Andrew Montour

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Andrew Montour
Tribe Métis (Oneida and French/Algonkin)
Born c. 1720(?)
Died January 20, 1772
Native name Sattelihu, Eghnisara[1]
Nickname(s) Henry, Andre
Known for interpreter and negotiator, who spoke French, English, Delaware, Shawnee, and an Iroquois language
Spouse(s) Sally Ainse
Children John Montour, b. 1744; Nicholas
Parents Madame Montour, Carondawanna

Andrew Montour (c. 1720–1772), also known as Henry[note 1] was an important métis interpreter and negotiator in the Virginia and Pennsylvania backcountry in the latter half of the 18th century. Montour's date of birth is unknown; historian James Merrell estimated it to be 1720.[2]


Montour was of European and Native American ancestry. His father was Carondawanna, an Oneida war chief who was killed in a raid on a southern tribe in 1729.

On the other hand, Montour's mother was Madame Montour, a well-known, influential interpreter, who, though her identity is obscured in speculation and myth, is believed to have been born in 1667 at Three Rivers, Canada. Her father was a Frenchman named Pierre Couc; her mother an Algonkin woman called Marie Miteoamegoukoué.[3] Madame Montour spoke several languages and often served as an interpreter between Europeans and Native Americans. Montour shared his mother's gift for languages as he spoke spoke French, English, Delaware, Shawnee, and at least one of the Iroquois languages.[4]


Career and personality[edit]

In 1742, Andrew was tasked with acting as guide and interpreter for Count Zinzendorf, a Moravian missionary who gave this description of Andrew:

"This man had a countenance like another European but around his whole face an Indianish broad ring of bear fat and paint, and had on a sky-colored coat of fine cloth, black cordovan neckband with silver bugles, a red damask lapelled waistcoat, breeches over which his shirt hung, shoes and stockings, a hat, and both ears braided with brass and other wire like a handle on a basket. He welcomed us cordially and when I spoke to him in French he replied in English. His name is Andre."

In May 1745, Montour accompanied Conrad Weiser and Shikellamy to Onondaga, the central meeting place of the Iroquois confederation. In 1748, Weiser recommended Montour as a person especially qualified to act as an interpreter or messenger, and Montour was presented to the Pennsylvania Council of the Proprietary Government.[5] Though Weiser spoke highly of Andrew and showed him great respect, his drinking caused some problems between them. In fact, Weiser sent a letter to the Provincial Secretary of Pennsylvania, Richard Peters. Weiser wrote: "I bought 2 quarts of Rum to use on our journey, but he drunk most all the first day. He abused me...when he was drunk..."[note 2][6]

In the same way, Richard Peter's opinion of Andrew is not as flattering, calling him "a dull stupid creature", "untractable", and a "fellow who kept low company of which he was more than likely to be the dupe." In a letter to a friend, Peters stated: "He has been arrested for fifty pounds and indeed, I would have suffered him to have gone to jail for he is a lavish man, having a wife who takes up goods at any rate and to any value."[note 3][citation needed]

Montour seems to be plagued with personal demons most of his life, particularly his drunkenness and debt. However, when sober, Montour was someone who could be depended on. In fact, there were those who were willing to pay a high price to secure his services.

For example, Colonel George Washington wrote a letter to Virginia's governor Robert Dinwiddie, just before the former's capitulation at Fort Necessity. Washington requested the assistance of Montour, saying that he "...would be of use to me here at this moment in conversing with the Indians, for I don't have other persons to depend on."[citation needed] Washington continued by admitting that he was unsure as to how he should treat the Indians.

In September of 1755, Washington requested Montour's services again, saying that he was: "...desirous of seeing [Montour] here; and the more so, because I have it in my power to do something for you in a settled way which I hope will be agreeable to you..." In addition, Washington asked for more Indian aid promising that "...they shall be better used than they have been, and have all the kindness from us they can desire." Washington felt that even the use of flattery was "justifiable on such occasions".[citation needed]

Besides Washington, Montour also served under Major General Edward Braddock, though the experience was a sour one for both him and the Indians involved. At a council held in Philadelphia during August 1755, one month after Braddock's defeat, Montour told the assembly for Scaroyady:

"We Six Nations must let you know that it was the pride and ignorance of that great General that came from England. He is now dead; but he was bad when he was alive: he looked upon us as dogs, and would never hear anything what was said to him. We often endeavored to advise him and to tell him of the danger he was in with his soldiers; but he never appeared pleased with us, and that was the reason that a great many of our warriors left him and would not be under his command."


Montour received a captain's commission in 1754, and under Sir William Johnson's Indian Department in 1764, he captained one of the Raiding Parties in Ohio. For his numerous efforts Montour received (but did not keep) lands in Mifflin County, PA, Montoursville, as well as Montour's Island near Pittsburgh. So strong was his influence with tribes in the Ohio River Valley that the French put a bounty on his head.

