor of Sir William Johnson, also for some years a governor at Fort Edward, gave the best years of his life (he died near London in 1791, aged ninety-eight) to the cause of the Indian. Another great worker among the Indians was Rev. Bernardus Freeman of the Dutch church at Schenectady, who was a missionary by Gov. Bellomont's appointment to the Iroquois, and who obtained a better understanding of the dialects of the Indians than even Dellius. His Book of Common Prayer translated into the Mohawk language for the use of the Indians in the vicinity of New York (printed in 1715) is one of the rarest books in the class of American linguistics. This was but one of many such publications that he put into the Mohawk tongue. The list of the men who befriended the Indians of the Mohawk valley up to the time of the Revolution would include every pastor, especially, in the Albany and Schenectady churches, at first the Dutch, and later, also, the Episcopal. References to the work of Ehle and Van Driesen will be found in the Stone Arabia church history.
Among the first Jesuit priests who were found among the Indians were Jogues, and Bressani, Poncet, and Goupel. This work goes back to 1644 when Arent Van Curler (cf Note) urged by Megapolensis, made a trip into the Mohawk company to rescue certain Jesuits who were about to be martyred. Van Curler failed to rescue these priests but he obtained the promise of the Indians that they would not be killed. Later Jogues escaped, was secreted for a while by the Dominie, then shipped to France. Returning to the country in 1646 he was killed by the Indians, his books and clothes being brot to Megapolensis at Albany. Father Le Moyne, after peace had been negotiated between the Mohawks and the French in 1653, began a work in central New York which resulted in the establishment of a string of Jesuit missions from Fort Orange to Lake Erie. But so soon as the gifts from Canada began to fail the Indian piety began to wane. Le Moyne (April, 1658) tried to bring Megapolensis back into the papal fold, to which effort the domine wrote in the Latin a treatise on Popery, which aside from its polemic nature is remarkable as an exhibition of the learning and ability of this famous old divine. Le Moyne urged him to weigh his arguments in the scales of the sanctuary, and the minister said he had, but could not fish out anything to establish the claims of Rome. To the list of popes sent by the Jesuit, the dominie asks why Joanna was left out, who was well attested by papal historians, and calls him to account for daring to put Christ and Peter at the head as if they stood for some of the doctrines of the church of Rome. In reference to the councils Megapolensis thinks Le Moyne must be laboring under some hallucination if he thinks God's promises are limited to the papal church, and are not meant for the Holy Catholic church. He refers to Rome as the Babylonian harlot that had become drunk with the blood of the martrys. And, further, Le Moyne could not be ignorant of the fact that popes and councils had frequently contradicted each other. Le Moyne named Judas as the arch heretic and let Calvin bring up the rear. Megapolensis, however, showed how Judas rejected Christ's doctrines and became his enemy, while Calvin vindicated the Christ, His Word, and His spiritual body and brot back the doctrine of Christ's merits. Megapolensis declares that Le Moyne would have made out a better list of heretics if he had omitted some he had named and inserted various orders of monks, which he names, and some of the orders of nuns. Finally he takes issue with Le Moyne baptising Indians on their ability to make the sign of the cross and sometimes even when they were half dead-a profanation, for no such ceremony could cleanse the soul. The Jesuit missionaries ceased to be devotees of Rome and became agents of the King of France. The work of the Jesuits continued for more than forty years when it was suddenly halted by Gov. Dongan, himself a Romanist (1684), in the interests of British trade. Gov. Dongan asked the Indians not to receive the French Jesuit priests, promising them Protestant missionaries instead. Both the Crown and Gov. Dongan decided it would be best to keep the priests of France out of the country, and in 1700 an act was passed forbidding the Jesuits or any Popish priests to work with the Indians. This spirit was in keeping with the original laws of Georgia, forbidding Rominists to colonize, and with that of New England prescribing the death penalty if caught there, and with that of Virgina, which refused Lord Baltimore and his colonists to land there owing to their being Romanists.
Six years later, Kryn, "the great Mohawk," who had conquered the Mohegans, having become a Romanist, led the band of "praying Indians" to attack Schenectady in 1690, inciting them to the highest pitch of fury just before the massacre, Louis XIV of France and his morganatic wife, Madame de Maintenon (the widow of the crippled poet, Scarron) were told, later, by Monseignat of the extermination of the heretics at Schenectady, and the story went the rounds of the salons of Versailles and Paris and London. It was this same Louis XIV that drove the Palatines from their homes at the beginning of the eighteenth century. It was the French Jesuit priests, who "converted" certain Indians of the Mohawk valley, and took them away into Canada, who twice descended upon Schenectady to massacre the Dutch Protestant settlers there. The descendants of these Indians, the St. Francis tribe, are living to this day at Caughnawaga, formerly called La Prarie, and now called Sault Saint Louis. The church of England began a work among the Indians along about 1700, and in the following years we find the names of Revs. Smith, Thomas Barclay, William Andrews (first rector at St. George's in Schenectady), who kept the work going until 1719. After six years' work among the Mohawks and Oneidas, begun in 1712, Rev. Andrews writes his English society that the Indians were heathen and incapable of being anything else. But Megapolensis, and Eliot, and Kirkland had other opinions of the Red men. Queene Anne was influenced to aid the Indian cause thro the visit (1710) to the court by Gen. Peter Schuyler, formerly mayor at Albany, who had with him four Indian chiefs, among these the husband of Joseph Brant's mother.
