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1761 Johnson

William Johnson [1715-1774] at the time of his visit to Detroit was a powerful and wealthy man and the English Superintendent of Indian Affairs for all the Northern colonies. He was sent to Detroit to secure information regarding the territory which had been acquired by the British, to hold a council with the Indians, and to establish regulations concerning the fur trade of the interior.

Saturday 4th July, 1761. At a meeting with all the Mohawks at my house, I acquainted them of my journey to Detroit, in order to call a meeting of the Ottawa Confederacy, and other nations of Indians, inhabiting those parts, with whom I am directed by General Amherst, to settle and establish a firm and lasting treaty; also to regulate the trade at the several posts in the Indian country. . . . . .

Wednesday [September] 2d. - Embarked at 6 o'clock, with N.N. E. wind. Sailed at a great rate, as the wind blew very fresh. Mostly high land to the entrance of the River Detroit, except here and there small beaches. At the entrance of the river appear islands to the westward, and a bunch of trees which is called Point Moire, being always wet. Encamped at 5 o'clock, opposite the end of Isle Bois Blanc, or White Wood Island. This island is about two miles in length, and half a mile in breadth; pretty ground and bank. On the east shore of the river, opposite said island, are about five hundred acres of clear land, which was planted by the Hurons twelve years ago; had two priests here, but left this for the place where they now live. It would make a very pleasant place for a settlement; land good, and a fine prospect of the lake, river, and island. There might be now mowed a vast quantity of hay. Here a fine hunting place all about it.

Thursday 3d. - A 4 o'clock I arose, and wrote Mr. Croghan a few lines by Mr. Gambling's canoe, to meet me about six miles this side of the fort with horses. I take Mr. Gambling in my boat. Fine morning, but cold, and the wind right ahead. Embarked at 7 o'clock, and on our way passed several fine islands and drowned meadows. About twelve, came to the house of Mr. Jarves of the militia, which is the best house I have seen in the neighborhood. Eat some melon there, and set off for Detroit, which is but a league from said house. Opposite to the Huron Town, and Pottawattamie village, saw Mr. Groghan and St. Martin, the interpreter, with horses expecting us. On coming farther, the Indian towns drew out and began to fire with cannon and small arms, which I returned by three volleys from the Royal American detachment; then went on shore and rode to town through a number of settlements. All along the road was met by Indians, and near the town, by the inhabitants, traders, &c. When I came to the verge of the fort, the cannon thereof were fired, and the officers of the garrison with some of Gage's Light Infantry received me, and brought me to see my quarters, which is the house of the late commandant Mr. Belestre, the best in the place. After having given directions for my baggage to be brought there, went to Campbell's quarters, where his officers and several of the French gentlemen were introduced to me. Hearing Major Gladwin was very ill, went with Captain Campbell to see him, and found him very ill. Then returned to my quarters, and supped that evening with Captain Campbell.

Friday 4th. - Fine weather. I was all the forenoon taken up with receiving visits and compliments from the different nations of Indians, that came here to meet me, to whom I gave pipes, tobacco, and some drink. Dined with Captain Campbell, whom I desired to order a feu de joie on the great success of his Majesty's arm in the reduction of Belle Isle, and destroying so many villages of the Cherokees, which was done about 7 o'clock in the evening, having first acquainted all the Indians with the news, and the reason for the firing; which they seemed greatly pleased at. The Ottawas and several other nations sent me word they would wait on me next morning to pay their respects. This afternoon, Captain Campbell went with me to Major Gladwin's quarters, and there we settled about the garrisoning the several posts in the best manner we possible could, considering the bad situation of affairs, viz: the lateness of the season, the badness of the boats, and above all the scarcity of provisions and ammunition, which Captain Campbell and Major Gladwin reported to me to be the case, the latter having lost all of his ammunition and a great part of his provisions in coming here. These circumstances, well weighed and considered, we unanimously agreed to send back [ ]men of Gage's [Light Infantry] to Niagara, for provisions, as the vessels bringing provisions here are very precarious. The remainder to proceed with a garrison of an officer and thirty men for the fort of Missillimackinac and ten months' provisions; also an officer and fifteen men for St. Joseph; an officer and fifteen men for Warraghtenhook, with as much provision as can possibly be spared; and an officer and fifteen men to relieve the Rangers at the Miami's post immediately; - Captain Campbell and Bellfore to settle and order the proper number of boats necessary for said service, and make an exact calculation of the quantity of provisions for said garrisons to-morrow morning, so that they may set off as soon as possible. I am greatly distressed for the want of provisions for the Indians, having received none from Fort Pitt as I expected; wherefore am obliged, at a very great expense, to purchase cattle and what I can get here.

