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Guest Contributors...         Jerry L. Patterson

Following in the Footsteps of
William Johnson and the Mohawks

From Johnstown to Lake George to Kanatsiohareke
By Jerry L. Patterson  


Mohawk Village of Kanatsiohareke (Gana-jo-ha-LAY-gay)

Jerry Patterson and Bob Vetter at Kenatsiohareke
Jerry (right) and Bob Vetter at Kanatsiohareke

I visited the Mohawk village of Kanatsiohareke as part of a group of 14 other Indian history buffs on a "Journey Into Indian Territory," organized by archeologist Bob Vetter.  Located on the Mohawk River about eight miles west of Fonda, New York, Kanatsiohareke (pronounced gana-jo-ha-LAY-gay) occupies about 400 acres of ground and is part of the homelands of the Mohawk Nation which they were forced to vacate over 200 years ago.

Arriving about 6:00 p.m. on a cold Friday evening, I was confronted by a large, old, square-shaped house, two stories tall, with an attached smaller wing outside on which flashed a neon sign  --  "Indian Bed and Breakfast."

The house was surrounded by a number of outbuildings, which were dominated by a rustic ramshackle barn.

The Kanatsiohareke complex

I learned later that the complex had once been a home for indigent old people from the local county and the Mohawks had purchased it at a Sheriff's sale.  It did not look at all accommodating and I approached with some trepidation and second thoughts about staying for the weekend.  "Do I really want to spend the weekend here with people I've never met and a bunch of Indians?," I thought to myself. 


Kanatsiohareke complex

“Well, I'm here and let's go with the flow,” I told myself.  It was a decision I would not regret.

Meeting a fascinating Elder whose first language was Mohawk and who shared so much of his wisdom, his culture and his history with our group gave me a much deeper understanding of what the descendants of the Iroquois six nations have had to go through in the last couple of hundred years.

Tom Porter, Mohawk Elder, made it all worthwhile.

In Kanatsiohareke, we sat around tables in a time-worn cafeteria with paint peeling off the walls on hard, folding chairs,  -- part of the Old Peoples Home that Tom Porter, the Mohawk Elder, had acquired as the foundation of his new community.  But it was high energy nonetheless as he told us the stories of his family, his clan (the Bear Clan) and his tribe who had begun migrating out of the Mohawk Valley way back in the 1740s, and moving up to Akwesasne (located where New York State, Ontario and Quebec converge). 

After almost 100 years of fighting in the "white man's wars,” the Mohawks got sick and tired of losing their warriors and getting nothing in return so pulled up stakes and headed back to their ancestral homelands of the north. 

Tom Porter's wife and other family members cooked for us  -- plain, wholesome food.  I slept in an uncomfortable, short bed and had a young roommate (male).  Took a cold shower the next morning as there was no hot water.  Had to leave the bathroom door open because the light was burned out and nobody could find a replacement.  But would I do it again?  You bet!

The next day, Tom Porter took us for a walking tour of the grounds and proudly pointed out his water supply emanating from a cool and clear pond high above the complex.  He and members of the families had built a pipeline connecting the pond to the complex, which supplied running water and powered the generator supplying the electricity.



Pond supplying water and power to Kanatsiohareke

He showed us his vegetable gardens and introduced us to the two horses in the barn.  Getting as close as possible to the “old ways,” the Mohawk families living here were self-sufficient, for the most part, from the white world and that’s the way they wanted it. 

 William Johnson would have been very comfortable here.


William Johnson passed away on July 11, 1774 when the American Revolution was in its infancy.  His legacy, for which he had worked so hard, of a land reserved for the Indians north of the Ohio River, shown so clearly on the special map drawn for Flexner’s biography (Page 325), was shattered by the American Revolution.  


Note:  All of the books listed below are recommended for those visitors interested in further information about The French and Indian War and/or William Johnson.  All are available on Barnes and Noble's Web Site at , either directly or as part of their rare books service. 

Anderson, Fred.  Crucible of War:  The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1954-1766.  New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

Note:  Other than Francis Parkman’s great works, Anderson’s book is, by far, the most comprehensive treatment of the French and Indian War that I have found.  One reason it’s my personal favorite is that Anderson extends his historical scope and discusses the impact of the War on Pontiac’s Rebellion and on the causes and beginning of the American Revolution.    If you would like a copy of my review of Crucible of War, or if you have any other questions about this narrative, feel free to email me at .

