Squire Tehawennihárhos Davis encounters his three stone giants: John Smoke Johnson, Chief George H. M. Johnson, Barton Farr

Squire Tehawennihárhos Davis and Skunny Wundy have a problem with the stone giants, which is best expressed in the frustration of Skunny Wundy:

“For the rest of his life Skunny Wundy told anybody who would listen the story of his encounter with the Stone Giant(s), but nobody ever believed him.” Arthur Caswell Parker, Collected Stories of Skunny Wundy. 

Literally and figuratively, some enemies simply will break your back. The Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Confederacy or Iroquois League) call their back-breaking enemies stone giants.

On his journey through life, lower Mohawk Squire Tehawennihárhos Davis faces off with stone giants – as, one supposes, do we all – but most of us cherish the hope that when we raise our voices in protest we will be heard, and, better, believed. There are amazing women in Squire’s story. I state it unequivocally. We must believe Sarah Maria Farr. We must believe Velma Farr. And Addie Farr. Their voices, beckoning to us from the past, have only a wee audience. Recently, the women and the Mohawk have caught the attention of a few of their family members, who, through years of research, have managed to recall them from oblivion. Each one, Sarah Maria, Velma, Addie, and, our Squire, faces a stone giant, and overcomes. Canadians should know about their courage.

The lives and times of individuals are the historical vertebrae holding together the spine of our enormous, diverse, 21st-century Canadian nation, a mare usque ad mari. Or, if you prefer, a mari usque ad maria. One hopes, someday, the Farr women, and Squire, will add their stories to the national conversation. To have a successful community of citizens with common purpose, a nation needs to acknowledge its history, warts and all. 

Evidence suggests Squire Davis does not always stand on the sunny side of the law. We recognize Squire’s flaws. To be (extra) fair to him, we want to place his flaws in the context of his tribulations. His defence rests on two severe and mitigating factors: waxing bigotry against the Indigenous among the settler class; and the unexpected but excruciating poverty on the Six Nations Reserve.

Poverty is like the wolf, beating, night and day, on the Davis’s door. Al Swearengen advises the weebles of the world to stand up and give some back. The Davis family does that. Poaching and smuggling are commonplace on the reserve, justified, one notes, because the Six Nations strenuously object to their lack of sovereignty within the ‘host’ country of Canada. Justified, because the people have no food. One cannot say for certain Squire is a dum-dee-dum law-abiding citizen, and not a rabid smuggler or poacher. He may smuggle. Tobacco? Liquor? He may poach. Sycamores? Johnsons accuse him of cutting down trees to sell for profit. Perhaps. But no evidence exists of more serious offences, say, crimping. Squire does not sell inebriated souls to the Union Army. A certain H. H. (Hilton Hill?) reports gossip, repeated in John A. Noon’s book, that Squire is a racketeer – and suspected of crimping. Not a smidgen of evidence exists against Squire to support the rumour but there is more than ample evidence of resentful cliques, willing, always, to defame their adversaries.

What Squire is, is poor. After Joseph Thayendanegea Brant’s death (1807), the Haudenosaunee are an extremely wealthy confederacy – as vulnerable, yes, but as wealthy as the Osage of Oklahoma in the ’20s. So rich, indeed, no one among them should face death by starvation. Horrifying to the Haudenosaunee, then, is the Grand River Navigation Company’s swindle. The wholesale theft of the people’s funds and property drives the Indigenous to levels of subsistence and despair previously unknown (see Bruce E. Hill). In the 1840s, and onward, the reserve has enough elements to rival the romance of Robin Hood. At 37, from first-hand experience, Squire understands two worlds: the settler world and the Indian-as-ward world. For over a dozen years, Squire and Jennet reside in Uxbridge. Squire does not make his mark in Uxbridge but he is smart. He sees things. He sees the settlers’ freedoms – colossal freedoms compared to reserve restrictions. Settler freedom means a family can grow more crops and raise more stock than the family can consume, with the freedom to sell the excess at market, or wherever. Settler freedom means a family can cut down trees to make “improvements.” Settler freedom means farmers can grow tobacco and sell their product internationally. Settler freedom allows a person to trade farm produce outside the community. Settler freedom means family members can sell unentailed land to whomsoever they please. Settler freedom means the white man’s law (most often) will adjudicate in favour of the settler over the Indigenous. Settler freedom means persons can speak about politics and religion and history and speak their piece  in the language of the mothers.

