John Van Guilder was a Mahican Native American, his Native American name was Toanunck, a man whom in 1724 signed the great treaty of the Mohican tribe, at which all the bands not by that time exterminated by the wars and genocide privately conducted against them by the traders and settlers were gathered. A missionary group established itself at what became known as Stockbridge Massachusetts, about 12 miles by the Indian trail or up the Housatonic River from Toanunck house. The mission offered refuge and influence to protect the Indians. They sought peace and treated for peace, but not without securing for Van guilder a reservation of substantial proportions on his own grounds. It ran from four miles west of the Housatonic River almost to the Hudson River.
The other Mahican bands accepted Christianity, and the die was cast for their exodus to lands west of the Mississippi River as part of the great ethnic cleansing of the Atlantic coastal region of North America.
On November 15, 1756, Toanunck had too much of Robert Livingston’s arrogant pretensions as Lord of the Manor. He bullied the Indians into either serving as his quasi-slaves, or getting off “his” land, out of which, Van Guilder’s reservation actually took the lion’s share. Mutually aggressive words were exchanged between one of Livingston’s many tenant farmers. At which time Livingston roused the Sheriff, who deputized some other of Livingston’s men and they set out to confront and eject Van Guilder.
The Albany sheriff and Livingston posse, said to be unarmed, again attempted to evict several tenants, and destroy their houses. One of the tenants was apparently a good friend of Mohican John Van Guilder, who with two of his sons and a settler soon arrived on horseback at the tenant’s place.
The Van Guilder or Toanunck’s party was armed with guns, bayonets, and tomahawks, and Van Guilder threatened to kill some of the posse if they touched the house. The sheriff ordered his men to arrest them, and as the posse approached, the Indians gave a war cry. Van Guilder leveled his gun, and in self-defense shot and killed one of the deputies, then fled with his sons and his friend.
The sheriff’s men quickly captured “Toanunck”, one of his sons, and the settler, took them to the Albany jail, and put them in irons. It was rumored that Van Guilder’s other son vowed to involve the Stockbridge Indians, to capture one of the posse dead or alive, and to burn down Livingston’s house.
The most ancient and august of the Mahicans at the Stockbridge Mission wrote to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Northern District of North America Sir William Johnson demanding immediately of “Toanunck’s” release into the custody of the Mahican tribe, on the ground that since the alleged crime had taken place upon territory for which no Indian treaty of cession could be produced, the Governor of New York had no jurisdiction to hold them or to put them on trial. Constitutionally the deal was that
the Indian tribes and the Crown colonies each had the jurisdiction and the responsibility to take care of their own and not to disturb the peace established by the constitution and the treaties under the constitution.
After a heated exchange, or at least as heated as words get in diplomatic communiques, Sir William persuaded the Governor that if he did not release the Van Guilders what was left of the Mahican tribe was joining with the Mohawk tribe and possibly the entire
Haudenosaunee Confederacy of Iroquoian speakers to join with the Algonquian speaking Mahicans and their allies throughout north-eastern North America. This was pretty crucial since at that very juncture of history the Seven Years War was about to get serious as a globally significant military event.
The point is, the world could well be a different place if the Governor of New York had not capitulated to the demand of the Mahican tribe to release the Van Guilders. Every part of the global struggle that was the Seven Years War was crucial to the success of Great
Britain and, by extension, to the United States and Canada that are the British Empire’s successors to British North America. The other critical players in the Seven Years War also included and certainly stood to affect the long-range interests of the “great maritime powers of Europe” that created the “doctrine of discovery” agreement that is the bedrock of the commerce, defense and treaty clauses of the several constitutional democracies that constitute today’s American Empire of Commerce.
This information was researched, and found to be truthful, however there may be certain mistakes, due to the fact that there was very limited information about this story, however all in all there is a little old west in the northeast as well. I thank Jackie Gordon for telling me this story so that I could research it, and depict a legend as this man was.