Rev. Mr. Barclay was at Fort Hunter 1708-1718 and organized work at Schenectady in 1735 tho the St. George's church was not built and completed until 1769 ("Smith's Journal," 1769). In 1731 Rev. John Miller visited the Mohawks, while in 1733 it was reported that there were but few unbaptised among them. Rev. John Ogilvie (rector at St. Peter's church, Albany in 1748) came in 1750, his work being especially among the Mohawks, Oneidas, and Tuscaroras. He served up to the time of the Revolution, Rev. John Stuart came to the Fort Hunter Indian mission in 1770, following Rev. Henry Munro. .He also served Johnstown occasionally. Fort Hunter was an important military post in early times, having been erected by Capt. John Scott in 1710, The post was surrounded by walls twelve feet high and enclosed about a hundred and fifty square feet. Rev. Thoroughgood Moor was the missionary during 1704-1707. Rev. *Thomas Barclay was stationed here during 1708-1712, and, later, his son, Rev. Henry Barclay, was stationed here 1735-1746. He then went to Trinity church in New York where he died in 1764. A chapel built within the walls, endowed by Queen Anne, was called "Queen Anne's Chapel." During the Revolution, the fort having become dilapidated, the chapel was fortified with heavy palisades and block houses. The chapel was taken down in 1820 to make room for the Erie canal. The stone rectory, also erected within the walls is still standing. In 1860 it was sold by the Trinity Episcopal church of New York city for $1,500. The Indians had given Rev. Barclay three hundred acres of land for the support of the missionary, who, in return, sold it to the English society that was supporting the work here. When Rev. Mr. Stuart of the mission, in keeping with the spirit of all the clergy of the Province, refused to give up his allegiance to the King, Gen. Herkimer promised Brant at the Unadilla interview that he would be given safe conduct into Canada. After the Revolution Stuart preached for some years at Grand River, Can. On the going of Stuart in 1775 the Indian work was given up. Aided by Brant, Rev. Stuart wrote the Gospel of Mark and a part of Acts, as well as a short history of the Bible, in the Mohawk tongue. While the title of the rectory and glebe was with Trinity Episcopal church in New York city, yet, when these properties were sold ($3,000) both the Johnstown Episcopal church, which Sir William Johnson caused to be built in 1764, and the St. Ann's Episcopal church of Amsterdam incorporated as the Episcopal Church of Florida in 1830 and reincorporated as St. Ann's Episcopal Church of Port Jackson in 1835, were made beneficiaries. The bell of the old mission went to the Johnstown academy. The Moravians began mission work among the Onondagas in 1740, Rev. David Zeisberger being at the head of the movement. He was the author of many works or translations in the Indian tongue. The mission, however, was of short duration. Other names in the work were Rev. Ashley, Crosby, Peter Avery, Henry Avery 11 before Kirkland began his work.
The first permanent Protestant mission among the Oneidas was at Oneida Castle, begun by Rev. Samuel Kirkland in 1766, whose final efforts (he became both blind and crippled in his latter years) ensued in what afterwards became Hamilton College which was projected and founded by Kirkland for the special benefit of the Oneida Indians. In 1764 Kirkland, guided by a young Mohawk, came to William Johnson, who sent him forward on January 17, 1765, escorted by two friendly Senecas, on a journey of two hundred miles, thro a wilderness to a people whose language he did not know. He spent eighteen months with the Senecas, and then, in 1766, he entered upon his life work among the Oneidas. In 1780 he married Jerusha Bingham, niece of Rev. Dr. Wheelock, who founded Dartmouth. Both gave literally their lives to these Oneidas. On July 1, 1794, Baron Steuben, with Stephen Van Rensselear, Col. North, Maj. Williams, and Chief Skenandoah-all aided Kirkland, the patriot missionary, to lay the corner stone of Hamilton Academy (named for Alexander' Hamilton) which, later, grew into Hamilton College. Both the Kirklands, and Skenandoah, are buried in Hamilton College cemetery. On Skenandoah's monument (1706-1816) is his own written epitaph,-"I am an aged hemlock; the winds of a hundred winters have whistled through my branches; I am dead at the top. The generation to which I belonged have run away, and left me." Other names deserving mention are Rev. Elihu Spencer (1748) who later became President of Dickinson College; Rev. Mr. Hawley (1753) and Rev. Mrs. Ashley. Modern work was done among the Oneidas by Rev. Daniel Barnes (1829), and Rev. Daniel Fancher (1841).
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.