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History of Wyoming
Charles Miner
1845

 

History of Wyoming, by Charles Miner, in a series of letters, this son William Penn Miner, Esq

Letter VIII

The Susquehanna Company's purchase, and their Indian deed, has now to run the gauntlet through a long array of intelligent, well-disciplined and eager controversialists.

My best efforts have been directed to simplify and arrange. Thus a general outline of the Indian history has been given by itself, down to 1770, embracing events in which the whites were concerned, so far only as seemed indispensable.

Then we have set forth a clear general view of the Pennsylvania and Connecticut claims.

Thirdly, we have taken up, in detail, the Connecticut claim. First, by charter, and considered the objections thereto. Keeping separate the consideration of the title by purchase of the Indians, we now proceed to that interesting topic.

In our opening, we have stated that the Susquehanna Company claimed to have purchased of 18 chief sachems, representing the Six Nations, in open treaty, at the Colonial Congress, held at Albany, in July 1753, the disputed territory on the Susquehanna.

The purchase awakened the greatest alarm in the proprietary government, and steps were immediately taken to counteract the effects of a measure so pernicious, if not fatal, to their interests. Some fact of unquestionable authenticity, are, at this time, wholly inexplicable. The Susquehanna Company advanced to their object, not in secret, but openly of avowing their purpose. Indeed, there being 800 original proprietors, each of whom must be taxed to raise the requisite funds, all notions of secrecy, even, if ever thought politic, must have deemed impossible. The letter of Gov. Hamilton, sent by Armstrong, to Gov. Wolcott, previously quoted, shows that the government of Pennsylvania was fully apprised of the purpose of the Connecticut people. Why then was not the treaty of Albany prevented? If done in opposition to the wishes of the Six Nations, their assembled and full council, why did not those Nations, on the remonstrance of the respectable Pennsylvania delegation, disavow the deed, and inflict condign punishment on those Indians, who had presumed to speak and act in the name of the whole Confederacy, and to dispose of 120 miles, by 70, of the territory, embracing nearly 5 millions of acres?

In truth the delegates from Pennsylvania were neither faithless nor idle. The utmost efforts were made to prevent the sale to the Susquehanna Company, and to purchase the lands for the proprietary government. In the report, made the sixth of August, after their return to Pennsylvania, is the following sentence:-"the commissioners of Pennsylvania, having held a private treaty with the Six Nations, whilst at Albany, for the purchase of lands," etc. The report was read, and ordered to be entered on the minutes. Efforts, it appears, were made July 4th and 5th, to induce the Chiefs to sell them the Wyoming lands, to which they steadily refused to accede.

There were two Chiefs of the Mohawks by the Dutch name of Hendrick; one of whom signed the Susquehanna deed; the other, Peter Hendrick, an eloquent sachem, and warrior of great note, being in the proprietary interest, made the following reply to the urgent application of the commissioners;-"we have heard, since we came here that our brother Onas, (Sir William Penn having received that named on first Landing, it meeting, in the Indian language, a quill or pen,) and our brothers of New England, have had some dispute about the lands of Susquehanna, a dispute of the same kind is that of the governor of Canada and Assaragoah; but we desire you would not differ with one another about it, for neither shall have it. We will not part with it to either of you-we were reserve it for our Western Indians to live on."

From this declaration, placed on record, opposing advocates draw different conclusions. On behalf of the Proprietaries, it is claimed as evidence that the head Chiefs of the Six Nations refused to sell, and could not, therefore, have concurred in Lydius’s purchase.

On the Connecticut side, it is said:-"This was not in open council, but in secret treaty. Peter Hendrick had been won over to Pennsylvania's interest, but went alone. It does not appear that any other chief concurred with him. The declaration that they would keep Wyoming for their Western Indians, a matter to improbable to be worth a moments consideration, showing that Hendrick meant nothing, or more probably did not know what he meant.

But at those secret conferences, the commissioners made a purchase of lands, between the Blue Mountains, and the forks of the Susquehanna, (at Fort Augusta, Sunbury,) of course below the track sold to the Connecticut people.

"Behold," says Avery, "this purchase made in the dark, is unquestioned, and unquestionable-good beyond doubt-fair beyond all controversy! While the openly obtain deed of the Susquehanna Company, is a nullity, forsooth!"