Saturday 5th. - A very wet morning; cleared up about 10 o'clock. This day I wrote to Ferrall Wade, which is to go by Lieutenant Ogden. Had Captains Campbell, Bellfore, McCloud, eight or ten other officers, and Colonel Du Quesne and Major La Mott, his brother, who were my prisoners at Niagara. While the company were drinking, two of the head men of the Hurons came in to acquaint me that the women of their nation were all come to see and bid me welcome here to their country. On which they were introduced by Mr. Croghan, to the number of fifty, old and young. After saluting them, I ordered them a glass of wine and some biscuit, and drank their healths. They then told me, they had brought me some corn, the produce of their land, which they begged I would accept of. In return I ordered them a beef for their nation, which pleased them much. At parting they shook hands again, and bid farewell; - so ended their visit. In the morning all the principle inhabitants of Detroit, with their priest, came to pay their respects and desire protection. I returned the compliment, and gave them assurances of his Majesty's protection, while they continued to behave as good subjects. Then gave them rusk and shrub in plenty, which they made very good use of, and went away extremely well pleased - their priest at their head.

Sunday 6th. - A very fine morning. This day I am to dine with Captain Campbell, who is also to give the ladies a ball, that I may see them. They assembled at 8 o'clock at night, to the number of about twenty. I opened the ball with Mademoiselle Curie - a fine girl. We danced until five o'clock next morning. This day the Ottawas, by Mr. La Bute, interpreter, made me a speech, chiefly on the begging order, and to support the French interpreters. Answered them with a belt of wampum.

Monday 7th. - A fine morning. Montour not yet come, nor the mohawks. I shall send the interpreters this day to desire that all the nations may be ready to attend the meeting to-morrow, or next day at the farthest. The Light Infantry and Royal Americans are making ready to set off to-morrow, or next day at farthest. I had all the Delaware, Shawanese, Six Nations, and huron chiefs from the south side of the lakes this afternoon, when I told them I should speak to all on Wednesday, when I desired that they and all the other nations would be ready to attend. Gave them pipes, tobacco, and rum, for their whole number, and parted very friendly.

Tuesday 8th, 1761. - Fine morning. This day am about finishing what I have to do of the speech, which I am to make to-morrow to all the nations assembled here. Also making out instructions and orders for the officers going to command at Missillimackinac, St. Joseph, Miamis, &c. On examining the goods intended for the present, many are found to be rotten and ruined by badness of the boats, for want of a sufficient number of oil cloths, &c., so that I shall be obliged to replace them, and add more goods to the present, the number of Indians being very great. In the afternoon, I had the two interpreters at my quarters, then I got Mr. Williams, of the light infantry, to tell them in French what I intended to say, which he did very distinctly.

Wednesday, 9th. - Fine morning, but windy. I ordered all the seats to be made out of doors for the meeting, there being no house here half large enough to meet in. Received an account this morning of the loss of one of my store boats, which Montour was in.

