The Early History of Ontario County, New York
Kindly transcribed by Deborah Spencer
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From the History of Ontario County, NY
Published 1893 Pg 50 - 58
and English Rivalry--The Iroquois destroy Montreal--The Treaty at
Ryswick--Queen Anne's War--The Five Nations Become the Six Nations--Joncaire's
Trading-post---Events Preceding the French and English War--Attitude of
the Iroquois--Influence of Sir William Johnson--The Senecas Remain
Neutral, but Favor the French--Final Overthrow of French Power in
incursion of DENONVILLE's army, and his allied Huron and Algonquin
Indians, into the country of the Senecas, the strongest nation of the
Iroquois, so alarmed the latter that they applied to Governor DONGAN, of
the colony of New York, for protection.
It was promised them, of course, with advice that the Iroquois
should not make peace with the French.
However, DENONVILLE called a meeting of the chiefs of the Five
Nations at Montreal to arrange a treaty, and they decided to send a
representative; but before the meeting was consummated, and on account
of alleged treachery on the part of DENONVILLE, the Iroquois
became deeply angered against the French and burned for revenge.
The result was that in July, 1689, Montreal was sacked, plundered
and burned; men, women and children massacred or carried into captivity.
In October following the Iroquois made a similar incursion at the
lower end of the island, which was likewise devastated.
period the fortunes of France in North America were brought very low.
The recent Iroquois invasions compelled the abandonment of Forts
Frontenac and Niagara, and proved almost sufficient to overthrow the
French dominion in Canada.
Many of their former Indian allies, disgusted with DE LA BARRE's
successive failures, deserted the French standard and sought an alliance
with the English.
However, a welcome change was at hand for the French.
The divided counsels of the English colonies, growing out of the
revolution in the mother country, resulting in the accession of the
Prince of Orange to the throne, gave a new aspect to affairs and was
speedily followed by another open war with France.
In 1689 Count DE FRONTENAC, the same energetic old peer who had
encouraged LA SALLE in his brilliant discoveries, and whose name was for
a while borne by Lake Ontario, was sent out as governor of New France.
This vigorous but cruel leader partially retrieved the desperate
condition of the French colony.
He, too, invaded the Iroquois, but accomplished no more than
war continued with varying fortunes until 1697, the Five Nations being
all that time the friends of the English, and a greater part of the time
engaged in active hostility against the French.
Their authority over the whole Genesee country and far up the
south shore of Lake Erie, was unbroken, save when a detachment of French
troops was actually marching along the border.
treaty of Ryswick in 1697, while the ownership of other lands was
definitely conceded to France and England respectively, that of the
Genesee country was left wholly unsettled.
The English claimed sovereignty over all the lands of the Five
Nations; the French with equal energy asserted the authority of KING
LOUIS over the same region as a part of New France, while the Iroquois
themselves, whenever they heard of the controversy, repudiated alike the
pretensions of VONNONDIO and CORLEAR, as they denominated the governors
respectively of Canada and New York.
had the echoes of battle died away after the peace of Ryswick, when, in
1702, the rival nations became involved in the long conflict known as
"Queen Anne's War."
By this time, however, the Iroquois had grown wise and prudently
maintained a neutrality, commanding the respect of both French and
English, the former being wary of again provoking the powerful
confederates, while the Colonial government of New York was very willing
that the Five Nations should remain neutral, as they thus furnished a
shield against French attacks for the whole frontier of the colony.
through all the western country, the French extended their influence.
Detroit was founded in 1701.
Other posts were established far and wide.
Notwithstanding their alliance with the Hurons and other foes of
the Iroquois, and notwithstanding the enmity aroused by the invasions of
CHAMPLAIN, DENONVILLE and Frontenac, such was the subtle skill of the
French that they rapidly acquired a strong influence among the western
tribes of the confederacy, especially the Senecas.
Even the powerful socio-political system of the Hodenosaunee
weakened under the influence of European intrigue, and while the eastern
Iroquois, though preserving their neutrality, were friendly to the
English, the Senecas, and perhaps the Cayugas, were almost ready to take
up arms for the French.
an important event occurred in the history of the Iroquois confederacy,
the Five Nations then becoming the Six Nations.
