Sunday, November 23, 2008

Letter from Alexander Colden, Oxnam, Oct. 1721

In this letter to his son, Cadwallader and daughter-in-law Alice,
Alexander Colden says that he has not heard from them since February and so he was glad to receive Cadwallader's letter dated June 27.
"We do bless the Lord for his goodnes and mercie he doth still follow with particularly that you both and our little grandchildren do keep your health and that your mutual affection to and satisfaction in another not only continues but encreases (this is to be estemmed one of the greatest earthly blessings) and also that you are so much in favour with your new governour," he writes.
In this letter he also tells them that Cadwallader's mother has had a cancerous growth removed, "Your mother is in health but was sometime ago affrayd of a cancer in her nose but blessed by God it is removed. She is not without fear of its returning."
Cadwallader's brother James has also included a short letter with his father's.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Conference Between Governor William Burnet and the Five Indian Nations, 1721

William Burnet arrived in New York in September 1720 to take over the governorship of New York Province and New Jersey. He was the son of an English bishop and had been born in the Hague. The Prince of Orange (later William III of England) was his godfather. Unlike his predecessars who had been military men, Burnet was not. He had been controller of customs in London before coming to America.

Why is the 1721 conference important? The winter of 1720 saw the French establishing themselves for the first time in territory claimed by New York. Later that spring when the French agent gained the consent of the Senecas to build a trading-house on the Niagara, Burnet took swift action to thwart them. The treaties and negotiations he put in place stand as the main achievement of his administration. The following account in Colden's own words is an account of that historic conference.

An account of what pass'd betwixt his Excellency Wm Burnet Esq Governour of New York & the five Nations of Indians when he first meet them att Albany after his coming to his Government.

His Excellency arrived the 30th of August 1721 att Albay the day appointed for the Indians to meet him was the first of Septr butt few of the Indians being come the Governour went to see Schinechtady a handsome Little village on the Mahogs River and the Cohoos a fall of 62 feet on the same river.

Wee diverted ourselves one day before the Indians were all meet in a Large boarded house without the towne which stands their always for Lodging the Indians. Their wee saw a great many animals tollerably well delineated with coal by the Indians on the boards of the house. The most remarkable was a Crocodile very well designed which shows that they travell very far to the southward's perhaps near to the mouth of the Misasipi. The Indians pointed to the southwest as the place where these animals were found. The Interpeter told us they have the dried skin of one of them att one of their Castles. They had beefs likewise drawn in several postures which show'd that the persone who did them was not without a genius for painting these the Indians pointed to us were found to the Westward. We saw fowls exactly resembling Harpies butt perhaps they were design'd for owls.

On Monday being the 4th of Septr the Indians waited on the Governour having chosen Consora, a Famous Sachem of the Senecas for their speaker and who had often been their speaker on the Like occasions. The Sachems Sat upon the floor of the room where the Governour received them the speaker had a chair set for him opposite to the Governour. His Excellency Sat on the side of the room in an Elbox chair with his hat on the Gentn of his Majesty's Council so many of them as were at Albany & the Commisioners for Indian affairs sitting one each side of him the rest of the Gentlemen standing.

Consora made his Excellency a short Complement in name of all the five nations on his safe arrivall to his Government & as a token of his affection to him made him a present of a bundle of Beaverskin. The Governour thanked them he told them he had sevarall things to say to them & that he would send for them as soon as he was ready then they had each a glass of wine given them.

His Excellency sent the interpreter to them after they (were) gone to let them know that Consora was not acceptable to him he keeping a Correspondence with the french & going sometimes to the french settlements theirfor desires them to chuse another speaker.

This Consora had been famous with booth the English and french having been long a great Capt or Leader among the five Nations and generally their speaker att all treaties a very cunning suttle fellow. I am told that when Brigadier Hunter designed to engage the five nations to joyn in the Late Expedition against Canada This man rais'd himself upon a barril to harrangue to his people & to diswade them from engadgeing in the Expedition. Among other arguments he said that they ought not to join either with the English against the french or with the french against the English butt to keep the ballance betwixt the two for if the English should prevaile over the french the five Nations would be of means to enslave themselves for then the English would make no more account of them than they doe now of the river or Long Island Indians butt if the five Nations would now observe an exact Newtrality they would be courted & fear'd by both sides. Indeed Consora seem'd to pursue this Maxim always when he found he could not disswade the Indians from the war (for War is their delight) he putt himself att their head & call'd out I did not disswade yo out of fear butt for your good & since you will goe to the war I shall be the first man to lead you to slavery and distruction.

