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The re-internment of Brant’s remains

The re-internment of Brant’s remains

By Elizabeth Field The following is an account of the re-interment of the remains of Captain Joseph Brant and his son John Brant at the Mohawk Chapel in 1850. The remains of the immortal Brant, whose mighty arm had been so frequently uplifted with unequalled success in defence of the country whose very name was

By Elizabeth Field

The following is an account of the re-interment of the remains of Captain Joseph Brant and his son John Brant at the Mohawk Chapel in 1850.

The remains of the immortal Brant, whose mighty arm had been so frequently uplifted with unequalled success in defence of the country whose very name was dreaded by our foes, and whose valour, patriotism and mercy towards the vanquished were scarcely ever excelled, had reposed in an humble grave, surrounded by his warriors, with no distinguishing marks of the former superiority and rank of the chieftain.

The grave itself — humble as it was — seemed forbidden to remain undisturbed; and in its unprotected condition was exposed more or less to the depredations of the animals who grazed upon the common. That generous, and patriotic spirit which crowns with laurels of fame the heroes of the land, which borrows the sculptor’s art to perpetuate the memory of the defenders of our rights and liberties, was aroused in behalf of the memory and mortal remains of the warrior chieftain. The unworthy situation and condition of the grave was made known to the public.

A proper feeling was awakened with regard to the subject. It was deemed a disgrace to Canada, and in this section of Canada in particular, to allow the remains of the celebrated Indian Chief — one of the most valiant and distinguished military leaders — to remain in a spot so slovenly and obscure.

It was determined upon to appeal to the public in behalf of erecting a proper tomb to contain the “bones and to perpetuate the memory and exploits of the daring Brant. The views taken by those who deprecated the apathy hitherto manifested in this respect was well received by the public; and the appeal made was nobly responded to. Funds for the accomplishment of the design were generously furnished by the public; and it was determined to erect a desirable tomb — to exhume the bones of Brant and with suitable ceremony to carry them to their final resting place. Much interest and excitement prevailed on the subject, and a day was mentioned for the public removal of the bones of the brave warrior, who in his obscure grave was “taking his rest.”

Monday, November 25th, 1850, was selected by the committee of management to attend to the solemn ceremony.

The procession accordingly was formed on the Cricket Ground, before the Presbyterian Church, in the presence of a large concourse of people, mostly in carriages and wagons.

The Brant and Gore Lodges of Odd Fellows, with the distinguishing badges of their order. The Free Masons, accompanied by several of the brethren from Hamilton among whom was Sir Allan N. McNab, furnished with the dresses and instruments and other insignia of their society.

The Orangemen, without regalia or badges. The Mayor and Corporation. Citizens on foot. An immense line of vehicles of every description crowded with spectators, spectators on horseback. After the procession was duly formed, preceded by the band, it passed through the principle streets of the town, and proceeded to the Mohawk Burial Ground. On arriving at the Church the procession was met and joined by the Tuscarora Indian Lodge of the Sons

of Temperance, headed by the Tuscarora Indian Band.

The Indian children and youths connected with the Mohawk Indian Mechanic’s Institution next joined the procession, then a number of the chieftains. Next followed a goodly number of Indians and a company of Indian Warriors with their muskets.

On arriving at the square opposite the Mechanic’s Institute, the crowd were placed back and a circle joined by the various societies in front of the platform, which had been erected for the occasion. When silence was procured the audience were briefly and ably addressed by the Chairman, William Holme, Esq., who called upon the several speakers. We are indebted to the Hamilton Spectator for a report of them.

Although Brant was a great warrior, and faithful ally of the British in war, his services in times of peace were equally valuable, and should never be forgotten.

He had bestowed a great deal of time and labour in translating portions of the New Testament, and the Book of Common Prayers, for the use of his tribe, and his exertions to Christianize the Indians had been unceasing and should be held in veneration by the whole British nation.

The Rev. Peter Jones, a Methodist minister, and a chief of the Mississaugas, spoke next: His late father and the elder Brant had long been staunch friends.

The tract selected (for the Haldimand Deed) was that on which they stood, and from that day to this the Six Nations and Mississaugas had lived on terms of amity, and had rendered many valuable services to each other. Jones was himself adopted into the Six Nations as one of their chiefs, and his heart had been made glad in consequence of the honour.

Sir Allan McNab, who appeared in the splendid regalia appertaining to his rank in the Masonic order, said that he had been quite unexpectedly called upon. He considered this an occasion which reflected the greatest credit upon the people of the neighbourhood. He had the honour of being acquainted with the elder Brant, and was a school fellow of his son John; they afterwards did something for their country together, and he had enjoyed the friendship of John Brant until the day of his death.

David Thorburn, Esq., Chief Indian Commissioner, said that appeared there not only in that capacity, but as one of the inhabitants of the Province to which Brant had rendered invaluable service. This was a great and important occasion. It was the 43rd anniversary of the death of the great chief, respect for whose memory had brought them together.

