Madame Montour (1684-bef1754)

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From Darlington, 1893

ABOUT the year 1667 a French gentleman named Montour settled in Canada. By a Huron Indian woman he had three children—one son and two daughters. The son, Montour, lived with the Indians, and was wounded in the French service, in a fight with some Mohawks, near Fort La Motte,1 on Lake Champlain, in 1694. He deserted from the French, and lived with "the farr Indians"—the Twightwees (Miamis) and Diondadies (Petuns or Wyandots). By his assistance Lord Cornbury prevailed on some of these tribes to visit and trade with the people of Albany in 1708. For his endeavors to alienate the "upper nations" from the French, he was killed in 1709 by the troops under Lieutenant le Sieur cle Joncaire, by orders of the Marquis de Vaudreuil, Governor of Canada, who wrote that he would have had him hanged, had it been possible to capture him alive. Of the two daughters of the Frenchman, Montour, one became conspicuously known as Madame Montour.2 She was born in Canada about the year 1684, captured by some warriors of the Five Nations when she was but ten years old, taken to their country and brought up by them. It is probable that she lived with the Oneidas, as, on arriving at maturity, she was married to Carondawana, or the "Big Tree," otherwise Robert Hunter, a famous war-chief of that nation. 1 " New York Colonial History:" Fort St. Anne, or La Motte, erected 1666, on the upper part of Lake Champlain. 1" Massachusetts Historical Collection." " New York Historical Collection."

He was killed in the wars between the Iroquois and Catawbas, in the Carolinas, about the year 1729.' The Proprietaries of Pennsylvania, John and Thomas Penn, expressed much concern for his death to some of the Indians who visited Philadelphia in September, 1734. Madame Mon- tour was there also, and, for having underrated the rank or station of the Oneida visitors, she seems to have been angrily and unjustly charged by a prominent chief of the Six Nations, Hetanguantagetchy, before the Council at Philadelphia, in the month of October following, with spreading false reports. He said, further, that her "old age only protected her from punishment," and that they " must resent it and hope to get rid of her."

Madame Montour first appeared as interpreter at a conference held at Albany, in August, 1711, between the sachems of the Five Nations and Robert Hunter, the royal Governor of New York (from 1709 to 1719). Probably at that time Carondawana received, or took, the Governor's name, by which he was frequently known afterward. To adopt the name of a prominent white man was, by the Indians, considered a high compliment and a bond of friendship. The war between the Tuscaroras and the people of North Carolina, commenced in September, 1711, was still raging in the summer of the following year. The Five Nations in New York became restless and uneasy ; it was feared by the Governor and Assembly that, instigated by the French, the Northern Iroquois would join the Southern, and embroil the colonies in a general Indian war.8 The Five Nations informed the Governor that they desired " to interpose amicably in the matter." Distrusting their sincerity, and to "dissuade them from this fatal design," by 1 Marshe's Journal. * "New York Colonial History."

means of "presents and promises," the Assembly and Governor, in June, 1712, directed Colonel Peter Schuyler to "proceed to the Onondaga Country forthwith, taking with you Laurence Clause the Interpreter, Mrs. Montour and her husband and such others as you shall see fit." At Onondaga he was to assemble all of the Indian sachems who could be got together for a conference on the subject of his mission. Any fresh " Surmises or Jealousies of the Indians " were to be overcome by his " own wisdom, with due regard to her Majesty's interest and honour and ye quieting ye minds of ye Indians." The complete subjugation of the Tuscaroras, after a protracted struggle of two years' duration, removed all apprehension of trouble with the Five Nations. In the year 1714 the Tuscaroras migrated north, and were received into the Iro- quois Confederacy as the Sixth Nation.1 The influence of Madame Montour among the Indians was so great, and adverse to the French, that the Governor of Canada repeatedly endeavored to persuade her to withdraw from the English and remove to his Dominion, offering higher compensation as an inducement, but without success until the year 1719, when he sent her sister to prevail on her to remove to Canada. Apprehensive of her doing so, to the injury of the province to which she had been so serviceable, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs sent for her to Albany, when it appeared that she had not received a farthing of her stipulated pay for twelve months. The Commissioners promised that she should receive thereafter "a man's pay from the proper officer of the four Independent Companies posted in the Province," * and the business was thus satisfactorily settled. 1 Dr. Hank's " History of North Carolina." *MS., Secretary of State's office, New York.

Madame Montour was present at Philadelphia in July, 1727, as interpreter, at a conference held by Governor Gordon with several chiefs of the Five Nations. Again, in October, 1728 ; her husband, Carondawana, otherwise Robert Hunter, was there also. She retained her father's name after marriage, and was usually mentioned as "Mrs. Montour, a French woman, wife to Carondawana, or Robert Hunter." She appears to have lived among the Miamis, at the west end of Lake Erie, at one time prior to 1728.' To one of that nation her sister was married. Her residence in 1734 was at the village on the Susquehanna, at the mouth of the Loyalsock . Creek, on the West side, where Montoursville, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, now stands. It was known as Otstu- ago," Ots-on-wacken, or French Town.