Sir William Johnson, principal agent of the King, for Indian affairs, let the is whole weight of his influence to render nugatory the Susquehanna Company's deed. A letter from the governor of Pennsylvania, dated November 15th, 1754, requested him "to induce the Indians, if possible, to deny the regularity of the contract," and to this end, by all means, "to win over, effectually, Peter Hendrick to his interest, and prevail on him to visit Philadelphia." Gov. Morris wrote, himself, to Hendrick. The letter is too important to be omitted.

"Some matters of great moment to this government, as well as to the Indians of the Six Nations, have lately fallen out, which makes it necessary for me to have a private conference with you, before I can proceed to give public notice to them of my arrival here; and as you were so good as to promise to the commissioners, when at Albany, that you would, at the request of government, come at anytime to Philadelphia and give your sentiments on anything that might be proposed for the public service, I now earnestly desire that you would favor us with the visit, in order to consult on some affairs, in which the safety of the Indians, and his Majesty's colonies are very much concern, that cannot be done by message, but must first be communicated to you in personal conference. If you should incline to take with you one or two of your best friends, it will be more agreeable. Mr. Daniel Claus is well acquainted with the nearest and best roads to this city, and he has my directions to accompany you, furnish the necessaries, and make everything as agreeable to you as possible."

"Behold!" Says the Connecticut advocate; this "a single chief is invited to Philadelphia-Heaven and earth are to moved! The aid of Sir William Johnson is invoked! Hendrick is requested to bring one or two of his best friends; not more!-Daniel Clause will furnish the necessaries! He will make everything as agreeable as possible!"

Sir William Johnson in his reply to the governor, says:-"I have been honored with yours of the 15th ultimo, by Mr. Daniel Clause, whom I immediately sent to call Hendrick to my house. Upon his arrival, I delivered and interpreted your Honor’s letter, or instructions to him, and urged his waiting on you immediately, which when he agreed to, I spoke to him concerning the affair as far as I judged necessary; and I flatter myself that will have a good effect, he having faithfully promised me to exert himself, and use his utmost endeavors for the interest of the proprietaries against the Connecticut attempt. After my expatiating sometime on the injustice of their proceedings, more especially so, after what is passed at Albany, last June, Hendrick then, with some warmth, disapproved of them, as well as the weakness of those of his brethren who were seduced by Lydius, and promised to do all he could to make them revoke or retract what they had so shamefully done."

"Mark!" Says the Connecticut advocates, "the means he used, and the influence is brought to bear, to destroy the effect of a miscalled deed, clandestinely obtained of a few drunken Indians!"

Measures being adopted in Connecticut, to commence a settlement at Wyoming, Mr. John Armstrong was again sent us an agent to that colony to gather all the information in his power. He was also the bearer of a letter from Gov. Morris to the Governor of Connecticut, in which the former again refers to the deed from the Six Nations to William Penn, dated October 11, 1736, and to the engagement then made by the Indians to sell all the lands in Pennsylvania to William Penn, and to no one else; after which he proceeds to say:-

"You will give me leave further to observe to you, that the Six Nations at the late Congress at Albany, in open council mentioned an application then made to them by agents from Connecticut for the purchase of some of the Susquehanna lands, and that they had absolutely refused to give any ear to such proposal, telling the several governments then present by their commissioners, that they were determined the lands at a place called Wyomink on the Susquehanna, should not be settled, but reserved for a place of retreat." He further observes: "notwithstanding which, I am informed that Mr. John Lydius, who was known to be a Roman Catholic, and in the French interest, has been since employed by some people of your province, to purchase from the Indians some lands within this government: that he has in a clandestine manner, by every unfair means, prevailed on some few Indians to whom he secretly applied, to sign a deed for a considerable part of the lands of this province, including those at Wyomink. And as we stand engaged to the Six Nations by treaty, neither to settle the lands at Wyoming, or suffer them to be settled, this government thought it proper (among other things) to inform the Indians that those people were not authorized or even countenanced by this government, and their attempts were disavowed by the government of Connecticut, and were to be looked upon as a lawless set of people, for whose conduct no government is accountable."

