The Joseph Brant Hallway features Burlington’s most famous resident, Joseph Brant ‘Thayendanegea’. The exhibit consists of a selection of portraits and examines the many faces of Joseph Brant. Personal objects once belonging to Joseph Brant are also on display, highlighting his importance and status during his lifetime. Recently returned: Joseph Brant's gorget is back on exhibit, following a temporary loan to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for their "American Adversaries: West and Copley in a Transatlantic World" exhibition.
Who Was Joseph Brant?
Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant) was born in 1742 on the banks of the Ohio River. His mother was Mohawk and a member of the Wolf clan. She was a Christian and a strong ally of the British, characteristics that Thayendanegea adopted. At age fifteen, Thayendanegea joined a force of four hundred natives serving in the Seven Years’ War, under British Superintendent of Indian Affairs, William Johnson. Around this time Thayendanegea broke with Iroquoian tradition and took his stepfather’s last name, Brant and for the remainder of his life he was commonly known as Joseph Brant. In 1761, Brant was sent to Moor’s Charity school. Under the direction of Reverend Eleazer Wheelock, he learned English, Christian scripture and European agricultural techniques. He remained at school until the outbreak of the Pontiac Rebellion in 1763, when he joined with other native warriors to help the British put down the uprising.
Two years later Brant married his first wife, Peggie. Eighteen months after her death in 1771, Brant married Peggie’s half-sister, Susanna. In 1772, around the time of his second marriage, Brant had become a Mohawk war chief and was beginning his career as an interpreter for the British Indian department. In his role as interpreter Brant sailed to England in 1775 to request the support of the King in settling Mohawk land grievances. Upon his return to North America in 1776, Brant began recruiting loyal British and native volunteers to fight with him against the rebels in the American Revolution.
After the death of Susanna in 1778 Brant married his third wife, Catherine, whose important position within the Mohawk community helped him gain more influence with both the Mohawks and the British, culminating in the receipt of a commission of Captain from General Haldimand in 1780.
Disillusioned by the British ceding Iroquoian lands to the Americans at the end of the Revolution, Brant requested that the Six Nations receive a tract of land in Upper Canada (Ontario) and the equivalent of fifteen thousand pounds as compensation for war losses. In 1784, the Crown granted a tract of land stretching along the banks of the Grand River. A year later Brant travelled to England to ensure the remaining requested compensation was paid. In addition to the Six Nations who relocated on the Grand River lands, Brant sold parcels of the tract to British loyalists. This action, in addition to his implementation of European agricultural and religious practices on the settlement, made Brant many enemies and created division among its inhabitants. Opposition to Brant’s schemes of ‘civilization’ and land sales became so strong that he left the community and took up residence on his personal lands by the Burlington Bay. Joseph Brant passed away in 1807. He was survived by his wife and eight children.