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New Book Focuses on Early History of Akwesasne

Author Darren Bonaparte Compiles the Work of 19th Century Historian Franklin B. Hough

 

A rendering of FB Hough by Jade Thompson.

Akwesasne Mohawk Territory: A new book has been released about the history of Akwesasne, the Mohawk community on the US/Canada border near Cornwall, Ontario.

An Early History of Akwesasne: The Works of Franklin B. Hough 1822-1885 examines the work of a noted nineteenth century historian who first visited Akwesasne in 1852 while researching his book, A History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties, New York. Hough returned several times later to gather data about the community for the New York State Census of 1855, 1865, and 1875.

"Franklin B. Hough wrote the first, definitive history of Akwesasne that set a high standard for all future researchers," said author Darren Bonaparte. "He walked to the village on foot, described what he saw, and interviewed the chiefs, community members, and the local Catholic priest. He recorded oral traditions about the founding of the community and made copies of whatever documents he could find."

One of the people Hough encountered was Reverend Eleazer Williams, an Episcopalian missionary from Kahnawake who promoted himself as the 'Lost Dauphin,' the son of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who were both executed in the French Revolution. Although he did not buy into Williams' royal claims, Hough asked the reverend about key individuals he knew personally: Colonel Louis Cook, a veteran warrior of the Seven Years War, the American Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812; his own father, Thomas Williams, a Kahnawake chief; and William Gray, an American soldier who served as interpreter for the chiefs and married into the community. Williams responded by writing their biographies, and Hough used these documents as the basis of his own account of their lives, supplementing them with archival materials found elsewhere.

"While many people then and now view Eleazer Williams as a con man, Hough saw value in his personal recollections, particularly of Colonel Louis Cook, who held a commission as a lieutenant-colonel in the Continental Army, and was a personal acquaintance of General George Washington and other senior officers," said Bonaparte.

"The material Hough gathered about the community's first century has been cited by historians since it was published in 1853," Bonaparte said. "He returned to the community many times later, and wrote about the changes he observed from his first visit to his last. His writings, which I have gathered in this book, document the resilience and adaptability of the people of Akwesasne. They carved out a place for themselves in a rapidly changing landscape."

An Early History of Akwesasne - The Works of Franklin B. Hough by Darren Bonaparte.

With a global pandemic taking place as he researched his book, Bonaparte took note of a curious parallel: "Hough was a medical doctor by training, and he documented Akwesasne's experiences with epidemic disease in the first half of the nineteenth century. Smallpox hit the community in 1829, killing an unknown number, and in 1832, cholera and typhus killed 132. Three years before Hough arrived, cholera killed 29, and smallpox infected over 500 people, killing 30. I can't imagine what it must have been like to experience such devastation."

Bonaparte noted that some contemporary native writers disparage the work of outside scholars today, but the true student of history should confront their works and learn from them. "It would be a shame to ignore the work of Dr. Hough, because he did everything that we would ask of scholars today. He went to the source, spoke to those who knew the stories, and earned their trust. He gathered information about a crucial time in our collective past," he said.

An Early History of Akwesasne: The Works of Franklin B. Hough 1822-1885 is available online at Amazon's American and Canadian websites. It can also be purchased at Wild Bill's One Stop on Route 37 in Akwesasne.

 

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