Ahyouwaighs, Mohawk Chief

Mohawk Chief
1794 – 1832

Thayendanegea, chief of the Mohawk, and head of the Iroquois confederacy, was married three times. By his first wife he had two children, by his second none, and by the third seven. His widow, Catharine Brant, was the eldest daughter of the head of the Turtle family the first in rank in the Mohawk nation; and according to their customs, the honors of her house descended to either of her sons whom she might choose. By her nomination, her fourth and youngest son, John Brant, Ahyouwaighs, became the chief of the Mohawks, and virtually succeeded his father in the office, now nominal, of chief of the Iroquois or Six Nations.

This chief was born on the 27th of September, 1794; he received a good English education and is said to have improved his mind by reading. In the war of 1812-15, between the United States and Great Britain, he espoused the cause of the latter, and participated in the dangers of the earliest part of the contest, but had not the opportunity to acquire distinction.

After the war, John Brant and his sister Elizabeth took up their abode at the family residence, at the head of Lake Ontario, where they lived in the English style; their mother having, after the death of Thayendanegea, returned to the Mohawk village, and resumed the customs of her fathers. Lieutenant Francis Hall, of the British service, who traveled in the United States and Canada, in 1816, visited “Brant House,” and described John Brant as a “fine young man, of gentleman like appearance, who used the English language correctly and agreeably, dressing in the English fashion, excepting only the moccasins of his Indian habit.” He says, in reference to Thayendanegea, “Brant, like Clovis, and many of the Anglo-Saxon and Danish Christians, contrived to unite much religious zeal with the practices of natural ferocity. His grave is seen under the walls of his church. I have mentioned one of his sons; he has also a daughter living, who would not disgrace the circles of European fashion. Her face and person are fine and graceful: she speaks English not only correctly, but elegantly, and has, both in her speech and manners, a softness approaching to oriental languor. She retains so much of her native dress as to identify her with her people, over whom she affects no superiority, but seems pleased to preserve all the ties and duties of relationship.”

This family is also favorably mentioned by James Buchanan, Esq., British consul for the port of New York, who made a tour through Canada in 1819. He describes the same young lady as a charming, noble-looking Indian girl, dressed partly in the English, and partly in the Indian costume;” and adds, “the grace and dignity of her movements, the style of her dress and manner, so new, so unexpected, filled us with astonishment.”

In 1821, John Brant visited England for the purpose of settling the controversy in regard to the title of the Mohawks to their land, which had caused his father so much vexation. The Duke of Northumberland, son of him who was the friend of the elder Brant, espoused his cause, as did other persons of influence, and he received assurances that the government would grant all that was asked. Instructions, favorable to the demands of the Mohawks, were transmitted to the colonial government; but difficulties were thrown in the way by the provincial authorities, and no redress has yet been granted.

During this visit, the young Brant addressed a letter to the poet Campbell, in which he remonstrated against the injustice alleged to have been done to his father’s character, in “Gertrude of Wyoming.” The stanzas complained of purport to form a part of a speech uttered by an Oneida chief, who came to warn a family that the forces of Brant and Butler were at hand.

“But this is not the time” he started up,
And smote his heart with war-denouncing hand
“This is no time to fill the joyous cup;
The mammoth comes the foe the monster Brant
With all his howling, desolating band.
These eyes have seen their blade and burning pine;
Awake at once, and silence half your land
Red is the cup they drink, but not with wine:
Awake and watch to-night, or see no morning shine.

“Scorning to wield the hatchet for his tribe,
“Gainst Brant himself I went to battle forth.
Accursed Brant ! he left of all my tribe
Nor man nor child, nor thing of living birth
No! not the dog that watched my household hearth
Escaped that night of blood upon our plains!
All perished I alone am left on earth,
To whom nor relative, nor blood remains,
No! not a kindred drop that runs in human veins!”

The appeal made to Campbell by a son who was probably sincere in the belief that his father had been misrepresented, touched his feelings, and induced him to write an apologetic reply, which ,is more honorable to his heart than his judgment. The only objection to the stanzas, in our opinion, is the bad taste of the plagiarism upon the speech of Logan, contained in the last three lines. No one who has read the melancholy fate of the Wells family, can hesitate to acquit Campbell of injustice; nor is there the slightest doubt that the same language would be true of numerous scenes in the life of that bold desolator of the fireside, Thayendanegea. Chief Justice Marshall, who is above all reproach as a historian, and as a gentleman of pure and elevated sentiments, was not convinced by the letter of John Brant, but, in his second edition of the “Life of Washington,” which was published several years after the appearance of that letter, reiterates the account of the massacre at Wyoming, in which Brant is stated to be the leader of the Indians.

On his return from England, the Mohawk chief seems to have given his attention to the moral condition of the tribe, which had been greatly neglected during the war between Great Britain and the United States; and in the year 1829, the “New England Corporation,” established in London, by charter A. D. 1662, for the civilization of the Indians, presented him with a splendid silver cup, bearing an inscription, purporting that it was given ” In acknowledgment of his eminent services in promoting the objects of the incorporation.”

In 1832, John Brant was returned a member of the Provincial Parliament for the county of Haldimand, which includes a portion of the territory granted to the Mohawks. The election was contested upon the ground that the laws of Upper Canada require a freehold qualification in the voters, and that many of those who voted for Brant held no other titles to real estate than such as were derived from the Indians, who had no legal fee; and the seat of John Brant was vacated. It was not long after this decision that Brant and his competitor, Colonel Warren, both fell victims to the cholera.

Elizabeth Brant, the youngest daughter of Thayendanegea, was married, some years ago, to William Johnson Kerr, Esq., a grand son of Sir William Johnson, and resides at the family mansion at the head of Lake Ontario.

The widow of Thayendanegea, upon the death of her favorite son John, conferred the title of chief upon the infant son of her daughter, Mrs. Kerr, and died on the 24th of November, 1837, thirty years to a day after the death of her husband, at the good old age of seventy-eight years.

Biography, Mohawk,

McKenny, Thomas & Hall, James & Todd, Hatherly & Todd, Joseph. History of the Indian tribes of North America: with biographical sketches and anecdotes of the principal chiefs. Embellished with one hundred portraits from the Indian Gallery in the War Department at Washington. Philadelphia: D. Rice & Co. 1872.

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