I ordered two cannon to be fired at 10 o'clock, as a signal for them all to assemble. This day, the Light Infantry and Royal Americans, which are to garrison the forts at Missillimackinac, La Bay and St. Joseph, set off with ten months' provisions. I gave Mr. Lastly for Missillimackinac, about fifty pounds of tobacco out of my present. Nickus, of Canajoharie, arrived this morning, and left Montour and Preston, with my small boat, yesterday, at the entrance of this river. What they had of my stores in their boat is all lost and ruined, having been, he says, cast away. About 10 o'clock, the Indians were all met, when I went there with Captain Campbell and all his officers, the officers of the Light Infantry, all the merchants and principal people of the town. Mr. Croghan, Lieut. Johnson, Mr. Breme, Mr. Mya, from Pittsborough, Mr. Bostwick from Missillimackinac, Mr. Bute and St. Martin, Interpreters, the former to the Ottawas, the latter to the Hurons, Printup only as spectator. After the speech was delivered, I arose, and with the gentlemen went to dinner at my quarters, where, about 5 o'clock, the Hurons, Ottawas, &c., came to the amount of thirty chiefs, to let me know that they understood the Indians of the south side of Lake Erie were determined, to return, having heard what I had to say; and that, therefore, they would not, while said Indians were here, let me know how that war-belt was sent here. I thanked them for their honesty and readiness, but told them it was better to have it mentioned in public, when I received an answer from all the nations. To this they agreed, and said that as some of the chiefs of each nation might take to drinking, they would be glad to answer on the morrow; and desired two guns might be fired, as on this day, whereby they might all assemble and finish; - to which I readily agreed, and promised them it should be done accordingly. Gave them pipes, tobacco and some liquor, - then parted.

Thursday 10th. - Fine weather. My quarters full of Indians of different nations about little affairs of their own, which I settled. After that, a very honest Seneca Indian came and told me what he had heard among his relations living here, which he delivered very ingenuously, and seemed to me to be very just. No account yet of Montour or the boat's crew. This day I wrote by Captain McCloud to Major Walters for ammunition, provisions, and an officer, sergeant and ten men for the garrisoning one of the posts, viz: Miamis or Miamis Wawiaghtanook. Yesterday Captain Balfour and one hundred and twenty of Gage's [Light Infantry],set off with the Royal Americans for Missillimackinac, &c. I wrote the general this day by Captain McCloud. In the afternoon, the Indians all assembled, and gave their answer to my speech made the day before, which was very satisfactory. After all was over, the White Mingo came to my quarters where all the gentlemen were with me, and desired I would return to the meeting, as he and the Six Nations from Ohio had something to say in answer to what the Hurons had charged them with. We all returned to the council, where we found every nation by themselves. Then Kaiaghshota, a Seneca chief, and one who accompanied the two messengers who came here with the war axe to the Hurons, stood up, and with great oratory and resolution, endeavored to clear himself of the imputations laid to his charge, when one of the Hurons named Adariaghta, the chief warrior of the nation, confronted him and the White Mingo, and discovered everything which passed. Upon which, the White Mingo told them that they had come several times to him at Ohio, and pressed him and others living there to fall upon the English, which he as often refused. After a great deal of altercation I got up, and desired that they would no go to too great lengths, being now joined in stricter friendship and alliance than ever. Left them liquor and broke up the meeting, telling them I intended next day delivering them some goods, &c., which I had brought up for their use, and desired they would be punctual as soon as the cannon was fired. They thanked me, and promised they would be ready to attend - parted. Supped with Cole and went to bed early.

Friday 11th. - Fine morning. At 6 o'clock Mr. Croghan set about cutting up the present, and making proper divisions thereof for the several nations. This morning, I gave Baby's daughter a present, her father being a principal sachem of the Hurons. Went to the meeting about 12 o'clock, where the Indians were all assembled to the number of five hundred and odd, when the Delewares and Shawanese made a speech. After that, I made a reply to what all the nations had answered yesterday, as [will appear] by records. Then gave them the present, divided in nine parts. After that went to dinner; and after dinner, about forty of the Chippewas, who had just arrived, came to see me, and made a friendly speech with a string of wampum, assuring me of their firm resolution of abiding by us, and complying with everything proposed by me, and agreed to by the rest. Gave them pipes, tobacco, and rum; then they departed. This day I ordered to be laid aside a good many things for the Huron sachems, Delawares, Shawanese, &c., and am to speak to them separately my opinion and advice.

