Picture of Eleazor Williams
Loretta Metoxen, Oneida Tribal Historian Interview December 2008
It wasn’t the chiefs who decided to come to Wisconsin, it was their Christian leader Eleazor Williams who influenced them. He had worked with the Governor of New York, the Ogden Land Company, the Episcopalian Church and the Department of War. The Oneidas fell under the Department of War’s jurisdiction. In the early 1800s he moved into Chief Skenandoah’s home in Oneida Castle, NY in 1817. There he built an extension onto the home and established a school for the children. What he truly did was influence the women and I believe that he worked hard to influence the clan mothers. He would give them long talks that would last around 3 hours. He knew that influencing them was important because the tribe was matriarchal and they influenced the men’s decisions. The U.S. ideology at the time was to move all of the Iroquois Nations from New York to Michigan territory, which ultimately became Wisconsin at a later date.
Eleazor Williams was raised Catholic, although he converted in later years and the Menominees had the influence of mainly the Catholic Church and the French fur traders. Through the church connection, Eleazor could discuss this with the Menominees and Eleazor went to see Governor Cass (Michigan Territory) in 1820 with representatives from the Iroquois people. But they were too late in the year and they had to return. In 1821, they made a return trip that resulted in the Treaty of 1821 and then again another one in 1822 for the use of 8 million acres of land in which the Menominee held.
My personal feelings was that Eleazor was a scoundrel because he used the U.S. Government, the NY government, the Ogden Land Company and the church to get the Oneidas to move west and he took money from all of these entities unknown to the Oneida chiefs of the time. We didn’t truly have any knowledge of it until about 30 years ago.
The Oneidas moved by families and the families that were closest to Eleazor and went to his school were most influenced. The groups that didn’t have the formal education and were consider more traditional did not have the same influence. Although, it is noted about the First Christian party and then later the second Christian Party (Methodist/Pagan) there were actually many trips. I could see 3 or 4 heads of families coming with their extended family probably 20 – 25 people, then when the lead group would come and get established then more would come. I think there was probably a dozen or more would have traveled. One group broke off and didn’t travel to Wisconsin but traveled to the Thames, Ontario, Canada in 1840 lead by Moses Schuyler and they had sold some of their lands to the State of New York and pooled their money and bought 5000 acres along the Thames River. They went in one group and landed in Fort Stanley. There was another group that came from New York lead by Rev Woodman who were considered homeless at the time. I think he was Pentecostal or Evangelistic and he built a log cabin close to Seymour, Wisconsin several miles from Oneida. The church had burned at one time but there is a cemetery behind a farmer’s barn that still exists.
Below is the ship named Walk in the Water and Oneidas had traveled through the Great Lakes to the Green Bay, Wisconsin. New to the shipping industry was steam, when most ships still used wind power. Subsequently, the ship sank on its return trip.
Through a series of trips to Wisconsin and fractions in the tribe, there are 3 seperate reservations; Wisconsin, New York and one in the Thames, Ontario. Canada. Each community acts independently as its own Nation with no govermental responsibility to the other.