The Governour sent next day for two of each nation when they were come he told them the reasons of his displeasure with Consora & that he had sent for them being the wisest men of each Nation to consult with them about something he intended to propose to the Indians in the general Meeting. His Excellency sett forth to them how the french had encroached upon them in several places & how dangerous these settlements were to their Liberty.

They answered that these things were very true that the french att first desired only to build a house att Cataracouie for their goods which they brought to trade afterwards the french pretended some danger & they turn'd their house into a fort for defence (of us) (as they gave out) as well as of themselves & now they are become to strong for us to dislodge them. Then the Governour show'd them That the french were beginning the same practices att Niagara & askt them if they thought their people would be willing to pull downe the french house their & if they would advise him to propose it att the general Meeting. They answered it is a matter of consequence & desired time to think of it. The next day they returned answer that they were very well pleas'd with the proposal & advised his Excellency to make the same to the general meeting of the five Nations but you'll finde by the proposals that the Governour did not think it proper to direct them to use force against the french.

On the 7th his Excellency spoke to all the Sachems. They were seated upon boards Laid in the street & were betwixt 70 & 80 in number. Consora stood among the young Indians who made a cemcircle round the Sachems & lookt very much dejected soe that the Indians had done more than what the Governour desired his Excellency only disliked his being speaker & they removed him entirely from their councils the Governour was seated in the street as in the proceeding meeting in the house.

His Excellency int he first part of his speech observ'd to them how well pleased he was with the nations of Liberty which they entertain'd he told them the english likewise a free people & hated slavery butt the french were rul'd by a king who was a great Tyrant & the french were not contented with being slaves themselves but endeavour'd to bring all their Neighbours into the same slavery be said his present Majesty our king is a grea Warrior and his face shines with Wisdom & that all the Neighbouring Kingdomes both honour and fear him. Then he told them he was ordered by their father the King to renew the covenant chaine with them & to make it Brighter than ever that it may never grow rusty for he doubted not that they would always remain dutyfull to the King & Faithfull to the English. In token of which he gave them a Large Belt of Wampun Upon which their was a general Joy and gladness appeared in every one of their faces.

Immediately as a token of their being pleased with what was said every Nation gave distinctly their consent by of each Nation Beginning an articulate sonorous noise which I cannot describe in Letters the rest of the nation repeating the same after him in a body & soe every nation successively till they had all declared their satisfaction.

His Excellency next told them that he heard the french had built a trading house att Niagara he desired them to tell the french to be gone from that place & if the french refused to go to tell the french they would complain of them to him & that accordingly they should in the spring report what answer the french make & then his Excellency gave them a belt of Wampun upon the receiving of which every nation declared their satisfaction after the manner they did before butt not with that noise. Then his Excellency told them that they ought not to keep any correspondence with the french that is not to allow any of their People to goe to the french nor the french to come among them for if they did he would not have that confidence in them he otherwise would have & then gave a belt which was received as before.

After that the Governour desired them to keep an open path and so sweep itt clean for all the far Indians to pass freely through their country to albany to trade and gave a belt which was received as the rest.

Then he told them that the governour of Virginia had sent them a belt with the seal of the province affixt to it in order to settle the limits betwixt the Indians of Virginia & them that neither should pas the river Powomack of the high mountains to the Wsetward of Virginia without leave from their respective Governours that the people of Virginia had lost some negro slaves that were fled into the woods that the Governour of Virginea desired them to take these slaves & carry them to Virginea for which the people of Virginea woould reward them then with the belt.

Lastly the Governour told them that some of their young men had killed some of the country peoples cattell as they came along & desir'd them to prevent the Like for the future. While the Governour was speaking the Indian who was chosed for speaker had a bundle of little sticks in his hand and att the of every proposition he gave a stick to one of the Sachems for every separate Proposition to one seperatly soe that each had the care of a distinct Proposition that nothing might be lost which was said.