On the return of Mr. Armstrong, he communicated the information obtained, and among other things curious, and worthy to be known, which we have found nowhere else so fully stated-that "there were formerly 500 subscribers to the Susquehanna Company at 7 dollars each, to which are now added 300 at 9 dollars each." The aggregate would be $6200. The consideration in the Indian deed was stated to be 2000 pounds, New York currency-or $5000; which, from this exhibition of the funds of the company, seems probable-leaving $1200 for contingent expenses.

Letters from Conrad Weiser, a celebrated Indian interpreter, much employed by the proprietaries, written to the governor, dated the 16th, and 27th October, 1754, and entered by order of council on the records, are to important to be passed over without notice. The following are extracts:-

"As to the Connecticut affair, I am clear of opinion, that, by order of the governor, you should write to Hendrick, putting him in mind of his promise he made to the commissioners of this province in Albany, when he said he would come down to us upon any occasion, to advise with the governor, as in the presence of the Most High. That the governor wants to see him in this critical time about matters of moment. Daniel Clause might come with him. He knows the way by land. If Hendrick refuses to come, he might be suspected to have a hand in it; and we must then act by Shickalamy and Jonathan, and as secret as possible, otherwise Lydius, and that wicked priest at Canojoharry, will defeat our designs. I would advise in the meantime, to have belts of wampum provided, and two or three large belts all-black. You'll want a couple to send to the south before long, and one must be made use of to demolish Lydius’s proceedings. Mr. Clause must be ordered to keep everything relating to this affair as a secret, and to search very diligently whether Henry had any hand in signing the deed to the Connecticut people. If he had not, we shall proceed without doubt. He must have liberty to bring one or more Indians with him. If all wont do, and that Hendrick will not come, we must send to Onondaga next spring, etc.

According to the invitation so pressingly given, Hendrick and 10 other Indians came to Philadelphia.

"In council, Jan. 15, 1755. The council advised the governor, that after thanking Hendrick and the Indians accompanying him, for this undertaking, etc., to mention the several points, viz: to state sundry matters relative to the grant of Pennsylvania, their deed from Gov. Dungan, their deed or promise of the right of preemption, 1736, etc., and lastly, of the deed to the Connecticut people from the Six Nations, that it is incumbent on them to represent this manner to the government of Connecticut, and to insist that the deed be delivered up by Lydius, by order of that government, as a fraud and imposition."

"Extract of Hendrick's speech, Jan. 15, 1755. We have considered what you said to us about the deceitful deed which John Lydius inveigled some of us to sign. We agree with you that the deed should be destroyed. We agree with you that it is a false preceding. We will give you are assistance; but you know that we cannot destroy the deed ourselves. That would be another mistake. It would be to do as bad as they have done. It must be the act of the council of the Six Nations. We will think of the proper means. We advise the governor to send for two deputies from each, or of each nation, to meet here, or at Albany, to kindle a council fire, to find out a way to oblige Connecticut to discountenance the deed," etc.

"In council, Jan. 17, 1755. The governor, Mr. Peters, and Mr. Weiser, had many conferences with the Indians, in which it was considered, what might be the proper methods for the Indians to take, in order to invalidate the deed of Lydius, etc. Among other things, it was proposed, that at the council of Onondaga, this affair should be mentioned, and Lydius’s deed declared to be no deed of the Six Nations; and to prevent this, and other like attempts, that it should be proposed by the council of Onondaga, to convey to the proprietaries, by a formal deed, the lands lying within the province of Pennsylvania, etc. The Indians consented to this, and engaged to confer with Col. Johnson first, and to settle everything with him, of which he should acquaint the governor; and when the matter should be brought to effect, that Mr. Weiser and Mr. Peters might come to Col. Johnson," etc.

Extract of a letter from Gov. Morris to Col. Johnson, dated Philadelphia, Jan. 22, 1755.

