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SCHENECTADY DIGITAL HISTORY ARCHIVE

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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 24: Beginning of King William's War — 1688-1690.

[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 370-379 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. Some images have been relocated to the area in the text where they are discussed. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Accession of King William to the throne of England — Beginning of his war in America, Leisler's rebellion, 1689 — The Albany Convention — Disorder and disunion in Albany and Schenectady — January, 1690, French and Indian raiders start for Albany. (370)

On November 5, 1688, William III, Stadtholder of the Netherlands, landed in England, at the invitation of its people and freed the land from the feeble and sinister rule of James II. Thus passed the last of the Stuarts and the Protestant religion became assured of its safety and growth not only in Great Britain, but in English colonies in America. This bloodless revolution meant the fourth change of rulers experienced by the people of New Netherland or New York. Again the people of Hollander blood in New York were under Dutch rule as well as English, for William continued as the Stadtholder of the Netherlands as well as King of England until his death in 1702. This Dutch king proved to be one of England's greatest monarchs and wisely continued the English system of rule in the Province of New York.

While the three former changes of government or conquests of New York had been placidly received the accession of William was the cause of a violent political disturbance, which came close to a civil war and stirred up political passions which embroiled the people of the province for many years. Even to this day an unprejudiced view of this period seems difficult to obtain, the historians being as violently for or against Leisler as were the people of his time. Jacob Leisler was a German by birth, a liquor merchant, and the senior captain of one of the five companies of militia in New York City. The political contest resolved itself into a conflict of the democratic and aristocratic parties of New York State, extending to all parts of the Colony, including Albany and Schenectady.

In the spring of 1689 news of the revolution which deposed James II and which placed William and Mary on the English throne reached New York by way of Virginia. The tidings that the Dutch Stadtholder reigned in England were enthusiastically welcomed in Albany and Schenectady, where the population was almost entirely Holland Dutch. On May 18, 1689, Captain Bull of Connecticut brought the news in detail to Albany and later to Schenectady, where the people were "much rejoiced with the news."

On the 18th of April, 1689, the people of Boston formed a Committee of Safety and rebelled against Sir Edmund Andres, the royal governor or viceroy of New England. This was a true popular revolution, of which Brodhead, the historian, says: "A more unjustifiable rebellion of colonists who professed allegiance to their mother country never happened." Andres was imprisoned and Massachusetts seceded from the royal government of New England. For nearly two years, Massachusetts under Bradstreet, and New York under Leisler, practically acted as independent states, with but a surface showing of allegiance to England. New York's popular government of this period degenerated into a turbulent military dictatorship. Both New York and Massachusetts, however, had the experience of running their own government regardless of the ethics of the situation, and the two revolutions formed steps toward eventual national independence.

On the 3rd of June, 1689, Captain Jacob Leisler inaugurated "Leisler's Rebellion" by seizing Fort James in New York City, at the head of the town's militia companies or train bands as they were then called.

Albany and Ulster counties stood out against Leisler for the next nine months and conducted their own affairs as though they were separate and independent colonies. June 27, 1689, Leisler called a convention which resolved itself into a Committee of Safety and gave Leisler a commission as commander-in-chief of the Province of New York. Thus began one of the most violent factional quarrels of the many which have caused uproar and turmoil in New York, both as a province and as a state.

On May 24, the Albany magistrates renewed the covenant chain with the Mohawks. On learning that the Dutch prince was now the king of England, the Mohawks wanted the magistrates to replace the English with Dutch soldiers. Addressing the Albany officials the orator of the Mohawks spoke as follows:

"We hear a Dutch prince reigns now in England; why do you suffer the English soldiers to remain in the Fort? Put all the English out of the town. When the Dutch held this country long ago, we lay in their houses; but the English have always made us lie without doors."

In June, the other tribes of the Five Nations — Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas — came to the council at Albany and renewed the "old covenant", which was first made many years ago with Jacob Eelkens who in 1614, "came with a ship into their river. Then we first became Brethren and continued so till last fall, that Sir Edmund Andres came and made a new chain, by calling us Children. But let us stick to the old chain, which has continued from the first time it was made by which we became Brethren, and have ever since always behaved as such. Virginia, Maryland and New England have been taken into this silver chain, with which our friendship is locked fast. We are now come to make the chain clear and bright."

Thus, while the English Colonies were frequently disorganized, jealous and lacking in the spirit of unity, their covenant chain with the Five Nations kept them somewhat in a chairs of union. This "silver chain," binding the Iroquois union to the Colonial disunion, had its effect in creating the final Colonial union which made the Revolution and the United States possible. The Mohawks hold an important place in history because they formed the anchor which always held the Iroquois in alliance with the English, when French diplomacy made some of the Five Nations ready to swerve toward the French. The Iroquois went directly from the Albany council to their castles to prepare for their great foray against Canada.