No settler freedoms exist for the robbed and devastated Haudenosaunee at the Grand River. Squire knows it. The resistance begins. Outlaws on the reserve sink to devious means to eat and survive and avoid the local sheriff. The Davises live among the merrie folk of the Carolinian forest and, like their Nottingham compatriots in the 12th century, they don’t want to go down without a fight. 

With cause, the Davises are lifelong enemies of the prestigious, establishment Johnsons (see Smoke Johnson below). The class-conscious Johnsons have the ear of a Scottish snob, Jasper Tough Gilkison – son of William Gilkison, and a relative of the ambitious colonizer, John Galt. Galt founds the Canada Company. The young Gilkison, being superintendent of the Six Nations, has the ear of the Indian department, and the colonial government. Gilkison does not think well of the people, the Johnson family’s being the one notable exception. (See L.K. Quirk). The superintendent writes the reports and superintendent Gilkison is very much in the Johnsons’ corner. Needless to say, his reports are not favourable to the Davises. It’s hard to tell how bad an actor the wily Squire really is because, I believe, guilt drives the Johnsons’ hatred. Full disclosure. I don’t trust the Johnson-Gilkison narrative; I take Squire’s side. 

For the Indigenous in British North America, the white man’s law is an unavoidable ass (Sidney L. Harring, White Man’s Law: Native People in Nineteenth-Century Canadian Jurisprudence).  In later life, Squire takes Barton Farr’s estate to court on behalf of Squire and Jennet’s daughter-in-law Sarah Maria Farr, now Davis. Sarah Maria has married William Davis, Squire and Jennet’s oldest son. Farr family members are obstructive in executing Bart Farr’s will. The Farr family doesn’t want to hand over to Sarah Maria her rightful inheritance, some prime land left to her by her father/grandfather, Bart Farr. For remedy, Squire registers the case with the white man’s court.

Whatever Squire does to circumvent the Indigenous establishment’s legal conventions (smuggle? poach?), he is certainly a dedicated father, shrewdly ready to appeal to whatever jurisdiction he believes will favour him with a decent outcome. For the most part his twelve children do well and are grateful for the ways and means Squire and Jennet find to shelter and clothe and educate them. Plus. Presbyterian Jennet and her insistence on the value of education mark the family for generations.

You cannot qualitatively judge the prisoner until you understand the nature of the prison. In the Mohawk trilogy, Squire’s 20-year-old voice describes his bigoted, poverty-stricken  “prison,” a.k.a.,  the Grand River settlement during the time of the Navigation. Squire is feisty. He is smart. He is an extrovert. He is literate. He is curious. He learns about legal systems: Longhouse law and the White Man’s law. Throughout his life, Squire is determined to protect, feed and promote the well-being of his wife and many children.

In contrast to Squire, the Mohawk Johnsons and the American-born Bart Farr commit serious crimes, which are universally deplored.

Squire’s stone giants are three: Pine Tree Chief John Smoke Sakayengwaraton Johnson, Chief George Henry Martin Onwanonsyshon Johnson (Smoke Johnson’s son and the father of actor/poet E. Pauline Johnson), and last and most vile, Captain Barton Farr.

 

WHO ARE THE STONE GIANTS?

Legends involving a race of Giants that lived on Earth – usually malevolent – is a universal archetype. The Legends that follow are from the Iroquois as recorded by Erminnie A. Smith [the same woman who bought from Smoke Johnson the Book of Condolence], published by the Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of Ethnology “Myths of the Iroquois.”

