American Revolution Loyalist
Molly Brant Plaque
Molly Brant was an important Mohawk woman in upstate New York and Canada in the era of the American Revolution, particularly in the Mohawk Valley, the area surrounding the Mohawk River, sandwiched between the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains. Her younger brother, Joseph Brant, grew into a celebrated Mohawk statesman in his own right and rubbed shoulders with the likes of U.S. General George Washington and King George III of England.
Molly Deganwadonti was born in 1736, the daughter of Peter Tehonwaghkwangeraghkwa and his wife Margaret, both Mohawks of the Wolf clan from Canajoharie – the site of a barricaded long house village of the Mohawk tribe of the Iroquois Nation in New York. After Peter’s death, Margaret married Brant Kanagaradunkwa, a Mohawk sachem of the Turtle clan, who owned a colonial-style frame house and lived and dressed in the European style.
Although not much is known of Molly’s life at Canajoharie during the 1740s and 1750s, from her infancy through her teenage years and into her early twenties, it is likely that she lived in Nickus Brant’s house. She was well educated in the European ways of life, with her formal education likely taking place in an English mission school, as she learned to speak and write English well.
Molly Brant’s political activity began when she was 18 years old. In 1754, she accompanied a delegation of Mohawk elders to Philadelphia to discuss fraudulent land transactions. This trip may have been part of her training in the Iroquois tradition, for she was to become a clan matron.
A British officer during the French and Indian War, William Johnson dealt honestly with the Mohawk, who appreciated his mastery of their language. His victory over the French and Algonquin in 1755 at the Battle of Lake George, New York, earned him a British knighthood. Johnson was eventually appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the province of New York.
During this time, Molly met Sir William Johnson, and moved into his house, Old Fort Johnson, before the birth of their first son Peter in September 1759. Molly was about 23, while William was 44 years old. She became Johnson’s common-law wife in a traditional Mohawk ceremony. Johnson couldn’t formally marry her because Molly was considered of a lower class. The couple had nine children together, eight of whom survived.
Johnson had acquired 600,000 acres of land in the Mohawk Valley, making him one of the richest men in the colonies. He was a successful colonial trader, and adapted well to Native ways. The Mohawk called him Warraghiyagey, a man of many interests, in tribute to his irrepressible curiosity.