The Tuscaroras, a powerful tribe of North Carolina, had become
involved in a war with the whites, growing out of a dispute about land.
The colonists being aided by several other Indian tribes, the
Tuscaroras were defeated, many of them killed, and a number of other
captured and sold as slaves.
The greater part of the remainder fled northward to the Iroquois,
who immediately adopted them as one of their tribes of the confederacy,
and assigned them a location near the Oneidas.
The readiness of the haughty warriors of the Iroquois to extend
the shelter of the Long House over a band of fleeing exiles was due to
the fact that the latter had been the allies of the Five Nations against
other southern Indians; which would also account for the eagerness of
the latter to join in the overthrow of the Tuscaroras.
after this Chabert JONCAIRE, a Frenchman, who had been captured in youth
by the Senecas, and who had been adopted into their tribe and had
married a Seneca wife, but who had been released at the treaty of peace,
was employed by the French authorities to promote peace among the
his claims as an adopted child of the nation, he was allowed by the
Seneca chiefs to build a cabin on the site of Lewiston, which soon
became a center of French influence.
All the efforts of the English were impotent either to dislodge
him or to obtain a similar privilege for any of their own people.
"JONCAIRE is a child of the nation," was the sole reply
vouchsafed to every complaint.
Though Fort Niagara was for the time abandoned, and no regular
fort built at Lewiston, yet JONCAIRE's trading post embraced a
considerable group of cabins, and at least a part of the time a
detachment of French soldiers was stationed there.
they began rebuilding Fort Niagara on the site where DENONVILLE had
erected his fortress.
They did so without opposition, though it seems strange that they
could so easily have allayed the jealousy of the Six Nations.
It may be presumed, however, that the very fact of the French
being such poor colonizers worked to their advantage in establishing a
certain kind of influence among the Indians.
Few of the Gallic adventurers being desirous of engaging in
agriculture, they made very little effort to obtain land, while the
English were constantly arousing the jealousy of the natives by
obtaining enormous grants from some of the chiefs, often doubtless by
very dubious methods.
Moreover, the French always possessed a peculiar facility for
assimilating with savage and half-civilized races, thus gaining an
influence over them.
Whatever the cause, the power of the French constantly increased
among the Senecas.
Fort Niagara was their stronghold, and the Genesee country was
for more than thirty years to some extent under their control.
The influence of JONCAIRE was maintained and increased by his
sons all through the second quarter of the eighteenth century.
In the war
between England and France, begun in 1744 and closed in 1748, the Six
Nations generally maintained their neutrality, though the Mohawks gave
some aid to the English.
During the eight years of nominal peace which succeeded the
treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, both the French and the English made every
effort to extend their dominion beyond their frontier settlements, the
former with greater success.
Detroit and other posts they added Presque Isle (now Erie, Pa.),
Venango, and finally Fort Duquesne on the site of Pittsburg, designing
to establish a line of forts from the lake to the Ohio, and thence to
Frequent detachments of troops passed through along this line.
Gaily dressed French officers sped backward and forward, attended
by the fierce warriors of their allied tribes, and not infrequently by
the Senecas. Dark-gowned
Jesuits hastened to and fro, everywhere receiving the respect of the red
men, and using all their art to magnify the power of both France and the
Church of Rome.
possible that the whole Iroquois confederacy would have been induced to
become active partisans of the French, had it not been for the influence
of one man, the English superintendent of Indian affairs in America, he
then being known as Colonel, afterward as General, and still later as
Sir William JOHNSON.
Colonel JOHNSON then dwelt at Mount Johnson, afterward known as
Fort Johnson, on the banks of the Mohawk River, and in the very heart of
the Mohawk Indian territory.
Later on, in 1763, Sir William occupied Johnson Hall, a magnificent
residence in the village of Johnstown, in this State.
The hall is still standing, as also is his former dwelling at
Mount Johnson, both being well preserved and retaining much of their
JOHNSON was of Irish birth and parentage, and came to America in 1738 as
the agent of his uncle, Sir Peter WARREN, the latter having been the
owner of an extensive tract of land in the Mohawk valley.
JOHNSON located in the valley just below the present city of
Amsterdam, where he acted as agent for his uncle in the development and
sale of the lands, and at the same time opened a general store for trade
with the Indians and the few whites then living in the region.
By honesty and straightforward dealing among them, JOHNSON
acquired a great influence over the Mohawks, and his reputation soon
spread throughout the whole Six Nations, and he gained an almost
complete mastery over them.
During the later French war, JOHNSON was elevated through various
ranks to the generalship, but preferred to be in direct command of his
faithful Iroquois rather than of the continental British soldiery.
For distinguished services as soldier and as a diplomat, he was
rewarded by the crown with a baronetcy and made sole superintendent of
Indian affairs in North America.
preceding the last great struggle in America between England and France,
JOHNSON, in fulfillment of promises made to the Iroquois, built strong
fortifications in the territory of each of the nations, wherever the
same was most desirable and would afford the greatest protection to the
One of these defences was built under his direction on the site
of the Seneca village, Kanadesaga, near the corporate limits of Geneva,
and which has been more fully described in the preceding chapter.
witnessed the successes of the last French and English war; in fact he
was an important factor in accomplishing the grand results of that
struggle, gained distinction for himself therein, but viewed with alarm
and apprehension the gradual separation of the American colonies from
the mother country.
He did not live to see the final overthrow of the British power
in America, having died in 1774, after which his office of Indian
superintendent, but never his grand influence, descended to his son, Sir
John JOHNSON, and to his nephew, Col. Guy JOHNSON, the latter being
deputy-superintendent in Canada.
Soon after the outbreak of the Revolution, Sir John and Col. Guy
JOHNSON fled from Johnstown and "Guy Park" and took up their
residence in Canada, being followed there by nearly all of the Mohawks,
many of the Onondagas and Cayugas, some of the Senecas, and a few of the
Oneidas and Tuscaroras.
from this digression to the general narrative, we find in 1756, after
two years of open hostilities in America, war was again declared between
England and France, being their last great struggle for supremacy in the
New World. The
ferment in the then wilderness of Western New York grew more earnest,
and more frequently were seen the gaily dressed French officers and
soldiers of KING LOUIS, speeding from Montreal, Quebec and Frontenac to
Niagara, Venango, Duquesne and other French posts in the extreme west,
all passing along the western border of old Ontario county; staying
perchance to hold brief counsel with the Seneca sachems and chiefs, then
hurrying forward to strengthen the line of posts on which so much
this war the Mohawks took the field in favor of the English under
JOHNSON, but the Senecas were friendly to the French and were only
restrained from taking up arms for them by unwillingness to fight
against their Iroquois brethren farther east.
the French were everywhere victorious.
BRADDOCK, almost at the gates of Fort Duquesne, was slain, and
his army cut in pieces by a force very small in comparison with his own.
MONTCALM captured the little British post at Oswego, and the
French lines up the lakes and across to the Ohio were stronger than
in 1758 the British government entered more earnestly into the contest.
Fort Duquesne was captured by the English and Provincial army,
Fort Frontenac was seized by Col. BRADSTREET, and other victories
prepared the way for still greater successes in 1759.
The cordon was broken, but Fort Niagara still held out for
France, and still the western Senecas strongly declared their friendship
for that power.
year, 1759, WOLF assailed Quebec, the strongest of all the French
strongholds, and almost at the same time General PRIDEAUX, with two
thousand British and Provincials, accompanied by Sir William JOHNSON
with one thousand of his faithful Iroquois, sailed up Lake Ontario and
laid siege to Fort Niagara.
This post was defended by only six hundred men and its capture
was certain unless relief could be obtained.
But its commander was not idle, and away through the forest sped
his lithe redskin messengers to summon the allies of France.
D'AUBREY responded with his most zealous endeavors, and at once
set forth to the relief of Niagara.
The siege was scarcely begun when General PRIDEAUX was slain,
upon which JOHNSON assumed command and continued until the 24th of July,
when a large body of French and Indians attempted to raise siege.