On the friday following the Indians told the Governour that they were ready with their answer & desired to know when he would receive itt. He ordered them to wait on him the next day. Both sides being placed as when the Governour spoke. The Indians began with a complement to his Excellency on his marriage they said they had heard that his Excellency was lately married to a Lady of their Country woman (meaning one born in the Province of New York) they hop'd in a Little time he would see the joyful fruits of his marriage & presented a pack of beaver as a present to his Lady to buy pins at that time they laught heartily being well pleased with their own fancy in makeing the complement.

Afterwards they answered distinctly to every prosposition of the Governours speech. They renewed (they said) the covenant chaine with the greatest Joy & that on their part it should last & be kept Bright as long as sun & moon shall endure & then gave a belt.

They promised to doe what the governour desired of them relating to the french & that they would carry the belt the Governour gave with them to the french at Niagara as a token of their being sent by his Excellency they Promised likewise to no further correspondence with the french & confirmed it by saying they wanted nothing that the french could furnish them with the English doing it att a cheaper rate except powder which they Prayed his Excellency wou'd order to be sold to them as cheap as the french doe. They only made the Exception that in case a war should att any time hearafter break out & any Probability of an accomodation ensue that they should be allowed to receive & send messages in order to forward a peace.

They promised to give a free passage to all Indians that had a minde to trade with Albany.

And promised to observe the Limits settled by the Governour of Virginea & that they would not pass them without leave from his excellency upon condition the Virginea Indians observe the same limits & promised to take the slaves if they could finde them.

Lastly they confessed that some of their young men had killed some cattle upon the road that they were sorry for itt butt that they had not such command over their young men as his Excellency had over his sogers (soldiers) however they would doe what is in their power & prevent the like for the future. They gave belts as memorials of their agreeing & promising to observe the severall articles when they had finished their speech they made their prsents to his Excellency which wee were told was more valuable than usually had been given. The governour returned presents to them in Guns powder Lead strouds Duffle blanketting coats shirts Rum &c. The value of which amounted to £600 they divided them present of the spot among the severall nations giveing the senecas & Oneidas double shares because the first is the most numerous and the Oneidas have been latly joyned by the Tuscororas a nation of Indians that lived in North Carolina and were driven out of their Country by the English the last wars there.

I was Extreamly please with the large well shaped bodys & goodly countenance of the old ment with gravity & order which they observed in their Treaty this is the more to bee admired because their is not that superiority among them which is in the meanest republick among the christians their sachems can use no force to putt there commands in execution their superiority consists only the good opinion the rest of the Nation has of their wisdome & experience as soon as they lose this esteem they loose their superiority & they maintain their authority only by the force of their reason & arguments. Their is no superiority as to Riches among them.

Their Captains are men of middle age who have signalis'd themselves in the war & their superiority consists in the opinion the young men have of their strength & bravery the young Indians acted in their war dances before the governours window at night severall of their Late exploits in war by which itt appears that their manner of making war is entirely in sackling and surprising their enemy. I have never heard of their fighting anything like a Pitck'h battle in the field.

Butt their Cruelty in my opinion sullys any good quality which they may have especially to their enemys which they over come this extends not only to the men who may be supposed to have done the Injury but likewise to the women. When they take any prisoners they lead them captive to their own Country & make an offer of them to those that have lost a sone or brother or husband in the wars. If the relation accepts of the prisoner he is safe & becomes one of them & is after that accounted a sone brother or husband of the person who accepts them & has no manner of Ignominy show'd him after that. Butt if the person to whome the prisoner is presented turn away his or their face the prisoner is immediately with a great deal of horrible pomp led to the stake where he is with the greatest cruelty burnt alive the children tearing & cutting the flesh of his bones & eating itt while the miserable creature is still alive. This severall of our Indian traders have seen & our Interpreter saw a woman serv'd soe not 12 months agoe in the wars with the french. Coll Schuyler told mee the Indians eat all the french that were killed or found dead soe that they are truely Cannibals.

I cannot hear of anything among them that can give us reason to believe that they have any Notions of religion.

Burnet's administration strengthened the friendship between the English and the Five Indian Nations, increased trade with them and with far western tribes, and gained for the English for the first time in the history of America, a base of operations on the Great Lakes.

Burnet was reassigned to Massachusetts and New Hampshire in 1728. He died in Boston on September 7, 1729, of a stroke. He was 41 years old, the same age as Colden.