During Pontiac's Rebellion, Montour captained several raiding parties. On May 22, he and a group of Indians arrived at Niagara. While there, the Indians got drunk and threatened to kill him. Suffering from aching heads the next morning, they all but forgot their mutinous actions of the night before for which he forgave them without hesitation.


He married an Oneida woman, Sally Ainse (c. 1728–1823, also known as Sally Montour), when she was a teenager.[7] However, Montour left her in around 1757 or 1758.[7] Their children were sent to live with people in Pennsylvania, with one child, Nicholas, staying with Ainse in an Oneida settlement near the Mohawk River.[8] Andrew had a number of children, who, he hoped, would also live in both white and Native American worlds.

His best known child was his son, John Montour born in 1744, who followed in his father's footsteps. He became a well-known negotiator, translator and go-between, and served with American Troops at Pittsburgh during the American Revolution.

Death and legacy[edit]

Montour was last mentioned in a letter writer by Major Isaac Hamilton from Fort Pitt on January 22, 1772 reporting that Montour: "...was killed at his own house the day before yesterday by a Seneca Indian, who had been entertained by him at his house for some days. He was buried this day near the Fort."[citation needed]

As a final tribute to their lost friend, "the Indians who came to the funeral beg'd a few gallons of Rum to drown their sorrows for the life of their friend."[citation needed] The cost of the spirits for the Indian's lamentations was pegged at a little better than £7.[9]

Montour County, Pennsylvania, was named for Andrew Montour.[10] The Montour School District, a comprehensive public school system located 16 miles west of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, also bears his name.


  1. ^ Montour was also called Henry possibly due to the similarity of the French "Andre".
  2. ^ cont. "...I reprimanded him when he is sober and he begged me not to mention it to you... However, he did the same again..."
  3. ^ cont. "...he then goes to Onondago in a public character, and is even chosen a member of the Onondago Council for the Ohio Indians. It may be dangerous to the public when he becomes imprisoned"


  1. ^ Hagedorn, 57. "Eghnisara" has also been rendered as "Echnizera" and "Oughsara"; Merrell, 19.
  2. ^ Merrell, 20n15.
  3. ^ Hagedorn, 44.
  4. ^ Merrell, 23.
  5. ^ "Andrew Montour (Sattelihu), fl. 1745-1762. [full text]"., The Pierian Press, 1998. Online. Internet. 18 May 1743. Retrieved 6 Sep 2010. 
  6. ^ "Conrad Weiser's Report on the Journey to Shamokin," Pennsylvania Colonial Records, IV, 641
  7. ^ a b Gretchen M. Bataille; Laurie Lisa (2001). Native American Women: A Biographical Dictionary. Taylor & Francis Group. pp. 3–4. ISBN 978-0-415-93020-8. Retrieved 6 December 2012. 
  8. ^ Clarke, John. "AINSE (Hands), SARAH (Montour; Maxwell; Willson (Wilson))". Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  9. ^ Major Isaac Hamilton to General Thomas Gage, January 22, 1772' in C. E. Carter, ed., Correspondence of General Thomas Gage (2 vols., New Haven: Yale University Press, 1931-1933)
  10. ^ Donehoo, Dr. George P. (1999) [1928]. A History of the Indian Villages and Place Names in Pennsylvania (PDF) (Second Reprint Edition ed.). Lewisburg, Pennsylvania: Wennawoods Publishing. p. 290. ISBN 1-889037-11-7. Retrieved 2007-03-07. ISBN refers to a 1999 reprint edition, URL is for the Susquehanna River Basin Commission's web page of Native American Place names, quoting and citing the book 


  • Hagedorn, Nancy L. "'Faithful, Knowing, and Prudent': Andrew Montour As Interpreter and Cultural Broker, 1740–1772". In Margaret Connell Szasz, ed., Between Indian and White Worlds: The Cultural Broker, 44–60. University of Oklahoma Press, 1994.
  • Kelly, Kevin P. "John Montour: Life of a Cultural Go-Between". Colonial Williamsburg Interpreter, Volume 21, No. 4 (2000/01).
  • Lewin, Harold. "A Frontier Diplomat: Andrew Montour" (pdf). Pennsylvania History Volume 33, Number 2 (April 1966): 153–86.
  • Merrell, James. "'The Cast of His Countenance': Reading Andrew Montour." In Ronald Hoffman, et al., eds., Through a Glass Darkly: Reflections on Personal Identity in Early America, 13–39. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 199.
  • Wallace, Paul A. W. "Indians In Pennsylvania" p. 179.
  • Merell, James H. " Into the American Woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier" W.W. Norton & Company 1999

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