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1750.] NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE INDIANS. 39
Gist knew the meaning of such hints from men of this stamp in the lawless depths of the wilderness; but quieted their suspicions by letting them know that he was on public business, and on good terms with their great man, George Croghan, to whom he despatched a letter. He took his departure from Logstown, however, as soon as possible, preferring, as he said, the solitudo of the wilderness to such company.
At Beaver Creek, a few miles below the village, he left the river and struck into the interior of the present State of Ohio. Here he overtook George Croghan at Muskingum, a town of Wyandots and Mingoes. He had ordered all the traders in his employ who were scattered among the Indian villages to rally at this town, where he had hoisted the English flag over his residence and over that of the Bachein. This was in consequence of the hostility of the French, who had recently captured, in the neighbourhood, three white men in the employ of Frazier, an Indian trader, and had carried them away prisoners to Canada.
Gist was well received by the people of Muskingum. They were indignant at the French violation of their territories, and the capture of their "English brothers." They had not forgotten the conduct of Celeron de Bienville in the previous year, and the mysterious plates which he had nailed against trees and sunk in the ground. "If the French claim the rivers which run into the lakes," said they, "those which run into the Ohio belong to us and to our brothers the English." And they were anxious that Gist should settle among them, and build a fort for their mutual defence.
A council of the nation was now held, in which Gist invited them, in the name of the Governor of Virginia, to visit that province, where a large present of goods awaited them, sent by their father, the great king, over the water to his Ohio children. The invitation was graciously received, but no answer could be given until a grand council of the western tribes had been held, which was to take place at Logstown in the ensuing spring.
Similar results attended visits made by Gist and Croghan to the Delawares and the Shawnees at their villages about the Scioto Eiver; all promised to be at the gathering at Logstown. From the Shawnee village, near the mouth of the Scioto, the two emissaries shaped their course north two hundred miles, crossed the Great Moneami, or Miami River, on a raft, swimming their horses; and on the 17th of February arrived at the Indian town of Piqua.
These journeyings had carried Gist about a wide extent of country beyond the Ohio. It was rich and level, watered with streams and rivulets, and clad with noble forests of hickory, walnut, ash, poplar, sugar-maple, and wild cherry trees. Occasionally there were spacious plains covered with wild rye; natural meadows with blue grass and clover, and buffaloes, thirty and forty at a time, grazing on them as in a cultivated pasture. Deer, elk, and wild turkeys abounded. "Nothing is wanting but cultivation," says Gist, "to make this a most delightful country." Cultivation has since proved the truth of his words. The country thus described is the present State of Ohio.
Picqua, where Gist and Croghan had arrived, was the principal town of the Twightwees or Miamis, the most powerful confederacy of the West, combining four tribes, and extending its influence even beyond the Mississippi. A king or sachem of one or other of the different tribes presided over the whole. The head chief at present was the king of the Piankeshas.
At this town Croghan formed a treaty of alliance, in the name of the Governor of Pennsylvania, with two of the Miami tribes; and Gist was promised by the king of the Piankeshas that the chiefs of the various tribes would attend the meeting at Logstown to make a treaty with Virginia.'
In the height of these demonstrations of friendship, two Ottawas entered the council-house, announcing themselves as envoys from the French Governor of Canada to seek a renewal of ancient alliance. They were received with all due ceremonial—for none are more ceremonious than the Indians. The French colours were set up beside the English, and the ambassadors opened their mission. "Tour father, the French king," said they, "remembering his children on the Ohio, has sent them these two kegs of milk"—here, with great solemnity, they deposited two
kegs of brandy—" and this tobacco "—here they deposited a roll ten pounds in weight. "He has made a clear road for you to come and see him and his officers; and urges you to come, assuring you that all past differences will be forgotten."
The Piankesha chief replied in the same figurative style: "It is true our father has sent for us several times, and has said the road was clear; but I understand it is not clear—it is foul and bloody, and the French have made it so. We have cleared a road for our brothers, the English; the French have made it bad, and have taken some of our brothers prisoners. This we consider as done to ourselves." So saying, he turned his back upon the ambassadors, and stalked out of the council-house.
In the end, the ambassadors were assured that the tribes of the Ohio and the Six Nations were hand in hand with their brothers, the English; and should war ensue with the French, they were ready to meet it.
So the French colours were taken down; the "kegs of milk" and roll of tobacco were rejected; the grand council broke up with a war-dance, and the ambassadors departed, weeping and howling, and predicting ruin to the Miamis.
