The Unquiet Rest of Eleazer Williams
(Originally published in The People’s Voice, May 6, 2005)
Written by Darren Bonaparte
Franklin B. Hough came to Akwesasne in May and June of 1852 while researching his book, A History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties, New York. After spending time in the village of St. Regis, learning as much as he could from the Roman Catholic Priest and several elders, he paid a visit to the home of another elder who lived in a tall A-frame in the village of Hogansburg, a short walk from the St. Regis River.
Hough’s journal entry for June 17, 1852, preserved among his papers in the New York State Library in Albany, describes his encounter:
Called a short time on the Rev Eleazer Williams an Episcopalian minister of Indian parentage, (commonly so believed) who is teaching a little school in the edge of the town of Fort Covington. He is 65 years of age and very intelligent. I [seldom] meet with a man who has a more ready flow of language or who is more interesting in conversation.
There is a strange story reported that he is a Bourbon by descent. And as near as I can get hold of the story it is as follows. His earliest recollections is that of his being at the head of Lake George when a child. He was brought up among the Indians and has [always] been considered a descendent of the Rev Mr Williams who was taken a prisoner at Deerfield.
In 1839(?) when Prince de Joinville was travelling in the country he made inquiries for a person whom he understood had been brought up among the Cognawagas having been conveyed thither and given to the indians to save his life from the hands of the terrorists of the French Revolution
This child was said to be the legitimate son of Louis XVI. Who is or was at the time reported to have died in prison. Having learned of this Williams the prince from some reason was led to suspect that he was the one and having expressed a desire to see him some pains was taken to obtain an interview which was effected on a steamer on Lake Michigan. The prince spent a long time with him in private conversation and it is aid expressed his conviction that he was the man. He is said to have been led to this from certain marks or scars upon his face.
Mr. Williams showed me a dress of splendid Brocade silk with a long trail, which he says he received from France as the dress of his mother the Queen. It is really a most splendid quality of silk as far as I can judge, whatever may have been its history. Mr Williams promised to write out at length all he knew of the Indians which will be at my service
Next in series: The Unquiet Rest of Eleazer Williams (continued)
By Darren Bonaparte, historian and author of The Wampum Chronicles. Reprinted with permission.
Darren Bonaparte is a cultural historian from the Akwesasne First Nation. He is a frequent lecturer at schools, universities, museums, and historical sites in the United States and Canada. He has written four books, several articles, and the libretto for the McGill Chamber Orchestra’s Aboriginal Visions and Voices. Darren is a former chief of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. He is the creator of The Wampum Chronicles and historical advisor to film and television. He currently serves as the Director of the Tribal Historic Preservation Office of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe.