MOHAWK - Discovering the Valley of the Crystals Copyright 2004
Chapter Five - Iroquois
Then There Was Peace . . . and Then There Was War
The Iroquois were in a constant state of war, so when they stopped fighting they “declared peace.” Europeans, on the other hand, considered peace the norm, so when they started fighting they “declared war.”
After the Tracy raid there was a quarter century of peace between the Mohawks and New France. During that time the English took power from the Dutch; the Jesuits established missions throughout Iroquois-dom and were subsequently driven out by the English; the Mohicans attacked the Mohawks, the French burned Schenectady, and under a succession of governors, failed to subjugate the Iroquois Federation in a series of generally failed raids on villages in what is now central and western New York State. Peace ended in the Mohawk Valley soon after the Iroquois, including Mohawks, attacked New France in 1689.
Count Frontenac Was Not a Fun Fellow
When Count Louis de Baude Frontenac was appointed Governor of New France in 1672, at the age of 50, he was a Marshal of the King’s Camps and Armies, having served in several European campaigns. As Governor he extended French influence well beyond the Saint Lawrence Valley and the Great Lakes . . . and antagonized almost every class of society. Civil officials, traders and religious leaders complained so vehemently that Frontenac was ordered back to France in 1682.
His successors failed so miserably that, the now 67-year old, Frontenac was recalled to New France in 1689 with orders to contain the English and punish the Iroquois. Within a year he launched attacks on the English in New England and New York, destroying Schenectady in the process. He followed up with attacks on the Oneidas, Onondagas . . . and Mohawks.
After a protracted illness, Frontenac died in 1698 in Quebec City. He was revered by France and French Canadians as the savior of New France. Statues were erected and buildings named in his honor.
Count de Frontenac was ordered to
contain the English and punish the Iroquois.
Mohawks Surprised in the Dead of Winter
After a grueling march on snowshoes, through the wilderness and over frozen Lake Champlain and Lake George, Frontenac’s army attacked the Mohawk Castles in January 1693.
Bochart de Champigny was with the French army. He reported the following.
“THE IROQUOIS not liking to wage war except secretly, ordinarily select the season when the trees are full of leaves, to approach the French settlements on the frontier of the Colony. When they see the leaves fall and the ground covered with snow, they retire home and do not appear any more, or at least very rarely, during the winter.
“Count de Frontenac being desirous to take advantage of the season of their retreat in order to strike a heavy blow on them, dispatched from Montreal in the month of January a force of six hundred and twenty-five men, consisting of one hundred soldiers, two hundred Indians, and the remainder the most active young men of the country, under the command of Sieurs de Mantet, Courtemanche and de Lanoue, Canadian officers, accompanied by Sieur de L’Invilliers and twenty officers, with orders to proceed against and destroy, and afterwards to commit as great ravages as possible around Orange. This party provided with everything necessary for long and fatiguing a march on snow shoes through the woods and over frozen rivers, dragging their provisions after them, were guided so correctly by our Indians that they arrived near the three Mohawk villages, within 15 leagues of Orange without being discovered. At nightfall, on arriving, our Indians in company with some Frenchmen went to reconnoiter two of the Villages, situate a quarter of a league the one from the other. On approaching these, they heard the enemy sing which obliged them to wait until the Indians should retire in order to surprise them whilst sleeping. The main body, in the meantime, advanced in two divisions, so as to be able to make a simultaneous attack on both Villages. Our scouts did not delay reporting that the enemy made no more noise. The Villages, which were surrounded by strong palisades and closed with gates, were approached; our Indians scaled the inclosure in order to open the gates. A crowd entered and became masters of the cabins with resistance. The small Village, after having been burnt with all its contents, was abandoned at day break, and the Indians and their families brought prisoners to the large Village where the commanders left a portion of their force to guard them. Early next morning our party set off for the third Village, distant seven or eight leagues, where they arrived in the evening, and surprised it on the following night in the same manner as they had the others; set it on fire and brought the prisoners to the principal Village.
“The Count’s orders were not to give quarter to the men who would be under arms, and to bring away the women and children for the purpose of augmenting our Indian villages. But the order was not strictly executed because they surrendered at discretion and expressed themselves pleased at having this opportunity to come live with our Indians, to whom they were closely related; so that of about eighty fighting men found in those three villages, only eighteen or twenty were killed, and the others, with their women and children, were made prisoners to the number of two hundred and eighty persons. “Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York (NYCD 9:550-555)
Champigny does not report that some of “our Indians” were in fact Christian Mohawks who lived in the Saint Lawrence Valley. These former residents of the Mohawk Valley led the French to the villages but refused to kill Mohawk prisoners. The Mohawks and an English militia followed the French Army north, inflicting casualties and freeing prisoners along the way. (For more information read In Mohawk Country by- Snow, Gehring & Starna)
Mohawks Relocate to the South Side of the River
All of the Mohawk villages on the north side of the river were destroyed, so the Mohawks moved to the south side of the river. The Upper Castle, called Canajoharie, was relocated to Prospect Hill at present day Fort Plain. An associated village was located near the mouth of East Canada Creek and called Dekanohage. The Lower Castle was relocated near the mouth of Schoharie Creek and called Tionondoroge. Some Mohawks, and refugees from New England tribes, later built villages further up Schoharie Valley near present-day Middleburgh.
The Lower Mohawk Castle was relocated to the mouth of Schoharie Creek near present day Fort Hunter.
At first the villages were palisaded, however, by the early1700s the palisades were gone and most Mohawks lived in European-style cabins. Mohawk settlements consisted of central villages---still called Castles ---surrounded by widely dispersed cabins. While the Lower Castle remained at the mouth of Schoharie Creek, the Upper Castle moved to the village site opposite the mouth of East Canada Creek. It was at these two locations that the English built European-style forts for the protection of the Mohawks. The Lower Castle fort---built in 1712 and enlarged in 1755---was called Fort Hunter, and the village was thenceforth called by that name. The Upper Castle fort---built in 1747---was named Fort Hendrick in honor of the Mohawk Chief, King Hendrick, but the village retained the name Canajoharie. The Mohawks remained at or near these two Castles until the start of the Revolutionary War.
Anglican Churches at Mohawk Castles
A small chapel was built in the first Fort Hunter, but it was the stone church that was built in 1741 that was thenceforth called Queen Ann’s Chapel in honor of the Queen of England who provided “the communion set, altar cloth and other needful articles.” Although the church was destroyed during the construction of the Erie Canal in the 1820s, the stone parsonage survives to this day. During the Revolutionary War the Mohawks took their “communion set” to Canada.
Indian Castle Church was built near the Upper Mohawk Castle.
In 1769 an Anglican Mission Church was built for the Mohawks near the Upper Castle. The land was provided by Joseph Brant, and construction funded by Sir William Johnson. This Indian Castle Church survived the Revolution and still stands near Nowadaga Creek and the community of Indian Castle.
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