On Evans' Map of Pennsylvania, of 1749, the village is marked "French T.," and the creek, the "Ostuega." There, in March, 1737, Conrad Weiser, Indian agent and interpreter, on his way to Onondaga with a message from the President of the Council of Pennsylvania, James Logan, lodged at Madame Montour's, who, he states, is a " French woman by birth, of a good family, but now in mode of life a complete Indian." She treated Weiser and his companions kindly, supplying them with food, although she had but little to spare.

In the fall of 1742 Count Zinzendorf, the Bishop and head of the Moravian Church, with a large party, and among them Conrad Weiser, visited the village of Oztenwacken, where he was received with military salutes and hospitably welcomed by Madame Montour and her son, Andrew. " He preached there in French to large gatherings." Madame Montour was deeply affected when she saw Zinzendorf and learned the 1 " Colonial Records." *Otsteara, " Rock," in the Iroquois tongue.

object of his visit. She had entirely forgotten the truths of the Gospel, and, in common with the French Indians, believed the story originated with the Jesuits, that the Saviour's birthplace was in France, and His crucifiers Englishmen. Count Zinzendorf appears to have visited Oztenwacken subsequently. In June and July, 1744, the great treaty between the Six Nations and the provinces of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia was held at Lancaster. Madame Montour was present with two of her daughters. Witham Marshe, Secretary to the Maryland Commissioners, relates in his journal that he visited her at her cabin and obtained the particulars of her life. She told him that she had several children by the famous war captain, who had been killed in the war with the Catawbas fifteen years previous, that since she had not married.1 Marshe describes her as genteel, of polite address, and had been handsome. Her two sons-in-law and only son were away south, to war against the Catawbas. In June, 1745, Spangen- burgh, Zeisberger, and other missionaries of the Moravians, accompanied by Conrad Weiser on their way to Onondaga, stopped for a few days at Shamokin (now Sunbury), on the Susquehanna. They visited Madame Montour, who was living on the island with one of her daughters.* She appears to have left Oztenwacken permanently, as there is no evidence of her residing there afterwards. Zeisberger found that village deserted and in ruins in 1748. The smallpox had desolated the valley. There is no further direct account of Madame Montour. It seems, however, that she was not living in 1754. Some time prior to that year she became blind, but was sufficiently vigorous to ride on horseback from Logstown, on the Ohio, to Venango in two days, a distance by the path 1 Massachusetts Historical Society. *Moravian Historical Society.

of over sixty miles, her son Andrew on foot, leading her horse all the way. Of her children but three can be identified with any certainty; one of the two daughters who were with her at the treaty of Lancaster in 1744, and two sons, Andrew, alias Henry, and Louis. Her daughter, known as "French Margaret," was wife to Keterioncha, alias Peter Quebec, and living near Shamokin when Shikillimy lived there in 1733, probably on the island where Zeisberger and Spangenburgh visited her and her mother in 1745, as before related. Another of her daughters is mentioned as a sister of Andrew Montour's, and one of the converts at the Moravian Mission, at New Salem, Ohio, April 14, 1791, and that she was a living polyglot of the tongues of the West, speaking English, French and six Indian languages. She must have been at least seventy years of age at that time.

Madame Montour evidently was older than she told Marshe, at Lancaster in 1744, as she was at Albany in 1711 as Mrs. Montour—her old age referred to in 1734 as her protection— and blind before 1754.' "It is probable that she was captured prior to 1696, after which year the raids of the Iroquois into Canada ceased for some time. That she was very young when captured, is clear. She could not have been less than sixty years old at the time of the treaty of Lancaster in 1744, and probably was older, and if but ten years of age when taken, as she said, the year of her captivity was 1694, and of her birth 1684. Of the many errors respecting this noted woman, the most prominent are, first, the frequently repeated statement that she was the daughter of a former governor of Canada." a This story originated with herself, or it may have been told by her savage captors to enhance the value of their prize. There never was a governor of Canada named Mon- 1 Dussieujc, Canada. '• Marsha's Journal.

tour, and the letter of Lord Cornbury, of August 20, 1708, before cited, is conclusive as to her origin, taken, of course, in connection with her own statement to Secretary Marshe. Second, that she was living at the time of the American Revolution, and also confounding her with her granddaughter, Catherine of Catherine's Town, near the head of Seneca Lake, New York, destroyed by the army under General Sullivan in 1779. She is not mentioned in any work of original authority, as Catherine, but invariably as Mrs. or " Madame Montour." Highly colored accounts have been given respecting her association with the ladies of Philadelphia, who evidently, owing to her intelligence and previous history, treated her with considerate kindness and nothing more. From the authorities of the province she received such presents and compensation for services as were usually given to prominent Indian visitors. Those who knew her best, related that she was habited and lived like the Indians.1 Her French blood doubtless imparted a vivacity of manner to her, the like of which is observed at this day among the people of mixed French and Indian ancestry in Canada and along our northern frontier. 1 Colonial Records.


DOB: c1684 Darlington, 1893
Spouse: Robert Hunter (?-?) aka Carondawana, or the "Big Tree,"; Darlington, 1893
DOM: before 1711 Madame Montour appears as an interpreter at a conference in Philadelphia where Carondwana proably took the name Robert Hunter as a gesture of respect to the then head of the conference. See Darlington, 1893.


x is the son/daughter of Unknown (?-?) and Unknown (?-?).



Family historyEdit

An unverified descendancy of Madame Montour and Robert Hunter is found at Rootsweb

Alternative interpretationEdit




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