A convention of the civil and military officers of Albany County was held at Albany on August 1st, 1689. It was "Resolved that all public affairs for the preservation of their Majesties' interest in this city be managed by the Mayor, Aldermen, Justices of the Peace, Commission Officers and Assistants of this city and county, until orders shall come from their most Sacred Majesties." It was this body which ruled the affairs of Albany and Schenectady and Albany County for more than seven months.

Now came the mighty Iroquois blow, which nearly destroyed New France. On July 26, 1689, "in the gray of a summer morning, after a tempest of hail and rains, fifteen hundred Iroquois warriors who had quietly traversed Lake St. Francis, suddenly landed from their canoes at Lachine, the upper end of Montreal Island. Most of the inhabitants were asleep; the men were killed at once, the women and children with greater deliberation and cruelty. In an hour two hundred French colonists perished and all the houses in Lachine were burned. Montreal, only three leagues off, in consternation awaited an attack. French parties were sent out and defeated or captured. At length the Iroquois retired, after losing only thirteen warriors, and ravaging nearly all the island of Montreal and killing a thousand French Canadians." (Brodhead). The Iroquois ordered Denonville to destroy and evacuate Fort Frontenac (Kingston, Ontario) which insolent order the French Governor abjectly obeyed. The Iroquois had humbled and terrified all Canada by this hideous onslaught.

This Iroquois invasion of Canada filled the people of Albany and Schenectady and of Albany County, with fear of vengeance by the French. Because this section was the most exposed to French attack of any in the Colonies, many of the settlers now began to move away. The magistrates of Albany issued a proclamation, in August, 1689, forbidding all persons to depart from the country and condemning the "bad example of such Timorous and Cowardly People."

The Mohawks, after their part in the great Canadian raid, now wished to strengthen the position of their upper castle by removing it to a point a mile farther west. The exact site of this upper castle at this period is not precisely known, but it is supposed to have been in the vicinity of Wagner's Hollow, in the town of Palatine, Montgomery County. The Albany Convention on September 2nd, sent six men and three teams to aid the Mohawks of the Wolf Clan to remove the heavier logs of the stockade from the old to the new site of Teonnontogen or Tienondogue, as it is variously spelled. The other Mohawk castles were strengthened at this time.

On September 4th delegates from Connecticut and Plymouth, Massachusetts, met in council with the Iroquois chiefs and the Albany Convention at Albany, when the New Englanders tried to secure the assistance of the Iroquois against the Eastern Indians. The Iroquois, through their Mohawk orator Tahajadoris, refused to war on their then friends — the New England Indians. In a private council with the Albany Convention, the next day, the Mohawks and Iroquois assured the Albany officials that "If the French shall attempt anything this way, all the Five Nations will come to your assistance; for our Brethren and we are but one, and we will live and die together. We have desired a hundred men of our Brethren of Boston to assist us here, because this place is most exposed." Then all the Iroquois joined in singing and crying out "Courage! courage!"

The Schenectady people were so torn over the political situation involved in Leisler's rebellion, that they were in no united condition to withstand any attack. The burghers were about evenly divided in their adherence or opposition to this military dictator, although the Leislerians finally gained the upper hand. The people seemed more interested in violent arguments over the so-called parties of democracy and aristocracy than they were over their own safety. These chaotic conditions induced the Albany Convention to adopt a resolution of which the following is part, dated September 17, 1689:

"Understanding by ye Commission officers of Schennectady that there is no settlement there how or what way they are to Behave themselfs if ye enemy should come, since they can not agree amongst themselves in yt particular.

"Resolved that Mr. Dirk Wesseles and Capt. Johannes Wendel Justices of the Peace goe thither & Conveen ye Company together and consult what measures they are to take upon occasion if any enemy should come, to ye end there may be unity in such extremityes & ye inhabitants there are ordered to submitt to what ye sd gentn and ye head officers of there Toune shall Conclude upon, upon there oun Peril.

"Resolved, since we have Recd Certain Information of Some Praying Canida Indians lately taken by our Maquase that ye French Design to send our [out?] there Indians and french to kill and Destroy there Majts Subjects of this County and that Dirk Teunise Esqr. * * * goe to ye County of Ulster for ye assistance of 25 or 30 men to be Ready upon occasion if any attaque or Incursion should be made on ye frontiers of this County."

The inhabitants of Schenectady and other places in Albany County had complained of the sale of liquor to the Indians and their drunkenness at this dangerous period, saying "that there is no living if ye Indians be not kept from Drinke." The Convention therefore again prohibited the sale of liquor to the Indians, as it had previously done in May. This prohibition probably had no more effect than the other prohibitions of Colonial times, although it provided a penalty of two months imprisonment "without Baile" and a fine of five pounds.