Henry Brant was called on to make some remarks on behalf of the Indians expressive of their gratitude, which were interpreted to the company. Lewis Burwell, Esq., had heard of the history of Brant, who was always admitted to be a consummate commander, and as generous as brave.

He mentioned, also, in evidence of his dignity, that he refused the honour of Knighthood from the King, because he would have to kneel during the ceremony, remarking that he was an ally, not a subject of His Majesty, he was a King like himself, and could not submit to do homage. He had also refused a patent for lands from Governor Simcoe, on behalf of the Indians, because the instrument would cause them to surrender their nationality, and render them dependents, in the same position as minors.

About the year 1826 Capt. John Brant became the Superintendent of the Six Nations Indians, and he knew that the Indians gratefully remembered his services as their Superintendent. He knew that Captain John Brant was the means of the Indian Surrender for the town of Brantford, and the inhabitants of that town could trace their prosperity to Captain John Brant.

At the conclusion of the speeches, the coffin containing the remains of the chieftain was carried by six Master Masons to the new tomb—the scene, affecting as it was, being rendered doubly so by the solemn strains of the Dead March in Saul, played by the band. Here, previous to the closing of the tomb, several appropriate prayers were offered up by the Reverend Missionary, Mr. Nelles. Three rounds of cartridge were fired over the grave by the warriors and the sepulcher was closed upon the mortal remains of the noble chieftain, Brant and his son. The large concourse of people again returned to Brantford, but not in regular procession, and separated quietly and orderly.

Also, of curious note: The Brant County Museum reports of a newspaper article claiming, “The tomb of Chief Joseph Brant is located beside the Mohawk Chapel. In March, 1909, it was rumoured that in 1879 a group of medical students from Toronto “on a night’s revels” had raided the grave and taken Brant’s skeleton.”

The youthful grave robbers who were looking for a fraternity artifact similar to the “Skull and Cross Bones” societies within American Universities of learning, were found and the remains returned, according to the same rumour.

It has also been rumoured for years that the skull of Joseph Brant is in the possession of the Masonic Order and is still used for secret ceremonies. It was said to have been spirited away my Masons sometime during the re-interment ceremonies of 1850. Brant had started Masonic Lodge No. 11 at the Mohawk Village shortly after the arrival of the Mohawks and their allied tribes.

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  • David Magdziarz
    October 9, 2017, 7:47 pm

    The 1909 article mentioned at the end of this article was published in the Buffalo (NY) Courier on March 21, 1909, page 28. The next day a follow-up article was published on page 6 of the Buffalo Courier. That article mentions that Mrs. Mary Brant Willett, of Collins Station, Erie, New York, wrote a letter to Mr. Frank Severance, of the Buffalo Historical Society regarding any proof Mr. Severance had that the recovered bones of the late Chief Joseph were genuine. The article states that Mrs. Willett identified herself as “a great-granddaughter of the celebrated chief.” Mary Brant Willett was my grandmother, and Joseph Brant was actually her 2nd great-grandfather. I contacted the Buffalo History Museum (as the organization is now known) earlier this year to see if they could find my grandmother’s letter. They conducted a thorough search of Mr. Severance’s correspondence as well as their archive of general correspondence to the Society from 1909-1910, but unfortunately the letter was not found.

    I have attached images of both articles below.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0bd64fb501b172c1204bbbdde144ad35b41a85bf80ed6486f90c2fa1fa29ab0d.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/54386d81eca06d6b9c0b6e9125dd23eac2d2cdc656978ed4201fa3eabd340f06.jpg

    REPLY
  • David Magdziarz
    October 9, 2017, 7:43 pm

    The 1909 article mentioned at the end of this article was published in the Buffalo (NY) Courier on March 21, 1909, page 28. The next day a follow-up article was published on page 6 of the Buffalo Courier. That article mentions that Mrs. Mary Brant Willett, of Collins Statiom, Erie, New York, wrote a letter to Mr. Frank Severance, of the Buffalo Historical Society regarding any proof Mr. Severance had that the recovered bones of the late Chief Joseph were genuine. The article states that Mrs. Willett identified herself as “a great-granddaughter of the celebrated chief.” Mary Brant Willett was my grandmother, and Joseph Brant was actually her 2nd great-grandfather. I contacted the Buffalo History Museum (as the organization is now known) earlier this year to see if they could find my grandmother’s letter. They conducted a thorough search, but unfortunately, the letter was not found.

    I have attached images of both articles below.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0bd64fb501b172c1204bbbdde144ad35b41a85bf80ed6486f90c2fa1fa29ab0d.jpg article below, and will upload an inage of the second article https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/54386d81eca06d6b9c0b6e9125dd23eac2d2cdc656978ed4201fa3eabd340f06.jpg

    REPLY
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