"Sir,-I am favored with yours by Hendrick, and heartily thank you for the part you have been so good as to take in the Connecticut affair. Hendrick has been very explicit on the subject; and I have entertained him and his companions in the best manner I could. You give me leave to refer you to a letter you will receive with this, from Mr. Peters, for the particulars that have passed here, and for the plan that we have agreed to prosecute, to put an end to this affair; in which I hope for the continuance of your friendly offices. You'll observe, we propose that the Six nation should be invited to send deputies to your house early in the spring, with full powers to treat and agree upon this manner, relative to the purchase of Lydius, and to prevent the like for the future, when I shall send commissioners to meet them, and it will give me particular pleasure, if you will permit me to name you in the commission."

Extract of a letter from Richard Peters to Col. Johnson, dated January 23, 1755.

"He (speaking of Hendrick) told me you had made him a hearty friend to this province, and would join with and support him in any measures, which the government of Pennsylvania should advise, to get rid of this Connecticut deed.-I heartily thank you for this singular kindness. In consideration of this hearty concurrence of yours and the Mohawk, his honor, the governor, gave Hendrick a belt, with a string of wampum tied to it. By the belt he was asked to undertake, along with you, the breaking of the Connecticut deed. And for that purpose, and because there is no other way in the world to get rid of it, he was further desired to consider with you, what will be the best method to procure the meeting of the council at your house, as soon as possible, to consist of two or three deputies from each nation, and no more, in order to consult together of the most effectual matter how to do it. And by the string you are desired to convene such a council.

"We further intimated to Hendrick, and now inform you, that to get rid of this deed, we cannot devise any other methods that will be effectual, unless the Six Nations in council, will execute a conveyance to the proprietaries, of all the lands lying within their grant, on such conditions, and in such manner, as shall be agreed on, at your house. And to show the Indians, and yourself their just intentions, they propose to name you one of the commissioners, with Mr. Penn and myself.

"Hendrick seems to approve much of this proposal; and I believe the more you think of the manner, the more you will be persuaded that no other way can do the thing as effectually. If it meets with your approbation, which I hope it will do, the governor begs the favor of you to summon a council, at your house, and leaves it to you to fix the time, and to take such measures with the Indians previous to the meeting, as you and Hendrick shall think proper. It is thought that more than three deputies need not come from anyone nation; but that there should be three from each."

The purpose so sedulously pursued was not finally accomplished until Nov. 5th, 1768, when a treaty held at Fort Stanwix, the proprietaries obtained a deed from the Six Nations, of the Susquehanna lands, being the same previously claimed to have been conveyed to the Susquehanna Company.

Pennsylvania was no longer in pursuit. She had carried off the prize. Victory perched on her standard: And forthwith all concerned in the Connecticut claimed, opened in full cry to run down the Indian deed of Fort Stanwix. "That the wicked priest of Canojoharry," as he is termed by Mr. Weiser, the Rev. Jacob Johnson, appears first upon the tapis, and makes the following affidavit:-"that sometime in the month of Nov. 1768, he was present at a treaty, held at Fort Stanwix, with the Indians of the Six Nations, and that Sir William Johnson, superintendent of the Six Nations, John Penn, governor of Pennsylvania, Gov. Franklin, of New Jersey, Col. Elizur or Fitch, of Windham, and the Chiefs of the Six Nations, Seguanathua, a Tuscarora chief, and chief speaker, and many other persons were present-that the business of the treaty was to settle a division line between the claims of the king and the Indians, and to distribute a donation sent by the King, as Sir William Johnson informed the deponent, by letter and express-that this deponent was at that time a missionary to the Indians of the Six Nations, and resided at the Oneida Upper Castle-that Gov. John Penn, at this time, by the agency of Sir William Johnson, endeavored to obtain from the Indians a deed of the lands on the Susquehanna-that several private consultations were had with the said Chiefs, from which this deponent was excluded, and that there was no agent present at said treaty, to represent the state of Connecticut or the Susquehanna Company. That this deponent, during the treaty, was informed by several of the Indians present, that Gov. Penn wanted the Indians present to give him a deed of the lands on the Susquehanna, and they replied that they had given the New England white people a deed of the same lands, and had received their pay for the same, and could not sell the same again. But they said they had agreed to give Gov. Penn, a deed of the same land, because Sir William Johnson had told them that their former conveyance to the New England white people was unlawful-that they had no right to purchase that land, which was within Penn's charter, and Penn alone had the right of purchasing the same-that near the end of the treaty the deponent well recollects have heard Seguanathua, chief speaker, in a public speech declare the same reasons as above said-for selling the land a second time, which was publicly interpreted by Sir William Johnson."