An addendum to this proclamation says that "The messenger Johannes Bleeker who was sent Express to N: Yorke with a letter to Capt. Leysler * * * being Returned * * * (Reports that Leisler would have nothing) 'to doe with ye Civill Power, he was a Souldier and would write to a Souldier.'"

On October 29, 1689, Leisler sent a company of 51 men, under Jacob Milborne to strengthen the garrison at Albany. As usual, the troops came up the Hudson River in sloops; they landed at Albany on November 9th. The Albany Convention had made Mayor Schuyler commander of the fort, which Milborne now demanded be turned over to him. Schuyler refused and Milborne prepared to storm it. The Mohawks were firm friends of "Brother Quider" (Brother Peter), as they called Schuyler, and a war party had come down to watch events. The Mohawks massed on a hill near the fort and prepared to fire on Milborne as soon as he should attack it. This move averted civil war. Milborne left his men in command of Joachim Staats, an Albany militia lieutenant, and then went down the river to Esopus (Kingston). He created considerable turmoil and unrest in Albany and added to the dangers of invasion by leaving the people of the great county of Albany in a disorganized and quarrelsome condition. On his sail down the Hudson, Milborne attempted to take command of Esopus but the people of Ulster County would have nothing to do with him.

In November, a war party of 150 Iroquois again visited the island of Montreal, killing a number of Canadians, taking a small fort and completing the devastation of the island begun in the summer.

New France was on the brink of ruin and destruction when Louis de Buade, Count de Frontenac arrived at Quebec, in October, 1689. His coming to Canada, doubtless saved its settlers from extermination. Although Frontenac was in his seventieth year, his strength, courage and spirit were wonderful. He made the tiny population of New France and its hardy rangers and red warriors a terror to the Iroquois and the comparatively great population of the English Colonies throughout the remaining years of King William's war and at its close, died in Quebec in 1698, in his eightieth year. Frontenac and Champlain are the great figures of New France and the "Old Man of Canada" is a striking example of the fact that a people are frequently made great by a great leader who inspires in his followers an effort to live up to his greatness.

The Albany Convention could do nothing with Leisler and sent to the Governor of Connecticut for aid. On November 25, 1689, Capt. Jonathan Bull at the head of 87 men, reached Albany from Connecticut. On November 29, Lieut. Enos Talmage of this company, marched to Schenectady with 24 men. The New England soldiers were to be paid by the people of Albany and Schenectady and were to be under the direction of the Albany Convention and Joachim Staats, the Albany deputy of Leisler — a seemingly impossible condition, considering that the two elements were bitter enemies.

In November, Leisler had promised the people of Schenectady equal trading rights with those of Albany and the right to bolt flour, as well as political preference over Albany. On the 12th of January, 1690, deputies arrived from Leisler with the commissions for the five new magistrates appointed by him for the town of Schenectady — Douw Aukes, Ryer Jacobse Schermerhorn, David Christoffelse, Myndert Wemp and Johannes Pootman. Captain Glen, and the lieutenant and ensign of his Schenectady militia company and Van Velsen, all members of the Albany Convention from Schenectady township, refused to acknowledge the authority of Leisler or his commissioners or the magistrates so appointed for Schenectady. Feeling ran so strongly in Schenectady that Glen was forbidden to enter the town. Military cooperation with the little garrison of Connecticut soldiers became impossible. It was one of the many evidences cropping up everywhere in American history that the American people's love of factional quarrels and of party is stronger than their sense of unity, which alone can ever save them from destruction.

Frontenac sent back to Onondaga three of the Iroquois chiefs, who had been shipped by Denonville to the galleys of France. They brought to Onondaga a message from Frontenac asking the chiefs of the Five Nations to meet him in council at Cataracuoy. The Iroquois Confederacy thereupon called a great council. Tahajadoris, the Mohawk leader, came to Albany for advice and Arnout Cornelise Viele, the interpreter of Schenectady, and Robert Sanders of Albany, accompanied the Mohawk sachem to Onondaga, where the council opened on January 22nd, 1690. The Albany mayor, Schuyler's, influence at this momentous council fire was most marked as well as that of Viele, the Schenectady interpreter and that of Tahajadoris, the Mohawk sachem. From this time forward, for a period of forty years, Major Schuyler's strong hold on the Iroquois (and especially the Mohawks) kept them allies of the Province of New York against the French. Tahajadoris gave the council the message from Schuyler and the Albany Convention and Viele urged the council not to hearken to the French. The Onondaga chief Sadekanactie then said, "Brethren, we must stick to our Brother Quider and look upon Onnontio as our enemy for he is a cheat." New England sent a large model of its "sacred cod" as a token of its allegiance to the covenant. The council ended with Sadekanactie addressing the council and Viele as follows: "Brethren, our fire burns at Albany; we will not send Dekanesora to Cataracouy. Brother Kinshon, we hear you design to send soldiers to the eastward against the Indians there; but we advise you, now so many are united against the French to fall immediately on them. Strike at the root — when the trunk shall be cut down the branches fall of course. Corlaer and Kinshon, courage! courage! In the spring to Quebec; take that place and you will have your feet on the necks of the French and all their friends in America."