Related by Mr. O’BEILLE BEILLE, grandson of Cornplanter.

  • “The stone giants, who principally inhabited the far West, resolved to come East and exterminate the Indians. A party of Senecas [keepers of the western door of the Haudenosaunee Longhouse], just starting out on the war-path, were warned of their impending danger and were bidden to accept the challenge to fight the stone giants and appoint a time and place. This they did. At the appointed time the giants appeared at the place, which was near a great gulf. Then there came a mighty wind from the west which precipitated the whole race of giants down into the abyss, from which they were never able to extricate themselves, and the God of the West Wind was ever after held in reverence by the Senecas.”

The West Wind does not blow the stone giants who are tormenting the Davises into the abyss. But records can fly in one’s face. Reputations are at stake. Vital statistics record both Johnson and Farr’s deeds. Damning paper trails can float from the abyss into the light of day – for all to see. 

THEFT and ASSAULT

Stone Giant Pine Tree Chief John Smoke Sakayengwaraton Johnson

Chief George Henry Martin Johnson

 

The proximity of the Davis-Johnson farms, the cholera epidemic of 1832  – and the ensuing deaths of the Davis men, Peter Davis and Peter the Runner – give John “Smoke” Sakayengwaraton Johnson the excuse he needs to remove, forcibly, the grieving Davis family from the property of their fathers, on the Oxbow.

  • Back in 1832 Margaret Riley Davis and Peter Davis have seven-year-old Squire and his older brother, John, and his younger brother, Charles, baptized at St. Paul’s Anglican Chapel of the Mohawk. The transcriber mistakenly writes John Esq. In her deposition of 1845 set before Magistrate Nathan Gage, intended for Special Commissioner David Thorburn, Margaret Riley Davis asserts she was married to Peter Davis “about twenty years ago.” Perhaps Margaret David(s) and Peter Davis marry in 1828. See record below. In 1832 Margaret’s then husband, Peter Davis, and her father-in-law, Peter the Runner, die in a devastating and far-flung cholera epidemic.

  •  

  • In the fall of the same tragic year (1832) a knife- and gun-wielding John Smoke Johnson (backed by several armed cohorts) chases the Davis family off the farm when the family members return to claim their goods.

  •  
  • Johnson “claims” the Davis property. In 1845 – no doubt rubbing salt in Squire’s open wound – a certain William Johnson, possibly the son of Smoke Johnson, holds the Davis property.

  •  
  • Squire Davis and Smoke Johnson and Chief George Henry Martin Johnson spend a lifetime at each other’s throats. George Johnson wants nothing more than to toss Squire Davis into the jailhouse and throw away the key. On one occasion, he succeeds. Yet Johnson is not successful in keeping Squire contained, and Squire and George carry on their feud over decades. The feud cannot have been much of a secret, nor very much of an unusual occurrence. The Six Nations is rife with feuds, then and now (See Sally Weaver and John A Noon). After George Johnson’s untimely death and the death of the ancient Smoke Johnson, the council appoints Squire to the post of path-master. The honour is short-lived. Squire dies the same year of typhoid fever.

  •  
  •  In the Sky Walker novels (historical fiction), the frightening event, thirteen years past, of Smoke Johnson’s armed eviction of Squire’s family leaves an imprint on the boy. Smoke Johnson causes Squire’s ever-after traumatic moment. The Johnsons are his enemies. The first stone giant’s cruelty lives on in a young man’s obsession with owning land on the Grand River. In his dreams, Squire wants to find a replacement for the lost farm of his childhood.