Saturday 12th. - Very fine weather and warm. I had meetings with the several nations of Ottawas, Shaganoos, Chippewas, &c., who made many demands and requests for their several nations, and gave the strongest assurances of being happy in what I said, and of their adhering inviolably to the promises and engagements entered into here, as did the Delawares, Shawanese, &c., by belts and strings. I then sent for the White Mingo alias Kanaghragait and the Seneca who accompanied Tahaiadoris here with the Seneca's message, named Kaiaghshota, to whom I said a great deal concerning the late design of the Indians in their quarter; set forth the madness of it, and desired them, by a large string of wampum, to reform and repent, which they assured me they and all their people, would pay the strictest observance to; then condoled the Seneca who was killed by our troops stealing horses, with two black strouds, two shirts, and two pair of stockings; gave them their liquor, I promised, and parted. This morning four of the principal ladies of the town came to wait on me. I treated them with rusk and cordial. After sitting an hour, they went away. This day, I gave private presents to chiefs of sundry nations. At 9 o'clock at night a York officer arrived at my quarters, express from Niagara in sixteen days, with letters from General Amherst, and the belt, which the Senecas sent here, to desire the Hurons, &c., to join against the English.

Sunday 13th. - Very fine weather. I had a meeting with the Chippewa nation at my quarters, who spoke with two large bunches of wampum, giving me the strongest assurances imaginable of their resolution to live in the strictest friendship, and that the speeches I had made to them, and the manner I had treated them and all the nations here, convinced them that I was their friend. They then said my presence had made the sun and sky bright and clear, the earth smooth and level, the roads all pleasant, and the lakes placid, and begged I would continue in the same friendly disposition toward them, and they would be a happy people. They then prayed to have a plentiful and fair trade, which I promised them; gave them a beef, liquor, &c., and parted very happy and well pleased. At 10 o'clock, Captain Campbell came to introduce some of the town ladies to me at my quarters, whom I received and treated with cakes, wine and cordial. Dined at Campbell's. In the evening, several Indians came to my quarters to bid me farewell.

Monday 14th. - Fine weather. This day I am to have all the principal inhabitants to dine with me; also Captain Campbell to have a meeting with the Hurons, and give their chiefs a private present; also to settle with the two French interpreters and pay them. I took a ride before dinner up toward the Lake St. Clair. The road runs along the river side, which is all settled thickly nine miles. A very pleasant place in summer, but at other seasons too low and marshy. The French gentlemen and the two priests who dined with us got very merry. Invited them all to a ball to-morrow night, which I am to give to the ladies.

Tuesday 15th. - Fine weather. This day settled all accounts. Paid La Bute one hundred dollars for interpreting all the time for Captain Campbell; to St. Martin one hundred dollars for the same; to Doctor Anthony [ ]. I had the three Huron interpreters here at my lodging, and Aaron, also St. Martin, when I thanked them kindly for their conduct in the affair of the war-belt offered by the Six Nations' deputies this summer; strongly recommended to them a steady and uniform adherence to all the advice I had given them, and told them I looked upon them as the head of the Ottawa Confederacy. Having lighted up a council-fire, I desired they would take care to keep it in good order, and not neglect their friends and allies, as the Six Nations had done, notwithstanding all my admonitions. Cautioned them against evil minded people or their wicked schemes; laid before them the danger of quarreling with the English; all which they thanked me for, and promised to pay the strictest attention to all I said. They then let me know that the Senecas had given another war-belt to the Shawanese, who told them that they would act as the Hurons had done. They then let me know that they would, on the morrow, return an answer to the speech of the Mohawks, and for that end, desired a gun to be fired in order to assemble the Ottawas, Pottawattamies, &c., to the meeting. Then ordered up a very good private present, and dismissed them. In the evening, the ladies and gentlemen all assembled in my quarters, danced the whole night until 7 o'clock in the morning, when all parted very much pleased and happy. Promised to write Mademoiselle Curie as soon as possible about my sentiments; there never was so brilliant an assembly here before.