When Gist returned to the Shawnee town, near the mouth of the Scioto, and reported to his Indian friendp there the alliance he had formed with the Miami confederacy, there was great feasting and speech-making and firing of guns. He had now happily accomplished the chief objects of his mission—nothing remained but to descend the Ohio to the Great Falls. This, however, he was cautioned not to do. A large party of Indians, allies of the French, were hunting in that neighbourhood, who might kill or capture him. He crossed the river, attended only by a lad as a travelling companion and aid, and proceeded cautiously down the east side until within fifteen miles of the Falls. Here he came upon traps newly set, and Indian footprints not a day old, and heard the distant report of guns. The story of Indian hunters then was true. He was in a dangerous neighbourhood. The savages might come upon the tracks of his horses, or hear the bells put about their necks when turned loose in the wilderness to graze.
Abandoning all idea, therefore, of visiting the Falls, and contenting himself with the information concerning them which he had received from others, he shaped his course, on the 18th of March, for the Cuttawa, or Kentucky River. From the top of a mountain in the vicinity he had a view to the south-west, as far as the eye could reach, over a vast woodland country in the fresh garniture of spring, and watered by abundant streams; but as yet only the huntingground of savage tribes, and the scene of their sanguinary combats. In a word, Kentucky lay spread out before him in all its wild magnificence, long before it was beheld by Daniel Boone.
For six weeks was this hardy pioneer making his toilful way up the valley of the Cuttawa, or Kentucky Eiver, to the banks of the Blue Stone; often checked by precipices, and obliged to seek fords at the heads of tributary streams; and happy when he could find a buffalo path broken through the tangled forests, or worn into the everlasting rocks.
On the 1st of May he climbed a rock sixty feet high, crowning a lofty mountain, and had a distant view of the great Kanawha breaking its way through a vast sierra; crossing that river on a raft of his own construction, he had many more weary days before him, before he reached his frontier abode on the banks of the Yadkin. He arrived there in the latter part of May, but there was no one to welcome the wanderer home. There had been an Indian massacre in the neighbourhood, and he found his house silent and deserted. His heart sank within him, until an old man, whom he met near the place, assured him his family were safe, having fled for refuge to a settlement thirty-five miles off, on the banks of the Boanoke. There he rejoined them on the following day.
While Gist had been making his painful way homeward, the two Ottawa ambassadors had returned to Fort Sandusky, bringing word to the French that their flag had been struck in the council-house at Picqua, and their friendship rejected and their hostility defied by the Miamis. They informed them also of the gathering of the western tribes that was to take place at Logstown, to conclude a treaty with the Virginians.
It was a great object with the French to prevent this treaty, and to spirit up the Ohio Indians against the English. This they hoped to effect through the agency of one Captain Joncaire, a veteran diplomatist of the wilderness, whose character and story deserve a passing notice.
He had been taken prisoner when quite young by the Iroquois, and adopted into one of their tribes. This was the making of his fortune. He had grown up among them, acquired their language, adapted himself to their habits, and was considered by them as one of themselves. On returning to civilised life he became a prime instrument in the hands of the Canadian government, for managing and cajoling the Indians. Sometimes he was an ambassador to the Iroquois; sometimes a mediator between their jarring tribes; sometimes a leader of their warriors when employed by the French. When in 1728 the Delawares and Shawnees migrated to the banks of the Ohio, Joncaire was the agent who followed them, and prevailed on them to consider themselves under French protection. When the French wanted to get a commanding site for a post on the Iroquois lands, near Niagara, Joncaire was the man to manage it. He craved a situation where he might put up a wigwam, and dwell among his Iroquois brethren. It was granted of course, "for was he not a son of the tribe—was he not one of themselves?" By degrees his wigwam grew into an important trading post; ultimately it became Fort Niagara. Years and years had elapsed; he had grown grey in Indian diplomacy, and was now sent once more to maintain French sovereignty over the valley of the Ohio.
He appeared at Logstown, accompanied by another Frenchman and forty Iroquois warriors. He found an assemblage of tho western tribes, feasting and rejoicing, and firing of guns, for George Croghan and Montour the interpreter were there, and had been distributing presents on behalf of the Governor of Pennsylvania.
Joncaire was said to have the wit of a Frenchman, and the eloquence of an Iroquois. He made an animated speech to the chiefs in their own tongue, the gist of which was that their father Onontio (that is to say, the