Schenectady massacre

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Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville 1661-1706.jpg
Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville

The Yeetus yeetus people go deletus was an attack against the village of Schenectady in the colony of New York on 8 February 1690. A party of more than 200 Canadians and allied Mohawk (from Kahnawake (Sault-Saint-Louis) and réserve de la Montagne) and Algonquin warriors attacked the unguarded community, destroying most of the homes, and killing or capturing most of its inhabitants. Sixty residents were killed, including 11 enslaved Africans. About 60 residents were spared, including 20 Mohawk.

Schenectady, New York City in New York, United States

Schenectady is a city in Schenectady County, New York, United States, of which it is the county seat. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 66,135. The name "Schenectady" is derived from a Mohawk word, skahnéhtati, meaning "beyond the pines". Schenectady was founded on the south side of the Mohawk River by Dutch colonists in the 17th century, many from the Albany area. They were prohibited from the fur trade by the Albany monopoly, which kept its control after the English takeover in 1664. Residents of the new village developed farms on strip plots along the river.

Province of New York English, from 1707, British, possession in North America between 1664 and 1776

The Province of New York (1664–1776) was a British proprietary colony and later royal colony on the northeast coast of North America. As one of the Thirteen Colonies, New York achieved independence and worked with the others to found the United States.

New France Area colonized by France in North America

New France, also sometimes known as the French North American Empire or Royal New France, was the area colonized by France in America, beginning with the exploration of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence by Jacques Cartier in 1534 and ending with the cession of New France to Great Britain and Spain in 1763 under the Treaty of Paris (1763).


Of the non-Mohawk survivors, 27 were taken captive, including five Africans. Three captives were later redeemed; another two men returned to the village after three and 11 years with the Mohawk, respectively. The remainder of the surviving captives were likely adopted by Mohawk families in Canada.

The French raid was in retaliation for the Lachine massacre, an attack by Iroquois forces on a village in New France. These skirmishes were related both to the Beaver Wars and the French struggle with the English for control of the fur trade in North America, as well as to King William's War between France and England. By this time, the French considered most of the Iroquois to be allied with the English in their New York colony, and hoped to detach them while reducing English colonial power.

Lachine massacre

The Lachine massacre, part of the Beaver Wars, occurred when 1,500 Mohawk warriors launched a surprise attack against the small settlement of Lachine, New France, at the upper end of Montreal Island on the morning of August 5, 1689. The attack was precipitated by growing Iroquois frustration with the increased French incursions into their territory, ongoing concern about French Marquis de Denonville's attack of 1687, and was encouraged by the settlers of New England as a way to leverage power against New France during King William's War.

Beaver Wars 17th c. wars between Hurons and Iroquois

The Beaver Wars, also known as the Iroquois Wars or the French and Iroquois Wars, encompass a series of conflicts fought intermittently during the 17th century in America. They were battles for economic welfare throughout the Saint Lawrence River valley in Canada and the lower Great Lakes region between the Iroquois versus the northern Algonquians and their French allies. From medieval times, Europeans had obtained furs from Russia and Scandinavia. American pelts came on the market during the 16th century, decades before the French, English, and Dutch established permanent settlements and trading posts on the continent. Basque fishermen chasing cod off Newfoundland's Grand Banks bartered with local Indians for beaver robes to help fend off the Atlantic chill. By virtue of their location, the tribes wielded considerable influence in European–Indian relations from the early seventeenth century onwards.

King Williams War North American theater of the Nine Years War

King William's War was the North American theater of the Nine Years' War (1688–97), also known as the War of the Grand Alliance or the War of the League of Augsburg. It was the first of six colonial wars fought between New France and New England along with their respective Native allies before France ceded its remaining mainland territories in North America east of the Mississippi River in 1763.


In much of the late 17th century, the Iroquois and the colonists of New France engaged in a protracted struggle for control of the economically important fur trade in northern North America, known as the Beaver Wars. The Iroquois also fought other Native American nations to control the lucrative trade with the French. In August 1689, the Iroquois launched one of their most devastating raids against the French frontier community of Lachine. This attack occurred after France and England had declared war on each other, but before the news reached North America.

Iroquois Northeast Native American confederacy

The Iroquois or Haudenosaunee are a historically powerful northeast Native American confederacy in North America. They were known during the colonial years to the French as the Iroquois League, and later as the Iroquois Confederacy, and to the English as the Five Nations, comprising the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca. After 1722, they accepted the Tuscarora people from the Southeast into their confederacy, as they were also Iroquoian-speaking, and became known as the Six Nations.