Wednesday 16th. - Still fair weather, wind contrary for us. I ordered all the baggage to be packed up, and every thing ready to embark to-morrow. About eleven, the Huron chiefs arrived, and acquainted me that they waited for the other nations, who, when assembled, would acquaint me, and come to my quarters. I am to dine this day with Captain Campbell. About one o'clock, the Hurons, Ottawas, Pottawattamies, Chippawas, &c., met at my quarters, and made several speeches, large and full of gratitude, as by the minutes of this day's conference will appear. They also answered the Mohawk belts, with which they had spoken to all the nations the tenth inst; and delivered to them a calumet to be kept and smoked out of at our council at the Mohawk's; - the smoke of which will reach the most distant nations. This calumet was delivered by the Chippewas, and a bunch of green painted wampum to me, wherewith to dispel all clouds, and to clear all about us. I gave out private presents to the four chiefs of the Hurons, which were very considerable, and pleased them much. Nickus, the Mohawk, desired I would take home the pipe, belts, and strings, and deliver them to the sachems of the two Mohawk castles.

Thursday 17th. - I counted out, and delivered to Mr. Crogham some silver works, viz; one hundred and fifty ear-bobs, two hundred brooches or breast buckles, and ninety large crosses all of silver, to send to Ensign Gorrel of the Royal Americans, posted at La Bay on Lake Michigan, in order to purchase therewith some curious skins and furs for General Amherst and myself. Also gave Mr. Croghan some silver works as a present to himself to the amount of about forty pounds, - he having given me many presents of the Indian kind. This day I am to give an answer to what the Indians said yesterday, and to set off, if I can, after visiting Major Gladwin, Irwin, &c.

I set off about 4 o'clock in my boat, when the guns of the fort were fired. Arrived at the Huron castle soon, where the Indians were drawn up and saluted. Encamped here; visited the Priest Pierre Pottie; took a ride with Captain Jarvis in his chair; supped with St. Martin,the Jesuit, La Bute, &c., and went to the Huron's council room, where they had every thing in good order and three fires burning. I here delivered them an answer to what they had said the day before, as will appear by the minutes of this day. Then broke up.

Friday 18th. - Fine cool morning. As my store boat did not come up last night, I dispatched my own battoe to Detroit in order to help and hurry them down here, so as to set off, having finished everything. Captain Jarvis is to have three chairs here this morning, for us to ride to the end of the settlement, being about six miles. This is a beautiful situation, and a dry, healthy place. At 9 o'clock, the chiefs of the Hurons met at my tent and returned an answer to all I said last night, in the most friendly manner, as will appear by the minutes of this day in the records. I then gave them twenty kettles full of tobacco, about fifty damaged blankets, twenty pounds of powder and silver works, which greatly pleased them all. Captain Campbell, several officers of the Light Infantry, French and traders, came over to take leave of me and were present at the meeting; also the priest. Treated them and the Indians; set off my boats; and went with three chairs to Captain Jarvis' where we took breakfast. Madame Jarvis accompanied us to our boats. In our way, called in at several houses to see some of the principal inhabitants. Dined with the company out of doors. Parted [from] them all at this place, which is called Isle de [ ]. Set off at one, and encamped. At the west end of the lake, about two miles into the lake is the large island; nine leagues long and two miles broad; in several places very rocky; worth taking up, and also Isle Bois with one thousand acres of land on the east shore, where the Hurons formerly lived. The Indians and the inhabitants were all very kind, and extremely pleased with all that was done at this meeting. We left their country with the greatest credit.

From: THE PAPERS OF SIR WILLIAM JOHNSON prepared for publication by Milton W. Hamilton. Albany: The University of the State of New York, 1962. Volume 13: 248 -259.

See Also:

Dictionary of American Biography.

Dictionary of Canadian Biography 4: 394-398.

Buell, Augustus. Sir William Johnson. NY: D. Appleton, 1903.

Farrell, David R. Anchors of Empire: Detroit, Montreal and the Continental Interior, 1760-1775. American Review of Canadian Studies 1977 7 (1): 33-54.

Griffis, William Elliott. Sir William Johnson and the Six Nations. NY: Dodd, Mead, 1891.

Massie, Dennis. Sir William Johnson in Detroit. Detroit Historical Society Bulletin 25 (March, 1969): 4-8.

Pound, Arthur. Johnson of the Mohawks: A Biography of Sir William Johnson, Irish Immigrant, Mohawk War

Chief, American Soldier, Empire Builder. NY: Macmillan, 1930.