Col. Elizur Fitch, of Windham, was present in the Penn interest. I am not able to learn whether this gentleman was the governor of Connecticut, of that name, who, in 1761, had bounded that colony, west, by New York, or a relative. If either, the fact may throw a ray of light on that transaction.

The Rev. Mr. Kirkland, an Indian missionary, also deposeth-"that he had attended the treaty with the Five Nations, held at Fort Stanwix, in the year 1768, for several of the last days of the treaty, and that on his arrival on the ground, the Rev. Jacob Johnson, then a missionary to the Oneida’s told the deponent that he had been forbidden by Sir William Johnson to sit in council with the Indians, and that Col. Butler, and several others had given him the same information-that several Indians chiefs told the deponent, at that time, but they had sold the Susquehanna land to the Pennsylvanians, and that they were finally induced to do it, by the council and advice of the commissioners, urging that the Connecticut people had done wrong in coming over the line of Pennsylvania, to buy land of the Indians-that it was, however, not effected without great difficulty. At the close of the business, the Indians were called upon to execute the writings, which were not publicly read in the English language, but one of the Mohawk Chiefs gave a brief statement of their general purport in the Indian language; and the deponent further saith, that one of the Christian Indians, of the Oneida nation, by name, Theondintha, or Thomas, some moments after said treaty, voluntarily and off his own mere motion, told the deponent that some undue influence had been made use of, at said treaty, respecting said land; that he, himself, namely, Thomas, had been the subject of this undue influence, and nine or 10 more Indian Chiefs were in the same predicament, and that he felt much trouble in his mind about it."

One of the fairest and ablest writers in favor of the Susquehanna Company, observes:-conscious that the purchase at Fort Stanwix was radically defective, the result to make one more effort, to procure from the Indians a public disavowal of the Connecticut deed, and an acknowledgment of their own. In 1775 a treaty was held at Albany, with those Indians, under the authority of Congress, by messengers Woolcott, Schuyler, Edwards, Francis and Dow, to explain to them the causes of the American war. Col. Francis was a Pennsylvanian, a claimant of large tracts of the contested land, a leader of the opposition to the Connecticut settlers, and a principal agent of Penn. Notwithstanding, the commissioners, by their interpreter, had told the Indians that nothing was to be said or done at the treaty, concerning lands, yet Col. Francis, towards the close of it, sent for Tegohagwanda and two other Onondaga Chiefs, to his lodgings at Mr. Bloodgood’s, together with Thomas Fulmer, the interpreter employed by the commissioners. Mr. Fuller in his affidavit, swears, that after some preliminary conversation about the Susquehanna lands, "Col. Francis said, did you not sell those lands to the Pennsylvanian, and receive a beaver skin full of dollars for them? To this one of the Chiefs made answer, and said, no, we sold them to the Westernlonians (that is Bostonians, the name in which the New England provinces were called among the Five Nations) and we received a beaver skin full of dollars from them. There was not any person present at this private meeting but Col. Francis, this deponent, and the three Indian Chiefs before named. At the close of this meeting Col. Francis adjoined it upon the Indians, and the deponent likewise, not to tell anyone that he had said this to them about the Susquehanna lands," The said Fulmer, in another place, swears further, concerning this interview, "that they smoked and discoursed together for some time, until the Indians appeared to this deponent to be considerably in liquor, when Col. Francis told them Gov. Penn had requested him to ask the Onondagas, who had first bought the lands called Wywamick, the said Gov. Penn, or the New England people? That the said Indian Chief thereupon answered, that he had heard, from his uncle, that Gov. Penn had bought the lands on the east side of the Susquehanna, and that he did not know whether the New England people had bought any lands or not. That the said Col. Francis further ask the said Indian Chief, if he did not know how many dollars Gov. Penn had paid at Fort Stanwix, for said lands? The said Indian answered that he had not seen all the money, that he had heard that he paid $10,000.-that the said Col. Francis thereupon ask the said Indian whether he would on the following day, in public conference, when the other business was done, declare the same in public, but not mention his name? Which the said Indian promise to do.-thereupon Col. Francis told him, if he did that, he and Gov. Penn would make a present to the Onondaga Indians. Which said discourse, at the request of Col. Francis, was interpreted between them by this deponent. That when the Indians left his lodgings, he presented them with a bottle of rum. And this deponent further saith, that on the following day, in the public conference, the said Onondaga Chief made mention of the sale of these lands; but this deponent had understood from the other Indians that it was without their knowledge."

