Financial Turbulence on the New York Frontier
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“…money is verry Scarce here so that there is no person about ous that can buy for money as the people are all Distra[sse]d But the New Inglands men come and go Every day that way and Settle some of them have money…”
A frontier merchant and land speculator tries to settle accounts after the death of another well-known Indian trader, George Croghan. Fonda advises the recipient not to sell frontier lands yet, correctly anticipating the completion of the sale of major estates confiscated from Loyalists, and also emigration west by a tide of New England and Irish settlers, which he says will cause prices to rise. JELLES FONDA.
Autograph Document Signed, Montgomery County, Palatine Dist. June 6, 1785. 3 pp.
Mongomery County Pallen Tine District 1785
I have Recd: your feavor of the 17 May last and I note its Contents – you say that you have cept no memorandum of the Drafts Sent by Coll Crochan to you in London. If you had paid the draft in my feavor you Sertinly whould have cept an act. of it; this is wat I whould be glad you should let the Exacuter of Coll Crochan know that my draft was never paid by you if not done yet, then plese to aquant them of it: as it was Sertenly Protested by you, and was a great loss to me I have properly baught and paid for Coll Crochan Sixty od herd of horn Cattel which I sant him and I also paid the Indian sum goods for the lands he baught at Otsego my Act. if I charge the Intrest for the money I have so Long advanced for him will amount to nine four hundred pound which whould be of great service to me now as I am so much in want of it if you  can do anything for me in the Recovery of my Depts from Coll: Crochans Estate I shall always be tanckfull and I will do as much for you this way if in my power, and as to your lands I have sent two partys down to vew them – which I have not as yet seen – as sune as I do I will advise you – I whould not have you for to be in two great a hurry for to dispose of them. Because there is a great dele of convescated lands [ie, land confiscated from Loyalists] sould that way formerly the property of the Honerable Henry Wite and [illegible] Wallice which is all sould for publick securitys verry chepea everidge its cost about five shilling an acer and sum cheper and it will sune settle and when setled your Land will become of more Vallue I will make it my Business and Inqr. about it and do all I can in it to your advantadge let me know the price you Entend to sell it for  money is verry Scarce here so that there is no person about ous that can buy for money as the people are all Distrad But the New Inglands men come and go Every day that way and Settle some of them have money: I have been should that there is great quantitys of men coming from Ireland for to settle in our Parts so we will have a chance there
I hope Coll Crochans potitions for the lands at Ohiia may be granted so that the Exacutors may be abile for to pay all there Depts if so granted you will be pleased to advise me. I am in Haste your most – obedient & Humble Servt
You may direct my Letters to Jelles Fonda Esqr
Mongomery County I am verry well known by most all person in Albany and New York
Jelles Fonda (1727-1791) was a New York frontier Indian trader, land developer, politician, and militia officer. He served under Sir William Johnson in the 1755 Battle of Lake George, and was badly wounded in the 1777 Battle of Oriskany, in the Mohawk Valley, a crucial part of the Saratoga Campaign. His trading post, on the north bank of the Mohawk, was the core of the developing town of Fonda. He also developed mills and a potash works. He was granted a patent for 40,000 acres around what is now Rome, New York, in 1786 – which he later sold portions of to Governor George Clinton and George Washington.
George Croghan (d. 1782) was another major figure in trade, war, and diplomacy on the colonial frontier. Croghan led Indian scouts under Braddock on his ill-fated 1755 expedition and was afterwards a Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs under Sir William Johnson. In 1785, three years after Croghan’s death, nearly 50,000 acres of his Otsego Lake landholdings were sold at public auction to William Cooper, father of James Fenimore Cooper and founder of Cooperstown. Partly due to the dereliction of the recipient of this letter, according to Fonda, Croghan had not fulfilled some obligations. It is interesting that Fonda, on Croghan’s behalf, “paid the Indian sum goods for the lands … at Otsego,” the seedbed for the village of Cooperstown.