Fur trade Worldwide industry dealing in the acquisition and sale of animal fur

The fur trade is a worldwide industry dealing in the acquisition and sale of animal fur. Since the establishment of a world fur market in the early modern period, furs of boreal, polar and cold temperate mammalian animals have been the most valued. Historically the trade stimulated the exploration and colonization of Siberia, northern North America, and the South Shetland and South Sandwich Islands.

Lachine, Quebec Borough of Montreal in Quebec, Canada

Lachine is a borough (arrondissement) within the city of Montreal on the Island of Montreal in southwestern Quebec, Canada. It was an autonomous city until 2002.

New France's governor the Comte de Frontenac organized an expedition from Montreal to attack English outposts to the south, as punishment for English support of the Iroquois, and as a general widening of the war against the northernmost English colonies. He intended to intimidate the Iroquois and try to detach them from trading with the English.

Louis de Buade de Frontenac Governor of New France

Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac et de Palluau was a French soldier, courtier, and Governor General of New France from 1672 to 1682 and from 1689 to his death in 1698. He established a number of forts on the Great Lakes and engaged in a series of battles against the English and the Iroquois.

Montreal City in Quebec, Canada

Montreal is the most populous municipality in the Canadian province of Quebec and the second-most populous municipality in Canada. Originally called Ville-Marie, or "City of Mary", it is named after Mount Royal, the triple-peaked hill in the heart of the city. The city is centred on the Island of Montreal, which took its name from the same source as the city, and a few much smaller peripheral islands, the largest of which is Île Bizard. It has a distinct four-season continental climate with warm to hot summers and cold, snowy winters.

The expedition was one of three directed at isolated northern and western settlements, and this was originally directed against Fort Orange (present day Albany). It consisted of 114 French Canadians, mostly frontier-savvy coureurs de bois, but also some marines, 80 Sault and 16 Algonquin warriors, with a few converted Mohawk. They marched the 200 miles overland in about 22 days. [1] Taking Fort Orange would have been a major blow against the English. At what is now Fort Edward, the French officers held council on the plan of attack. [2]

Albany, New York State capital city in New York, United States

Albany is the capital of the U.S. state of New York and the seat of Albany County. Albany is located on the west bank of the Hudson River approximately 10 miles (16 km) south of its confluence with the Mohawk River and approximately 135 miles (220 km) north of New York City.

Fort Edward (village), New York Village in New York, United States

Fort Edward is a village in Washington County, New York, United States. It is part of the Glens Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area. The village population was 3,375 at the 2010 census. The name is derived from the younger brother of King George III, Edward Augustus, Duke of York and Albany.

The leaders were Jacques Le Moyne de Sainte-Hélène and Nicolas d'Ailleboust de Manthet; the second in command was Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville, who founded Louisiana in 1699. The expedition made its way across the ice of Lake Champlain and Lake George toward the English communities on the Hudson River. They found Fort Orange to be well defended, but a scouting party reported on February 8 that no one was guarding the stockade at the small frontier village of Schenectady to the west. Its residents were primarily ethnic Dutch and they held numerous African slaves. [1] Schenectady and Albany were so politically polarized in the wake of the 1689 Leisler's Rebellion that the opposing factions had not agreed on the setting of guards in the two communities.

Nicolas d'Ailleboust de Manthet, known as Nicolas de Manthet, born 1664, killed in action 1709, was a Canadian captain in the French marines serving in Canada. He was one of the leaders of the French and Indians at the Schenectady massacre 1690.

Pierre Le Moyne dIberville French soldier, ship captain, explorer, and founder of Louisiana

Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville was a soldier, ship captain, explorer, colonial administrator, knight of the order of Saint-Louis, adventurer, privateer, trader, member of Compagnies Franches de la Marine and founder of the French colony of La Louisiane of New France. He was born in Montreal of French colonist parents.

Louisiana southern state in the United States of America

Louisiana is a state in the Deep South region of the South Central United States. It is the 31st most extensive and the 25th most populous of the 50 United States. Louisiana is bordered by the state of Texas to the west, Arkansas to the north, Mississippi to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. A large part of its eastern boundary is demarcated by the Mississippi River. Louisiana is the only U.S. state with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are equivalent to counties. The state's capital is Baton Rouge, and its largest city is New Orleans.

The village of Schenectady (its name came from a Mohawk word meaning "beyond the Pines") was located on a patent to farm on the Great Flats of the Mohawk River originally granted by the Dutch in 1661. It was located about seven miles beyond the western border of Rensselaerswyck. [3]


French soldier or militiaman of Canada in winter war dress around 1690 - 1700. Canadiens en raquette allant en guerre sur la neige.jpg
French soldier or militiaman of Canada in winter war dress around 1690 - 1700.