"The Rev. Mr. Kirkland, in his affidavit, respecting the speech or declaration of the Indian Chief, deposeth, that it received with many marks of this appropriation and some degree of resentment, expressed by many Indians, of the best character in said nation, saying it was entirely foreign to the business of the treaty, and known before hand only to a few individuals, and several Indians soon told the deponent, that upon their complaining to their Chief speaker Tegohagwanda, and his Chief Black Cap, of impropriety of such a piece of conduct, at that time, they replied that the Indians were not to blame-that it originated wholly from the white people, and they were importuned and pressed hard to make the speech. A few hours after Thomas Fulmer, interpreter at said treaty, told the deponent that Col. Francis sent for him to his lodgings, the evening before, and had a private conference with the Onondaga Chiefs upon the subject, and prevailed upon them to make the speech."

Here closes a documentary evidence respecting those two adverse and conflicting Indian deeds, too important to be omitted; and which cannot fail from the interesting facts disclose, amply to repay a careful perusal.

It addition, it is proper to say-that on the part of Pennsylvania, it is strenuously contended that the right of preemption before mentioned, granted by the Six Nations in 1736, of all lands within their charter, precluded them from selling, and making a valid conveyance to the Susquehanna Company. So strongly was this preemption right relied on, that in the exhibition of claim at Trenton, it was alone mentioned, of her Indian grounds of claim-the subsequent deed of 1768 not being adverted to.

To this it is replied-that the Indians then, and long after, supposed the claim of Mr. Penn meant to extend above the Blue Mountains in a direction towards Wyoming.

On the part of Pennsylvania was contended that Gov. Dugan of New York, had obtained a preemption right, to those lands, and sold the same to the Pennsylvanian proprietaries.

That the descriptive part of the Susquehanna deed was written on an erasure.

To this it was answered: the alteration took place before signing, at the desire of the Indians; that it lessons, instead of increasing the boundaries. That the deed was left by Col. Dyer in the hands of an agent in England, from whom it was, as is alleged, unfairly obtained by the opposite party, who hade it in possession in Philadelphia in 1782, and could, and would have produced it at the Trenton trial, if it had been vitiated by interlineation; and that as they did not, the presumptions were all in favor of its fairness.

Surprise having been expressed, that the Six Nations should so readily have made (or, if you please, permitted to be made in their name,) a deed for the contested territory, against remonstrance of the Pennsylvania commissioners; and the still more powerful influence over urgent solicitations to sell to them; we beg leave to advert to a suggestion previously made, and viz: that the Pennsylvanian proprietaries were not favorites of the Six Nations, for the reason that they had declined to recognize the Delawares as their subjects, but had persisted in regarding them as an independent people, and as such making treaties, and purchasing lands of them. Pride, jealousy, revenge, the strongest motives that sway the savage breasts, would lead them to thwart the wishes, and counteract the policy of the proprietaries, and throw themselves into the embrace of the subtle Yankees.

The Six Nations being admitted by both parties to have been the original owners of the land, the public or a jury of the country will decide, which of the two deeds was valid, and conveyed the soil, that Albany of July 11, 1754, to the Susquehanna Company, or that of November 5, 1768, at Fort Stanwix, to the Pennsylvanian proprietaries. The reader will remember that, as a historian, meaning to be as impartial as early convictions, and long cherished prejudice will admit, I only claim, that there were such reasonable grounds to believe the Connecticut title just, as that very honest men might have given their assent thereto, and be justified in taking every legal means to assert and defend it, until the question could be legally adjudicated.

The great trial at Trenton will be fully considered in do chronological order; when unimpeachable facts will be presented, leading to irresistible conclusions, which will create astonishment throughout both Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

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