Onnontio was the name given by the Iroquois to the governor of Canada and the term also somewhat represented New France in the minds of the Five Nations. Corlaer was the Iroquois word for the governor of New York, coming from Arent Van Curler, the founder of Schenectady, who negotiated the treaty of 1645 with the Iroquois, and for whose name the Five Nations ever retained a great veneration. The term also represented generally the Province of New York, and, especially its officials at Albany. "Brother Quider" was the great American of Holland descent, Major (later Colonel) Peter Schuyler, mayor of Albany, who succeeded Van Curler in the esteem of the Iroquois and especially the Mohawks and who, therefore, had a great influence on the history of the Province of New York. "Quider" was as near as the Iroquois could come to the pronunciation of Peter. They said of "Brother Quider" that he never told a lie and that he never spoke without due consideration — unusual traits in the average white man with whom they came in contact. The name "Kinshon" represented New England, its governor or governors and its people. These early councils and extracts from their speeches are given here in some detail, as this time was a most critical period of the history of the United States, the State of New York and the Mohawk Valley. This matter also gives an inkling of the procedure of these councils which is omitted from later mention of them. They have a direct bearing on our history as the Mohawks were the Elder Brothers of the Iroquois Confederation and a great power in its councils and, from their geographical position, acted as intermediaries and messengers between the Colonial authorities and the Iroquois in these historically vital events. Also we see that Viele and a number of other Schenectady people acted as interpreters, not only in local matters, but in nationally important councils such as the one noted here.

While the Mohawks, Onondagas and Senecas took the stand at this council for war with Frontenac, the French Jesuit Father Milet kept the Oneidas and Cayugas neutral. The Oneidas, however, were deadly enemies of the Hurons who were allies of the French.

It seems incredible that people at any time should so conduct themselves in the face of a deadly peril, but such is the case. With over 300 militiamen in Albany County, with the 87 Connecticut soldiers and the Mohawk warriors near at hand, the Albany Convention and the county military leaders seem to have done practically nothing to combat the known coming invasion by the French and Indians of Canada. While the Albany authorities were "standing pat" and waiting for the raiders, and "consulting" as to how to get some Indian scouts, a party of Mohawks came down from Schenectady and addressed the Convention as follows:

"Brethren — We have been sent by ye 40 Maquase Souldiers now at Schenechtady to acquaint yu that they are come to goe out as Skouts toward ye Lake and Otter Creek to watch ye Designe of ye Deceiver ye govr of Canida to see if he will come and Invade our Country again & if we Discern any Progresse of his we have 4 Indians yt wee send forth Post to give yu & our people advertisemt."

The Mohawks' scouts failed of their purpose because they had two passes to cover and did not post scouts on the Schenectady trail until after the enemy had passed.

On February 5th, several delegates from the Albany Convention came to Schenectady in an endeavor to get the people to unite for defense in face of the common danger. Their efforts were unsuccessful.

The following story is a tradition of the Schenectady massacre which has been denied and yet it has all the elements of probability. As previously mentioned, the Leisler party was in the majority in Schenectady and it had forbidden Captain Johannes Glen to enter the town, threatening to burn him at the stake, if he should disobey the order. As Glen was the commander of the local militia company, this only added to the impossibility of united military action and to the danger which beset the town. Glen was a member of the Albany Convention and a strong anti-Leislerite, which accounted for the animosity of the Schenectadians against him. The Captain was very friendly with the Indians and, on the afternoon of the massacre, he got word that a hostile party was approaching. As he, personally, could not warn the people of the little village across the Mohawk, he at once sent a Mohawk squaw to carry the message to Dominie Thesschenmaecker, as the likeliest person to receive and communicate it to the townspeople. The Indian woman crossed the river on the ice and hurried through the snow to the minister's house. The dominie's housekeeper was entertaining an acquaintance at tea, when the squaw hastily entered. The true Dutch vrouw soundly scolded the Indian woman for tracking snow upon her spotless floor, whereupon the squaw silently turned away with her message untold. Schenectady paid with the lives of sixty of her people for what the Mohawk squaw considered an insulting reception.

Schenectady, the victim of inaction, disunion, party squabbles and the conceit of supposed safety — with open gates and its Yankee garrison sound asleep — placidly awaited its impending doom.

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