Joseph Thayendanegea Brant Brantford's Namesake 1742-1807
Joseph Thayendanegea Brant was born in 1742 among the Mohawks on the mouth of the Cuyahoga (Ohio) River, present-day Cleveland, Ohio, and was a member of the Wolf Clan. His birth name was Thayendanegea, pronounced "Tai-yen-da-nay-geh, another spelling of his name is Kayendanegea.
Shortly after Brant's birth and the family's migration from Ohio to the Mohawk Valley in New York State, his father, Peter, died. His mother, Margaret, married another Mohawk named Carrihago, or "News Carrier", whose Christian name, Barent or Bernard, was shortened to Brant. Thayendanegea became known as "Brant's Joseph" or Joseph Thayendanegea Brant.
Brant learned English, Greek, Latin, mathematics, religion, and farming while attending missionary and private schools. He was converted to the Anglican Church and later translated parts of the New Testament into the Mohawk language.
Brant was known as a strong leader and fierce warrior. In 1775, he received the commission of Captain and was presented at the Court of King George III of England. The battles he was involved in include:
- The last French-Indian War of 1754-1763 - joined Sir William Johnson and the British army at age 13
- 1760 - supported Lord Amherst in the attack on Montreal
- 1774 - lead four of the Six Nations for the British side of the Revolutionary War 1776 - the Battle of Long Island
- August 1777 - the Battle of Oriskany
After the Revolutionary War, Brant remained allied with the British and assisted with successful peace treaties. He led his tribes to the Grand River Basin, where they crossed the river shallow place and made their settlement near the river on a level plain. Where they crossed became known as Brant's ford and, hence, the location and history of Brantford had begun.
In 1785, Brant went to England to raise funds for St. Paul's - Her Majesty's Chapel of the Mohawks. One of the few Royal Chapels in the world, it was the first Protestant church built in Ontario. At the site of the Chapel, the village grew to include a Council House and a community of houses. The Chapel still stands an historic landmark in the City of Brantford.
In 1787, to avoid losing unsettled land to squatters, Brant and the Six Nations Chiefs signed a formal deed that offered several thousand acres of land to European settlers for farming, milling and other trades. United Empire Loyalist settlers built their homes near the village Brant established for trading purposes. It is still debated whether the decision to sell the land was in the best interest of the people of the Six Nations of the Grand River. An area of land south of the Grand River was settled and is known today as the Six Nations Indian Reserve.
On November 24, 1807, Joseph Thayendanegea Brant died at Wellington Square, present day Burlington. He was 64 years old. In 1850 the remains of both Captain Joseph Thayendanegea Brant and his youngest son, John Brant, were ceremoniously moved from Burlington and placed in vault in the burial grounds surrounding The Chapel of the Mohawks, Brantford, Ontario.
A monument in memory of Joseph Thayendanegea Brant, erected in the center of Victoria Park, was created by famous British sculptor Percy Wood. Wood made two visits to Canada to make sketches of the Six Nations peoples. The figure of Brant and those representing the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and Tuscaroras are cast in bronze. The bronze, from cannons used at the battles of Waterloo and the Crimean War, was donated by the British government in honour of Brant and the Six Nations people's support of the British during the American Revolution.
When the cornerstone of the monument was laid on August 11, 1886, William Cockshutt read the poem that talented Six Nations writer Pauline Johnson had written for the occasion. The monument was unveiled on October 13, 1886, and remains a centerpiece of Brantford's heritage.
On November 8, 2002, Joseph Thayendanegea Brant was inducted into the Brantford Walk of Fame as the Founder of Brant's Ford. Justice Gethin Brant Edward, a direct descendant, accepted a pottery award on behalf of Brant. The Walk of Fame plaque in Brant's honour is located in front of the Brantford Public Library on Colborne Street.