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Chapter 8: The next centure, and those after

In 1707, England and Scotland put aside their quarrels and, along with Wales, were united as a new nation called Great Britain.

Britain began to focus on building its colonies, and New York saw great growth over the next century. The city of New York began the 1700s with 4,983 residents. By 1790, it would have nearly seven times that many people.

When New York Was New

An eight-part serial story for the Newspapers in Education program exploring the roots of New York state, funded by New York State United Teachers, New York News Publishers Association and New York Newspapers Foundation.

Meanwhile, more European settlers were coming to the southern parts of New York, along the Delaware and Hudson and on the shores of the Mohawk River.

Most of the people who came to the colony were settlers looking for a new life in the New World, but many were not. The Dutch had allowed slavery, but now the British actively encouraged it, and thousands of Africans were kidnapped into slavery and brought to New York by traders.

By the middle of the century, a third of the people who came to the colony were African slaves, and they made up a quarter of those living in the city of New York and the surrounding area.

Another group, however, came to escape slavery: The Tuscarora, people from the Carolinas related to the Iroquois, had been in a war with European settlers there. Many were killed, but many others were captured and sold to the plantations in the islands of the Caribbean as slaves.

In 1722, a large group of Tuscarora came to the Longhouse asking for help and a safe place to live.

The Iroquois welcomed them, and the Five Nations became the Six Nations. The Tuscarora were called “The Little Brothers of the Cayuga” and made a town for themselves between the lands of the Oneida and the Onondaga.

During the 1700s, European-style homes began to be built in the Iroquois towns, as the longhouses slowly disappeared, along with the old technologies and old ways of dressing.

Before the old ways were gone, however, the Iroquois finally had the chance to unite with their British brothers of the Covenant Chain against their old enemies.

In 1754, the two nations united against the French and Algonquin and, when the French and Indian War ended seven years later, France had been defeated and Canada, too, was a colony of Great Britain.

The next war, however, had an unhappy ending for the Longhouse. When the American colonies revolted against Britain, the Iroquois were divided over which side to support, or whether to stay out of it entirely.

After the French and Indian War, the Iroquois had made an agreement with the British government, the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, which placed a line just east of the Finger Lakes region. The eastern side was British and the western side was Iroquois.

But settlers ignored the line and built farms on Iroquois land. There was serious fighting between Indians and Europeans, though most took place west of New York.

The British promised the Iroquois, that, if they helped them win or didn’t fight at all, the treaty would be kept when the Revolution was over. The Patriots made the same promise.

Some Iroquois came in on the British side, others sided with the Patriots and many stayed neutral.

But, when the war ended, the United States rewarded the veterans of its own army with land, and, in New York, that land, the Military Tract, was two million acres taken from the middle of the Longhouse.

The Onondaga and Cayuga were given reservations in the middle of the Tract, but most of that, too, was later taken from them.

But, if most of the land that made up the Longhouse is gone, the People of the Longhouse are still here, and each of the Six Nations has its own government that makes agreements with New York State and the U.S. government.

And wherever land has changed hands, the names that remain provide clues to our history.

Our state was named for the Duke of York, and its capital for the Duke of Albany, and towns with names like Kingston also show the influence of England on our history.

And if a town was settled by the Dutch, it, too, may have been named for a prominent political figure like Peter Stuyvesant, or for the people who settled it, like the van Rensselaers, or for a place back in Holland like Amsterdam, Breuckelen or Haarlem.

But often, settlers kept the Iroquois and Algonquin names by which those places had been known for thousands of years.

There are also many towns, especially in the Mohawk and Genesee Valleys and out to the Niagara Frontier, that have Iroquois names because they were towns of the Longhouse, like the Mohawk village of Canajoharie or the Seneca town called Cheektowaga.

Newer towns with newer names have stories to tell as well, and it doesn’t take much digging to find out that there have been far more than four nations involved in building New York into what it is today.

It’s not all history, either: People still come to New York today, just as they did 400 years ago, from other countries and other lands.

As you’ve read, there have often been difficulties and broken promises as new people have come to this region over the past four centuries. People were not perfect then, and they are still not perfect today.

But among the stories of quarrels and misunderstandings, there are also stories of welcoming, and of people working together to do their best.

That is history. The story of the future is yet to be told.

Text copyright 2015, Mike Peterson; illustration copyright 2015, Christopher Baldwin.


Executive Editor