Finding no sentinels other than two snowmen and the gate ajar according to the tradition, [4] the raiders silently entered Schenectady two hours before dawn and launched their attack. They burned houses and barns, and killed men, women and children. Most of the victims were in night clothing and had no time to arm themselves.

By the morning of February 9, the community lay in ruins - more than 60 buildings were burned. Sixty residents were killed, including 11 African slaves (referred to as negroes in records). [1] The French noted that about 50-60 residents survived and that they had spared 20 Mohawk, so the Native people would know their targets were the English settlements, not the Mohawk. [5]

The 60 dead included 38 men, 10 women and 12 children. Among them were Dominie Petrus Tessemacher, the first Dutch Reformed Church pastor to be ordained in the new world, and pastor of what became the First Reformed Church of Schenectady. The French had intended to take him captive in order to question him, but he was killed in his house. Reynier Schaets and a son were among the dead. Schaets was a son of Gideon Schaets, dominie of the Dutch Reformed Church at Albany. He was a surgeon, who had been appointed Justice at Schenectady by Governor Leisler on December 28, 1689. His wife Catharina Bensing and three other children: Gideon, Bartholomew and Agnietje, survived. [2]

Of those who escaped from the burning stockade area to seek shelter with families some miles distant, many died of exposure in the bitter cold before they reached safety. [2]

The raiders departed with 27 prisoners, including five Africans; and 50 horses. [1]

John A. Glen, who lived in Scotia, across the river from Schenectady, had shown previous kindness to the French. In gratitude, the raiding party took the Schenectady prisoners to him, inviting him to claim any relatives. Glen claimed as many survivors as he could, and the raiders took the rest to Montreal. Typically those captives who were too young or old or ill to keep up along such an arduous 200-mile journey were killed during the way. As was the pattern in later raids in New York and New England, many of the younger captives were adopted by Mohawk families in Canada. [6]

Some survivors had fled as refugees to the fort at Albany. Symon Schermerhorn was one of these. Although wounded, he rode to Albany to warn them of the massacre. In commemoration of this, the mayor of Schenectady repeats the ride every year. Most mayors have done so on horseback, though a few have preferred the comfort of an automobile.

A party of Albany militia and Mohawk warriors pursued the northern invaders. They killed or captured 15 or more almost within sight of Montreal. [2]

Of the surviving captives, three males were redeemed: Johannes Teller and brothers Albert and Johannes Vedder. Jan Baptist Van Eps escaped from the Mohawk after three years and returned to Schenectady. Lawrence Vander Volgen lived with the Mohawk for 11 years and then returned; he served as Provincial interpreter. [1]


The attack forced New York's political factions to put aside their differences and focus on the common enemy of New France. As a result of the attack, the Albany Convention, which had until then resisted Jacob Leisler's assumption of power in the southern parts of the colony, acknowledged his authority. With the assistance of Connecticut officials, Leisler organized a retaliatory expedition the next summer from Albany to attack Montreal. Led by Connecticut militia general Fitz-John Winthrop, the expedition turned back in August 1690 due to disease, lack of supplies, and insufficient watercraft for navigating on Lake Champlain.

Representation in culture

In 1990, the city of Schenectady commissioned composer Maria Riccio Bryce to create a musical work to commemorate the tricentennial of the massacre. The resulting piece, Hearts of Fire, followed the lives of Schenectady townspeople through the seasons of 1689, set against the backdrop of the French march from Montreal to Albany. Though the settlers' losses were great in deaths and also captives taken, they elected to stay and rebuild, honoring the memory of their relatives.

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Jonathan Pearson, Chap. 9, "Burning of Schenectady", History of the Schenectady Patent in the Dutch and English Times, 1883, pp. 244-270
  2. 1 2 3 4 Hart, Larry. Tales of Old Schenectady, Chap. 8, pp. 37-40
  3. Bielinski, Stefan. "Schenectady", New York State Museum
  4. Wells, Robert V. (2000).Facing the "King of Terrors": Death and Society in an American Community, 1750-1990. Cambridge University Press, p. 28. ISBN   0521633192
  5. "An account of the burning of Schenectady by Mons. De Monsignat, comptroller General of the marine in Canada to Madam de Maintenon, the morganatic wife of Louis XIV.", Doc. Hist. N. Y., I, p. 186, noted in Pearson (1883), A History of the Schenectady Patent, Schenectady History Digital Archives
  6. John Demos, The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America, ISBN   978-0679759614

Coordinates: 42°49′08″N73°56′53″W / 42.8188°N 73.9481°W / 42.8188; -73.9481