A sharp conflict followed and the effort was defeated, whereupon
the garrison surrendered the next day.
latter part of July, 1759, while the English army was still camped
around the walls of Quebec, while WOLFE and MONTCALM were approaching
that common grave to which the path of glory was so soon to lead them, a
stirring scene took place in the western part of old Ontario county.
The largest European force which had yet been seen in the region
at any one time were marching to the relief of distressed Niagara.
On the one side were soldiers, trained to obey every command of
their leader, while on the other were only wild savages who knew no
other law than their own fierce will.
preserved but a slight record of this last struggle of the French for
dominion in this region of the State, but it has rescued from oblivion
the name of D'AUBREY, the commander, and Delignery, his second: of
Marin, the leader of the Indians, and of Captains DE VILLIERS, REPERTINI,
MARTINI, and BASONE.
The Senecas, snuffing the battle from their homes in the region,
were roaming restlessly about, uncertain how to act, more friendly to
the French than the English, and yet unwilling to engage in conflict
with their brethren of the Six Nations.
JOHNSON's victory over the French at Niagara, there came the life-bought
victory of WOLFE at Quebec, which gave the latter to the triumphant
the French clung to their colonies with desperate but failing grasp, and
it was not until September, 1760, that the governor-general of Canada
surrendered Montreal, and with it Detroit, Venango, and all the other
posts within his jurisdiction.
This surrender was ratified by the treaty of peace between
England and France in February, 1763, which ceded Canada to the former
already been stated that a stockade fortification and block-houses had
been erected by Sir William JOHNSON in 1756, at Kanadesaga, for the
Senecas in the war then pending.
At this time the Senecas seemed to have been divided into two
branches or sections, those in the western part of the State under the
leadership of FARMER's BROTHER, CORNPLANTER and other influential
branch of the tribe were in fact the "Door-keepers."
Those gathered at Kanadesaga, or the eastern section, became the
capital of the nation and were under the domination of the great Turtle
clan, with Tagechsadon as the head chief, who was succeeded upon his
death by SAYENQUERAGHTA, or Gui-yah-gwaah-doh, as his name was in the
Seneca dialect, with various different or dialectical variations, the
signification of the name being, "disappearing smoke," or the
"the smoke has disappeared."
The interpretation thus given, conveys the idea of a glimpse of a
flying runner bearing a smoking brand, hurrying and soon lost in the
obscurity of the wilderness--one moment the banner of smoke is seen and
then lost. It
is an exclamation put into the mouth of the beholder.
The word is idiomatic, but wonderfully picturesque, and is very
applicable to an official position of smoke-bearer or fire-kindler.
He was more familiarly known by the white people as Old Smoke or
Old King, and also as the King of Kanadesaga.
official position held by Old Smoke gave him great prominence, his
greater popularity and influence resulted from his individual personal
was a valiant warrior; his bravery and sagacity in war won for him the
trust and confidence of his people.
He was a wise and judicious counsellor, and this secured for him
the respect and esteem of the Indians.
RED JACKET testified of him that he was "a man of great
His superior talents, together with his good and sterling
qualities, gained for him the regard and veneration of the Indians, and
secured for him a greater prominence and a more commanding influence
than that possessed by any other of the chiefs or sachems of his time.
He was, indeed, one of the most distinguished men of the
Iroquois, the most popular and prominent of the Senecas, always a firm
friend where he pledged fidelity, possessing a warm and generous heart;
he had the respect of enemies and the love of friends; was brave,
sagacious and wise.
While he was opposed to the Indians taking any part in the War of
the Revolution, yet it having been decided against him, he yielded
obedience to the decision and became one of the most untiresome and
active and ferocious on the war path, and under his leadership more
daring and savage incursions on our frontier settlements were made than
under any other leader.
of Sir William JOHNSON in erecting the fortification at Kanadesaga was
in a great measure accomplished.
The eastern Senecas either became neutral, or else aided their
brethren of the league in their assistance to the English, and it is now
an acknowledged fact that in the evenly balanced and stubborn contest
between France and England for the supremacy of the country the
friendship and aid thus rendered finally turned the scale in England's
favor, and hence the result is that we to-day are an English instead of
a French speaking people.
Created by Dianne Thomas
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