  •  
  • Predation

Stone Giant Captain Barton Farr

Image found in Grand Heritage: A history of Dunnville, Canborough, Dunn, Moulton, Sherbrooke and South Cayuga. Ed. Cheryl MacDonald. Dunnville: Dunnville District Heritage Assoc, 1992

“Histoire de ma vie”

Let us now think of Casanova, who fathers his own grandchild, and let us duly transfer the crown of depravity to Barton Farr, who not only fathers his own grandchild, Sarah Maria Farr, but also his own great-grandchild, Addie Farr.

  • William Davis out-lives his wife, Sarah Maria Farr. William fills out her death-certificate form. William and Sarah Maria’s foster son, Dr. Walter Davis, signs it.  Sarah Maria’s death certificate, declared by husband and son, swears her father is Bart Farr and her mother is Elizabeth (Betsy) Lymburner. But! Bart Farr is also Sarah Maria’s grandfather because Sarah Maria’s mother, Elizabeth Lymburner, marries Harley H. Farr, the natural son of Barton and Maria (Burnham) Farr. 

  •  
  • Addie Farr, born 1869, is the daughter of sixty-nine year-old Bart Farr and Farr’s granddaughter, sixteen-year-old Velma Catherine Farr. Velma Catherine Farr marries Squire and Jennet’s second son, David Davis, in 1871. Two-year-old Addie moves in with the newlyweds. (See census records, 1871)

  • Via public records, voices from the past echo with anguish. Velma Davis’s voice. Addie Farr’s voice. As a young woman Addie Farr marries the Davis boys’ good friend, Frank Miller, and on the marriage certificate, there it is. Plain as day. Addie’s mother is Velma C. Farr and her father is Bark (Bart) Farr.

  •  
  • Bart Farr is a wealthy landowner, a church-goer, a reeve and a magistrate and a grade-A asshole. A hypocritical, sexual predator.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Name:

John Davids Esq.

Event:

Baptized

Year:

1832

Place:

Mohawk Chapel, Brantford

Province:

Ontario

Source:

Indian Baptisms at the Mohawk Chapel 1827-1840’s, publication #187, Ontario Genealogical Society, Brant County Branch, Brantford.

Volume/Page:

8

Note:

 

Name:

Margaret Davids

Event:

Married

Year:

1828

Place:

Mohawk Chapel, Brantford

Province:

Ontario

Source:

Marriage Records at the Mohawk Chapel 1827-1877, publication #189, Ontario Genealogical Society, Brant County Branch, Brantford.

Volume/Page:

1

Note:

 

 

 

1 Death certificate of Sara Maria Farr Davis, parents, Bart Farr and Betsy (Elizabeth) Lymburner.

*********

2 Marriage certificate of David Davis, 22, and Catherine Velma Farr, 18. His parents are Squire Davis and Janet Davis. 

Her parents are Harley Hamilton Farr and Elizabeth Betsy Lymburner.

*********

3 1871 census, the year of their marriage, showing David Davis, Velma “Catharine”  Farr, and two-year-old “Ada” – Addie .

According to the 1871 census, the Davis newlyweds live next door to Velma’s mother, Elizabeth (Lymburner) Farr, who resides with young Harley Hamilton Farr Jr (6). (Harley Hamilton Farr Sr marries Elizabeth Lymburner Farr in 1849. Harley Farr Sr dies in 1865.) Before her marriage to Harley Farr, Elizabeth/Betsy Lymburner has a child by Harley’s father, Bart Farr (Sarah Maria b. 1848). One cannot imagine how bad the poor Lymburner woman feels about her daughter Velma’s also having a child with Bart Farr.

The Davis boys are William and David. They identify as Indigenous. Each marries a daughter of Bart Farr. Craziness makes the women, aunt and niece, or half-sisters. William marries Sarah Maria. David marries Velma Catherine. Two brothers marry two “sisters,” who hail from the strangest tale of depravity.

  

***********

 

4 Marriage certificate of Addie Farr and Frank Miller, showing Addie’s parents as Bart Farr and Velma Farr

Marker of Velma C Farr Davis (mother of Addie and wife of David Davis) and Velma’s sister, Gracey Farr

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