Originally posted 2018-06-04 13:46:16. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
Bill Hunt of Charleston, W.Va., portrays Montour for historical groups and schools. A clip of his presentation is at end of post.
His Name Is Everywhere,
His Memory Is Not
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Let’s look at a man who stood out in a town of historic lions.
After reading the first two parts of this series on Logstown, you know it was not so much an ideal Indian village as a company town. You also know young George Washington was a land speculator who spent time there on business.
You don’t know the man with the name Montour.
It’s everywhere: Montour High School, Montour Creek, Montour Trail, Montour County, Montoursville, Montour Falls, NY.
You’d think he was a distinguished gentleman, a proper model citizen.
In fact, if they were to do a movie of him, only actor Johnny Depp could do him justice.
Andrew Montour was very much like the fictional character Capt. Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Carribbean.
And yet, Montour was the only man trusted by both sides as pale-faced settlers pushed west, and Indians pushed back.
His grandparents had been Oneida, Seneca and French. He was fluent in English, French, and six Indian languages.
More importantly, as an interpreter, he had the ability and the burden to communicate not what chiefs and governors said to each other, but what they meant.
Painting of Moravians telling Indians of their relationship with Jesus.
Missionary Diaries Revealing
Recently translated and digitized diaries of Moravian (German/Czech) missionaries indicate Montour may have developed his skills in a Susquehanna River town as wild as any pirate seaport.
Drinking, dancing, whoring and whooping went on day and night at Shamokin. Killing did, too.
It was a cosmopolitan village populated by refugees of many tribes, most speaking different language and dialects, during a time of particularly violent warring and raiding.
It’s not the same place as the city called Shamokin today. The village was 15 miles to the west, where Sunbury sits.
We get our first description of Montour from the man in charge of the missionaries. He hoped to get help moving among the Indians.
“Andrew’s cast of countenance is decidedly European, and had not his face been encircled with a broad band of paint, applied with bear’s fat, I would have certainly taken him for one.
“He wore a broadcloth coat, a scarlet damasque lapel-waistcoat, breeches, over which his shirt hung, a black Cordovan neckerchief, decked with silver bugels, shoes and stockings, and a hat.
“His ears were hung with pendants of brass and other wires plaited together like the handle of a basket. He was very cordial, but on my addressing him in French, he, to my surprise, replied in English.”
That was when he was in his early 20s. His flashy appearance, among Indian men, was not extreme. They take cues from nature. Male birds are more about display than female birds.
Montour had just happened to stop by his mother’s house. It was in an alcohol-free Indian village she operated 35 miles up the Susquehanna from Shamokin.
Madam Montour, as she called herself, was half French and half Algonquin. She was famous for her interpreting skills.
Working among men, and being half French, she also promoted style and beauty. She and her family, by this time, were decidedly pro British and anti French. They had moved to Pennsylvania from Canada.
Count Nikolaus von Zinzendorf, a wealthy patron of the Moravian Church, wanted to hire Madam Montour. She recommended her young son.
The count and Montour then crisscrossed Pennsylvania, operating out of the Moravian headquarters in the idyllic Christian community founded at Bethlehem, PA.
Government Needed Him
Conrad Weiser, the main guy dealing with Indians for the Pennsylvania and Virginia governments, eventually enlisted Montour’s help, as well.
It wasn’t just Montour’s language abilities people wanted. He had considerable respect and trust among tribes.
Indians didn’t call him by any of his European names: Montour, or Andrew, or Andre and Henri . To them, he was Sattelihu or Eghnisara, both esteemed tribal names.
Sattelihu apparently had proven many times he was a warrior. That was very important.
“His forehead was painted bright red, strange assortment of bright colored clothes . . soft spoken and pleasant, perfectly fearless, with marvelous endurance, great tact, the gift of leadership, a chief and counselor of the Iroquois, trusted with important missions by them.”
Swimming in Rum
Montour, the literal embodiment of blended European and Indian cultures, tried for 25 years to bring that blend to the world around him. Ultimately, he failed..
He struggled amid towering waves of rum that engulfed and swept away Indian friends. This frontier was one of the most dangerous places on Earth.
Weiser spoke highly of his interpreter, but reported Montour’s drinking problems to the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania.
“I must say something to you about Andrew M., not to ridicule him but to inform you how to act with him.
“In the first place, when we met at John Harris’ (for whom Harrisburg would be named). He called for so much punch that himself, the Half King (Tanacharison, a Logstown chief) and other Indians got drunk, the same at Tobias Hendricks’ (a Cumberland County settler). . .
Following a conference with Indian chiefs at Aughwick in Huntingdon County, Weiser said he tried in vain to get Montour to dress so they could move on to their next diplomatic destination.
“I left him drunk at Aughwick, On one leg, he had a stocking and no shoe, On the other, a shoe and no stocking.”
Montour, as he often did, raced after Weiser after he sobered up. He begged forgiveness.
Weiser, likewise, begged his bosses in Philadelphia to appreciate that Montour was invaluable — when sober.
Jack Sparrow’s struggle with rum and sobriety is evident in the following clip. Coincidentally, Sparrow’s mother was an Indian maiden.
Sometimes, a Great Hero
Montour, or perhaps his Sattelihu ego, could play the hero, though.
The following comes from a diary of Martin Mack, who with his wife, Anna, were in Shamokin stepping over and around drunks to talk about Jesus.
They had been staying in Montour’s tiny bark hut for seven weeks. Most of that time, Montour was away in Philadelphia, trying to reverse his impoverished state. Sound like Jack Sparrow?
Fortunately for the Macks, he was home the evening of Nov. 2, 1745. Oh, by the way, he had yet another name. The Moravians called him Anderius.
. . . In the evening, 12 Indians arrived here by water who are coming from Canada. They are going to war with the Cherokees. Anderius knows them, there was a friend of his among them. Anderius said these Indians had come from very far away. They came from over 400 miles further away than Onondago (Syracuse, N.Y.)
They looked very bloodthirsty. They camped near Anderius’ hut. They soon prepared the place to dance. They got an empty barrel of rum. Knocked the bottom out of it and made a drum out of it.
They began according to their custom to celebrate. They shouted and danced for nearly two hours, during which time the enemy [Satan], to whom we are a thorn in his eye, was very occupied and would have loved to get rid of us.
They soon got rum to drink and became so full of it that they behaved like wild animals. They were close to pulling down our hut.
Just after midnight, four of them came in here who looked terrifying and bloodthirsty.
Anderius was afraid that they wanted to do harm to us. He took them out of the hut, but an hour later another one came and acted like a madman, picked up a large brand from the fire and said he wanted to burn the white people.
Anderius quickly stood up and grabbed the brand out of his hands. He [the Indian] went for his flintlock. Anderius, however, also took that away from him.
He grabbed a piece of wood and came towards us. Anderius took that and said he should leave.
He said he did not want to. So, he (Anderius) said he should sit down by the fire.
He sat down, but soon left. [He was later murdered by another of the visitors.]
Anderius was very worried that the drunken Indians would do us harm. We said to him that, if he thought we should, then we would spend this night in the bush. But he did not think this was advisable because it is so cold. (Anna had already gotten quite ill sleeping in the woods to avoid crazy drunks while Anderius was in Philadelphia).
So we stayed, commended ourselves to the watchfulness of the Lamb and wished that it would become day soon. Soon, they beat to death the one who wanted to kill us.
The next day Montour told the Macks he was leaving town, perhaps for good. He took them to old chief Shikellamy, who offered his large hut.