Governor William Burnet (1688 - 1729)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Move to New York City

Cadwallader moves his family to New York sometime in the fall of 1718. He is quick to purchase land. On October 6, 1718, together with James Kennedy and James Alexander, he petitions for a grant of 2,000 acres lying in Ulster County. On April 9, 1719, the land patent is issued to him. Not long after obtaining this patent, he procures another one for a thousand acres which adjoins the first land, and this one he names "Coldengham" -- perhaps he was thinking of the historic village of Coldingham in Berwick, Scotland, close to where he grew up. Long after Colden's death, the estate would later be renamed Coldenham. It lies in the town of Montgomery in Orange County. The Coldens now have an estate to call their own.

Cadwallader does not move his family to Coldengham right away because he has not built a home there or prepared the land for settlement. He continues his mercantile business and his medical practice in the city.

On February 5, 1719, his daughter, Elizabeth, is born in the city. Her parents call her Betty. In an undated letter to his cousin, Richard Hill, in London, Cadwallader writes of Elizabeth's birth. "I am nott certain weither I told you in My Last my wife has brought mee a daughter near the beginning of last February & named her Elizabeth."

On February 18, 1720, Governor Hunter makes Cadwallader "Surveyor of Lands." In a letter from London dated February 18, 1720, Robert Hunter writes, "The Presidt receives with other orders by this conveyance Capt Long the Kings Orders by Mr Secretary Craggs letter for constituting you surveyer gen in the room of Austin Graham which I hope may be of use to you. I am now perfectly well and shall see you soon, My service to Mrs Colden & Mr. Coldeby." Austin Graham is the previous surveyor general who passed away in 1719.

In 1721 Cadwallader is also appointed to the Governor's Council and he will hold this post until his death in 1776.

In a December 7, 1721 letter to a Dr. Home, Cadwallader asks him to purchase slaves for him. "I am obliged to you for your kinde offer of buying for mee three or four slaves & that in so doing you will particularly consider my interest. Please to buy mee two negro men about eighteen years of age. I designe them for Labour & would have them strong & well made. Please likewise to buy mee a negro Girl of about thirteen years old my wife has told you that she desinges her Cheifly to keep the children & to sow & therefore would have her likely & one that appears to be good natured."

On May 26, 1722, another son is born to Cadwallader and Alice. This one is named Cadwallader and in his parents' letters he is known as Cad and is also sometimes called Caddie.

In his July 24, 1722 letter, Alice's father, David Christie, writes to Cadwallader Sr about the birth, "Yesterday to my great satisfaction I received your dated June 1 where in you give me the agreeable news of Alies being brought safely to bed of a Son, whom I pray the Lord to bless and preserve." In the same he goes on to say, "I thought Alie had either given over child-bearing or had miscarried, because you gave us no account of her being with child, but now I heartily rejoice to hear of a young Cad: Colden: I think Alie hath made a very good choice in the name."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Alice Christie (Chrystie)

On November 11, 1715, Cadwallader marries Alice Christie, in Kelso, Scotland. She was born on January 5, 1690 and is the daughter of a clergyman named David Christie and his wife Alison Hamiltone. She is not entirely a stranger to Cadwallader. It would appear that her brother, James Christie, and Cadwallader had a friendship and wrote to each other. At the end of a letter to Cadwallader dated April 22, 1715, James says "My father Mother & Sister do always remember you." In addition to James, Alice also had brothers named David (who is often refered to as Davey), John and Andrew. I have not found a record of any sisters.

Some historians have noted that many of the colonial families never forgave Cadwallader for looking for a bride in Scotland when so many of their daughters in America needed suitable husbands.

What kind of a woman was Alice? We know that she was a well-educated one in keeping with what was expected of a clergyman's daughter. Cadwallader trusted her enough to educate his children while he was gone. He held her in high regard and in later years would leave the running of their New York estate in her capable hands while he attended to government business in Albany and the city,

On May 7, 1716, Cadwallader and Alice arrive in Philadelphia. She is already six months pregnant with their first child when they land in America. Cadwallader continues his mercantile business and starts practising medicine. It is during this time that we see a correspondence with his cousin, Richard Hill, in London, through whom Cadwallader purchases the latest medical books and journals. Cadwallader also starts purchasing drugs through various agents for his medical practice. It would be safe to assume that now that he is in a sound financial situation, he is slowly returning to his first love ... medicine.