Bellico, Russell P.  Chronicles of Lake George:  Journeys in War and Peace.  Fleischmanns, New York:  Purple Mountain Press, Ltd., 1995.

Eckert, Allan W. Wilderness Empire.  New York:  Bantam, 1985.

Flexner, James Thomas.  Mohawk Baronet, Sir William Johnson of New York.  New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1959. 

Note:  This book is out of print, but there are copies available from rare book dealers via  If you have any interest in reading more about this key personality in American colonial history, I highly recommend starting with this book or Eckert’s Wilderness Empire.

Jennings, Francis.  The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire:  The Covenant Chain Confederation of Indian Tribes with English Colonies from its beginnings to the Lancaster Treaty of 1744.  New York:  W.W. Norton & Company, 1984.

 _____________.  Empire of Fortune:  Crowns, Colonies & Tribes in the Seven Years War in America.  W.W. Norton & Company, 1988.

Note:  Jennings’ two volumes are a very comprehensive treatment of the history of the Iroquois in relation to English and French colonial history.

Leckie, Robert.  “A Few Acres Of Snow:” The Saga of the French and Indian Wars.  New York:  John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1999.

Note:  Leckie’s book is a one-volume history of all four of the colonial wars fought between the French and English in the first half of the 18th century including the French and Indian War.

Moss, Robert.  The Firekeeper:  A Narrative of the Eastern Frontier.  New York:  Tom Doherty, Inc., 1995.

Note:  This is a fictionalized, but meticulously researched historical account of the Mohawk Valley at time of first settlements and of “Billy Johnson” and the two women who had a dramatic impact on his life – Catherine Wissenberg from the Rhineland and Island Woman, an Iroquois shaman.  In it, you will experience the Battle of Lake George from the intimate and imaginative perspective of the author.  A personal favorite.

Starbuck, David R.  The Great Warpath:  British Military Sites from Albany to Crown Point.  Hanover, NH:  University Press of New England, 1999.

The Editors of Time-Life Books.  Realm of the Iroquois.  Alexandria, Virginia:  Time-Life Books, 1993.

Internet Bibliography

Links to other pages within The Lake Champlain and Lake George Historical Site:

The Battle of Lake George

Bloody Pond at Lake George

Lake Champlain and Lake George History Timeline

Bibliography- Lake Champlain and Lake George History

Links to other web sites:

Fighting for a Continent: Newspaper Coverage of the English and French War For Control of North America, 1754-1760

The French and Indian War's Impact on America

Much information about William Johnson is available on the Internet.  Use key words “Sir William Johnson” in any major search engine such as Altavista or Google.  One example:

Drew, Paul Redmond. Sir William Johnson - Indian Superintendent:  The Role of Sir William Johnson In the Colonial Development of America and His Involvement in the Expansionist Policies of the British Imperial Government.

About the Author-

Jerry Patterson is a student of North American history.  He is especially interested in the French and Indian War fought in the French and English colonies and how it related to the Seven Years War fought in Europe.  He has traveled extensively to FIW sites including the Historic Lakes, Quebec, Louisbourg, Johnson Hall and Fort Johnson, and Fort Niagara. 

He has a continuing interest in the history of Old West including Old West Trails.  He has walked in the ruts of the Oregon Trail and the Santa Fe Trail, followed in the footsteps of Kit Carson, tracked down the ghost of Billy The Kid in historic Lincoln County, NM and has explored many other Old West historic sites such as the Little Bighorn Battlefield.

 Mr. Patterson has accumulated an extensive library serving these interests and has plans for writing both a historic novel and a work of history.

 He is the author of five books on casino gambling from the players perspective – how to survive and win in the casinos.

 He can be reached at and welcomes emails from persons with similar interests.

  The Lake Champlain and Lake George Historical Site is pleased to announce that Jerry Patterson expects to become a regular contributor to the site. "Following in the Footsteps..." is Jerry's second contribution to the Site. Look for more of Jerry's work in the near future. (JPM)


Jerry Patterson

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