LŸDIUS (Lidius, Lydieus), JOHN HENDRICKS (baptized Johannes Hendricus, also called John Henry and Jean-Henri), trader and interpreter; baptized 9 July 1704 in Albany, New York, son of Johannes and Isabella Lÿdius; m. 13 Feb. 1727 Geneviève Massé at Montreal (Que), and they had nine children; d. March 1791 at Kensington (London), England.
John Hendricks Lÿdius’ father served as a pastor to fellow Calvinists in Antwerp (Belgium). On 20 July 1700 he arrived in Albany, where he was to be the minister of the Albany Dutch Reformed Church for the next ten years. He also ministered to the Iroquois. Young John Lÿdius seems to have lived an unsettled life in upper New York province before his appearance in Montreal in 1725. The French authorities believed he had fled to Canada to escape his creditors. He converted to Roman Catholicism and in 1727 married a Canadian, said by some to have been part Indian. He made his living from trade with, among others, the Iroquois.
In 1727 Intendant Claude-Thomas Dupuy* became alarmed at the number of English speaking artisans and merchants in Montreal, and two years later the minister of Marine ordered the proclamation in New France of the royal edict of October 1727 which prohibited foreigners from participating in the commerce of the colonies.
Governor Beauharnois* and the financial commissary, Hocquart, asked the minister to grant Lÿdius exemption since he was well regarded by the Iroquois, whose language he spoke, and since he might prove troublesome if forced to return to the British colonies. They suggested in addition an appointment as interpreter at 300 livres a year. The minister, in March 1730, merely granted the exemption “as long as he conducts himself well and faithfully.” But Lÿdius was soon deprived of his special immunity and prosecuted for violating the edict. However, illegal trade with the British colonies and not the right of an alien to engage in commerce was the major issue at the trial. It seems unlikely that Lÿdius’ actions were newly discovered. Since he traded with the Indians it must have been known that he was involved in the lively illicit trade between Albany and Montreal. During the hearing Lÿdius named other Montrealers and even Pierre de Lauzon*, the Jesuit missionary at Sault-Saint-Louis (Caughnawaga), as parties to the smuggling. Apparently the missionaries there and at Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes had complained to the authorities that Lÿdius bribed their Indians, encouraged their warlike spirit, and ridiculed the Roman Catholic faith. He had refused baptism for his son and had presided at the burial of an English Protestant. The court concluded that he was a relapsed heretic and a smuggler, and he was imprisoned in August 1730.
The mission Indians wanted him released, but on 28 September the Conseil Supérieur fined him 3,000 livres and banished him. He was put on board the Héros bound for Rochefort, and although his wife was allowed to accompany him, their newborn son was kept behind as a ward of the crown. Beauharnois and Hocquart stated that the banishment would make a strong impression “on those who are in the habit of carrying on, or favoring foreign trade.” Although he had not paid his fine, Lÿdius did not stay long in the jail at Rochefort. By convincing the council of Marine that he was Dutch and that he had left an estate worth 12,000 livres in Montreal, he obtained permission to go to the Netherlands on the proviso that he never return to New France. It was the unhappy duty of Beauharnois and Hocquart in 1731 to tell their superiors in France that they had been hoodwinked. Lÿdius had left no property in Montreal.
Lÿdius made his way to New York province, and in 1732 the Iroquois gave him land on Otter Creek, Vermont, out of gratitude for his father’s missionary work. However, Lÿdius settled on the Hudson River at the great portage between the Hudson valley and Lake Champlain. His establishment, called Fort Lydius (Fort Edward), was astride the trade route between New France and New York, and it annoyed many. In 1735 a council of the Dutch speaking merchants of Albany told the French mission Indians that the post would not be tolerated. It was the French, however, who took action. After war between Britain and France was declared in 1744, the small settlement near the fort was spied out, and in November 1745 an expedition led by Paul Marin* de La Malgue burned it. Lÿdius escaped and made several trips to Boston that winter to plead for the destruction of Fort Saint-Frédéric (near Crown Point, N.Y.), the French stronghold closest to his establishment. Failing, he then attempted to organize his own raiding expedition against Canada. As a trader and as a crown agent he supplied goods to friendly Indians gratis and encouraged them to form war parties against the French.
Lÿdius was next attacked by the Indian commissioners of New York, who blamed him for the Iroquois’ lack of zeal for the British cause. In 1747 in the council of the province of New York he was accused of “abjuring his Protestant religion in Canada; of marrying a woman there of the Romish faith; and of alienating the friendship of the Indians from the English.” Although Lÿdius may have been considered an opportunist and unreliable, he was highly regarded by some as an expert on the Iroquois. He served as a counsellor to William Johnson, colonel of the Six Nations, and in 1749 Johnson seems to have recommended him for the post of secretary of Indian affairs for New York. But although he could tolerate Lÿdius as a subordinate, he could not as a rival. In 1755 Johnson complained of Governor William Shirley’s use of the trader as his military agent to the Six Nations. Lÿdius was, he wrote, “a Man extreamly obnoxious to the public in general and to me in particular . . . the very Man whom the Indians had at their public meeting so warmly complained of. To this Man he gave a Col[one]l’s Commission over the Indians and set him up to oppose my interest and management with them.”
The “public meeting” had been held at Mount Johnson (near Amsterdam, N.Y.) and when Lÿdius intruded, in search of recruits for an expedition against Niagara (near Youngstown, N.Y.), an Oneida denounced him as “a Devil . . . [who] stole our lands.” The lands were on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania’s Wyoming valley and had been purchased in 1754 by Lÿdius for the Connecticut Susquehannah Company. He had already acquired considerable territory from the Indians for himself and in this case he had dealt with six Iroquois sachems separately rather than, as was customary, in conference [see Karaghtadie*]. Lÿdius travelled to England via Quebec in 1764 to present his version of the Susquehanna affair. His land transactions, past association with the French, and the departure of Shirley made Lÿdius an isolated and distrusted figure.
In 1776 he returned to England to seek compensation from the government for past expenditures and services and to visit the Netherlands. In Holland he caught a crippling chill and was bedridden three years before establishing himself at Kensington, England, in 1788. There he gave an embellished account of his career, land holdings, linguistic accomplishments, and ancestry. He posed as the Baron de Quade and wore a military hat and cockade and a black suit sometimes adorned with the Prussian order of the Red Eagle. He was described as “a tall, well-made man, . . . a staunch Whig” and Calvinist. He retained a lively interest in current affairs until his death at 91 or 92. His heirs were a daughter and granddaughter.
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