On August 13, 1716, their son, Alexander Colden, is born in Philadelphia. Cadwallader has named him after his father. The child will be affectionately known as Sandy in the letters that his parents write home to Scotland.

In a February 14, 1717, letter from Oxnam, the Reverent Alexander Colden writes, "We had yours dated Aug. 14 which brought us the comfortable account of both your healths and of our sister and the continuance of her extraordinary kindness to you both and especially of our daughters safe deliverie of a sone for which we here have desired & endeavored with joyfull hearts to give praise to god with our lips. I take it as another evidence of your filial respect to me in giving him my name & we heartyly pray he be be spared."

A letter from David Christie (Alice's father) to Cadwallader Colden, written two days after Reverend Colden's on Feb. 16, 1717, tells us that baby Alexander has had the small pox. Christie ends his letter with "Remember us to all to Alie & Sandie; we all long to hear about him, if he hath gott over the small pox."

Between 1717 and 1718, Cadwallader's correspondence with merchants is solely about the purchase of medicine and medical books, so we know he is fully back in his medical practice.

In 1718 while he is visiting New York, he meets Governor Robert Hunter, who takes a liking to him and invites him to live in New York and promises him a government job. Cadwallader jumps at this opportunity because he is getting tired of Philadelphia which he considers too urban for his growing family.

Sometime between 1717 and his move to New York in 1718, he and Alice have a son named David who dies in infancy.

A March 9, 1719 letter from David Christie in Kelso to his daughter Alice talks about the baby's death. Christie writes: "The last I heard from you was dated at New York Jul: 14 which I received Sep: 19: And your brother had one from your husband dated (I think) Oct: 6 wherein he gives him the bad news of poor little Davies death, which you may be sure was an affliction to us all."

In the same letter Christie tells Alice that her brother, John, had died in Virginia the previous year. " But I have other melancholy news to tell you, your brother John dyed in Virginia upon the 9th of June last." He had died on board a ship called the Rumsay on the very day it came to Virginia.

The Philadelphia Years 1711 - 1715

Almost as soon as he was settled in Philadelphia, Cadwallader Colden, started his general merchandise business, trading in bread, wheat, flour, rice, rum. He travelled far and wide from Philadelphia to Charles Toun in Carolina to Jamaica and the West Indies. In November, 1711, he writes from Charles Toun to a merchant in Philadelphia named Alexander Arbuthnotte, and tells him "Rum is the only best commodity that can be sent here at present." In the same letter he says "All your Country commodities in a little time will be wanted here as Ale Cyder but especially Bread & Flower a little milk bisket will do extroadinary well."

On December 18, 1711, Colden writes to Arbuthnot again and tells him that he is thinking of sailing to the Spanish Coast, "I have some thoughts of goeing a Voyage upon the spanish Coast in a Sloop which is now dayly expected, if I do succeed in what I do at present Imagine about that Voyage it will occasion me to be with you in the Spring."

Over the next few years through his correspondence with various merchants in Philadelphia, New York, Virginia, Jamaica and Barbados, we find Cadwallader continuing his mercantile business. He traded in goods and occasionally in guns and other hardware, but never in slaves.

His letters to various merchants continue through May 2nd, 1715, and then they stop. This is because Cadwallader Colden returns to Scotland with the intention of getting married.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Beginning of the Colden Family in America

Cadwallader Colden came to America in 1710 and settled in Philadelphia to make his fortune. He had been born in Ireland on February 7, 1688 while his mother, Janet Hughes Colden, was visiting relatives. He spent most of his childhood in Dunse, Scotland, where his father, the Reverend Alexander Colden, was a Presbyterian minister.

Cadwallader had always been intended to follow in his father's footsteps but the younger Colden had different plans for himself. After his graduation from the University of Edinburgh in 1705, he took off for London where he studied medicine. The Colden family had spent all it had on his education and when he became a doctor, the family did not have the means to set him up in practice. At the invitation of his mother's sister, Elizabeth Hill, who was a wealthy widow in Philadelphia, Cadwallader left England to join his aunt in the new world.

When the twenty-two-year-old Cadwallader arrived in Philadelphia it was a thriving port. He found that the fastest way to make a good living was to start a mercantile business.