Seneca George was an Iroquoian Indian who had a special friendship with one Conrad Weiser, a German settler in Pennsylvania.
Conrad Weiser’s father, Johann Conrad Weiser had emerged as one of the leaders in the German community of 1709/1710 immigrants who settled first in Schoharie County, New York in 1712 and then in Berks County, Pennsylvania about 1723. Living on the frontier and wanting a good relationship with the Indians that surrounded them, Johann Conrad sent his 16 year old son to live with the Mohawks for nearly a year in 1712, in present day Schoharie County, New York.
His son, Conrad developed a special relationship with the Mohawks, was adopted by them, probably into their leader Quainant’s family, and moved between the German and Indian worlds for the rest of his life, although as an adult he lived among the Germans. Conrad was an interpreter and much loved and respected in both communities.
When Conrad died in 1760, his Iroquois friend Seneca George realized the significance of his passing. “We, the 7 nations and our cousins are at a great loss and sit in darkness as well as you, by the death of Conrad Weiser as since his death we cannot so well understand one another.”
In August of 1769 an important conference was held in newly formed Augusta Township in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Seneca George, son of the Indian “Captain” Seneca George, had been killed a few miles below the mouth of Middle Creek. The Provincial authorities were very apprehensive that this might produce serious repercussions among the Indians. Peter Read, a relative of the late Conrad Weiser was implicated in the murder and lodged in the Lancaster jail to await trial.
Colonel Turbutt Francis went to Philadelphia and reported the incident to the Provincial Council and impressed upon them the importance of immediately calling a conference with the Indians to be held at Fort Augusta and of presenting the elderly Seneca George and others with presents of condolence. A message of condolence was prepared in behalf of Governor John Penn by Mr. Logan and Mr. Peters. Francis returned post-haste to Augusta Township and immediately dispatched messengers to Seneca George to invite those concerned to meet with him at Fort Augusta.
On Saturday August 19, 1769, Seneca George arrived at the fort accompanied by the Conoy King, Last Night, The Onondaga Chief, Genequant and twenty two other Indians. Fifty inhabitants of Augusta Township also arrived at the fort for the purpose of attending Divine Services to be conducted by the Reverend William Smith, D.D., provost of the College of Philadelphia (Now University of Pennsylvania). Dr. Smith arrived at Fort Augusta just one half hour ahead of Seneca George and his retinue.
That afternoon Colonel Francis met with the Indians with Isaac Still acting as interpreter. Seneca George addressed the group and made two requests; that no strong drink be given to any of the persons on either side of the conference, and that food should be given to him and his party.
Learning that Divine Services were to be held at the fort for the white people who were assembled there, Seneca George sent word that since his people worshipped the same God as the English, they would attend also. Accordingly, Dr. Smith had a congregation of more than 125 persons, fifty additional residents of Augusta Township having arrived early Sunday morning. Rev. Smith directed the latter part of his discourse particularly to the Indians. Isaac Still interpreted it for them. The Indians conducted themselves with great ‘decency all during the services.’
Most of the inhabitants of Augusta Township who had attended the Divine Services remained for the Monday conference. Frederick Weiser, son of the deceased Conrad Weiser, was also in attendance.
Colonel Francis opened the conference by reading the letter of condolence sent in behalf of Governor Penn. He assured the Indians that if found guilty, the person responsible for the death of young Seneca George would be punished the same as if he had killed a white man. The Colonel then symbolically covered the body of the deceased Seneca George with a black shroud, took a handkerchief and wiped away his tears and sorrow, that they should grieve no more, with a belt of wampum, symbolically scraped up the blood that had lain on the ground so that it could be buried under the ground that neither Seneca George nor his friends’ eyes could behold it as they passed where the accident happened. Then taking another belt, Colonel Francis symbolically buried the body of young Seneca George so that none should bear the least ill will towards the English.
Colonel Francis then delivered to Seneca George and his relatives the following presents from Governor Penn: A piece of Black Stroud, a piece of Black half thicks, a piece of Black Striped Duffills, two dark coloured Banbanoe Silk Handkerchiefs, six ruffled shirts, six plain shirts, two pieces of Scarlet and Star Gartering, 50 pounds of Tobacco, four pairs of shoes, four pairs of Buckles, fifteen gallons of Rum in three kegs, two pounds of Vermillion, one dozen Small Brass Kettles and two barrels of Pork.
After the presentation of these gifts, Seneca George brought the conference to a close by stating that they had heard Governor Penn speak through Colonel Francis, and on the morrow would give an answer to what the Governor had said.
On Tuesday, Seneca George sent word that the Indians were not yet ready to reply. The conference was accordingly postponed until Wednesday. In the meantime nearly Fifty Delaware Indians, led by Chief New Aleke, though uninvited, came down the West Branch from the Great Island to attend the conference. The Nantikoke and Conoy refused to permit them to do so, stating they had no business in it. Colonel Francis sent for their leaders and informed them the conference was called for Seneca George and his relatives only. However, Francis gave them some provisions and rum and sent them home.
On Wednesday, when Colonel Francis reconvened the conference, both Seneca George and Last Night, the Conoy King, expressed satisfaction with the Governor’s speech. Last Night presented the Colonel with two strings of wampum and three belts. The conference then took a dramatic turn. Frederick Weiser asked permission to speak.
Addressing the Indians he confessed that it was his brother who had killed young Seneca George; he spoke of the great love which his father, Conrad Weiser, had had for the Indians, that it was an accident which caused the death of the young Indian, but that if the court decided it was murder, the Weisers would not interfere with his punishment. He then presented Seneca George with a gift from the Weiser family which he told him was to wipe away his tears.
As Frederick Weiser spoke, Seneca George, who had been a staunch friend of Conrad Weiser, was filled with emotion. With tears, he arose and expressed his great friendship for Conrad Weiser. Slowly approaching the table where Colonel Francis and the other officials sat, he stated that he held no animosity for the Weisers, and suddenly grasping Frederick Weisers hand, he declared “I have no ill will to you Mr. Weiser, none to you Colonel Francis, nor to you Father (meaning Reverend Smith), nor to you Mr. Stewart.” As he spoke, he grasped each by the hand, and finally with outstretched hands toward the Augusta Township spectators, he said “Nor have I any ill will to any of you, my brethren, the English.”
With this act, Seneca George fades into history.