Johnson, Tagawirunta William

Variant first names: Tagawirunta; William Major; Great William; William of Canajoharie
Birth: c. 1750 in Canajoharie, NY
Affiliation:

Mohawk; Moor's Indian Charity School

Education:

Moor's Indian Charity School (1764-1766), Thomas Barton (1767-1768)

Nationality:

Mohawk

Residence:

Canajoharie

Biography:

Tagawirunta, also called William of Canajoharie or, at Moor’s Indian Charity School, William Major, was the son of Sir William Johnson and a Mohawk woman (not his consort, Molly Brant). He arrived at Moor’s Indian Charity School on November 30, 1764, and studied there until December 10, 1766, when Eleazar Wheelock sent him home because he was “too prideful.” An anecdote related by Joseph Brant illustrates this so-called pride. One day Ralph Wheelock, Eleazar Wheelock’s son (who could himself be called prideful), ordered Tagawirunta to saddle his (Ralph’s) horse. Tagawirunta replied that as he was a gentleman’s son, the duty was beneath him, and Ralph asked if William even knew what a gentleman was. To this Tagawirunta replied, “a gentleman is a person who keeps race-horses and drinks Madeira wine; and that is what neither you nor your father do. Therefore saddle the horse yourself.” It is possible that saddling Ralph’s horse was among the tasks given to charity scholars, among whom Tagawirunta technically numbered, and that his refusal to do chores was part of why Wheelock sent him home. Later in life, too, he demonstrated an assertive streak that got him into fights. From 1767 to 1768, Tagawirunta studied with an Anglican minister in Pennsylvania, but returned because of violence. He inherited a plot of land and some money from Sir William Johnson in 1774, a significant bequest as Sir William Johnson tried to keep most of his Mohawk children out of colonial records. Tagawirunta fought with the Mohawks on the British side during the Revolution, and died at the Battle of Oriskany in 1777.

Documents written: retrieve them
Documents received: retrieve them
All related documents: retrieve them
Sources:

Chase, Frederick. A history of Dartmouth College and the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire. 1891. Kelsay, Isabel T. “Tekawironte.” In Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. 4. University of Toronto/Universite Laval, 2003-. Accessed 6/1/14. http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/tekawironte_4E.html. O'Toole, Fintan. White Savage: William Johnson and the Invention of America. New York: Macmillan 2005. Accessed via GoogleBooks.