Saturday, January 31, 2015

Is Anyone Home at Molly's House?

This was Molly Brant's house, her home during her happiest years. I like to think her spirit is still there.

It was here in 1763 that she and her partner, Sir William Johnson, moved their young family, even though construction on the manor house was not fully finished.

Molly and William had two young children at the time — Peter, who was four, and Elizabeth, just two years old. Baby Magdalene would be born that same year; perhaps Molly was pregnant during the move. 

Over the next eleven years more babies would arrive — Margaret, George, Mary, Susanna, and Anne. 

Johnson Hall, closed for the season.

 The family had moved from their former home, Fort Johnson (pictured below), on the Mohawk River, three miles west of Amsterdam, New York.
Fort Johnson

The new house, north and west of Fort Johnson, was nine miles back from the Mohawk. It was bigger and more elegant than Fort Johnson. 

Johnson Hall is a New York State Historic Site, open to the public. Currently, it is having some of its rooms refurbished. I recently saw pictures on the Facebook page of Johnson Hall State Historic Site that showed painting and other restorations being done in the children's room. 

The first children ever to use that room were those of Molly Brant. I love to imagine the halls of the stately home echoing with the sounds of Molly's children.

It was at Johnson Hall that Molly Brant proved her mettle as Mistress of the Manor. She and William hosted elaborate dinner parties and entertained visiting dignitaries, both white and Native. Sir William was Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Northern District and frequently held meetings with the Six Nations, right there on the grounds of Johnson Hall.
View of the back of Johnson Hall, showing one of the two stone blockhouses.

Approaching Johnson Hall from the side, showing first of two stone blockhouses. 

 Molly lived at Johnson Hall until Sir William's death in 1774. After that, she took the children and returned to her Mohawk town of Canajoharie. 

Sir John Johnson, William's principal heir and the son of Catherine Weissenburg, moved his family into the manor house. In 1776, during the American Revolution, Sir John fled to Canada, and Johnson Hall fell into the hands of the Patriots.

For more on this story, Molly Brant, Mohawk Loyalist & Diplomat, available in April, 2015

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Molly Brant, Founding Member

St. George's Anglican Cathedral, Kingston.

Did you know that Molly Brant, the subject of my upcoming biography, was the only female founding member of St. George's Anglican Church in Kingston. Ontario?

The idea of such a thing would've have been beyond the wildest imaginings of the Native girl, born in 1736 in poverty, in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. But here's how it came about:

The Rev. John Stuart, a Loyalist refugee from New York and a missionary to the Mohawk community there and later, in Montreal, petitioned for land at Cataraqui in December 1783. He applied to become chaplain of the troops stationed at old Fort Frontenac.

Stuart arrived in the spring of 1784, around the same time as Molly Brant, then about forty-seven years of age, and her family. The Canadian government, in recognition and appreciation of the service Molly had given this country during and after the American Revolution, was building Molly a comfortable house in the town, and saw to her relocation from her former home on nearby Carleton Island.

There was no church building in Cataraqui (Kingston) when Stuart and Molly arrived, and the commanding officer allowed Stuart to use a large room in the garrison as a place of worship. Soon the local inhabitants, including Molly, began turning out for Sunday services.

Shortly, Stuart was writing his bishop that his congregation had grown so large that the room they were using above the barracks could scarcely hold them all. The Reverend began to raise funds for a new church, starting by donating the first ten pounds himself.

Among the names of those who contributed to the building fund was that of Molly Brant. She was the only woman in the 1792 founding charter of the first St. George's Anglican Church. A memorial plaque inside today's magnificent Cathedral Church of St. George tells the story.

You can read more about this remarkable woman in Molly Brant, Mohawk Loyalist & Diplomat, to be released in April of this year.