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January 30, 2014

The Lost Dauphin, a royal ruse

Distinguished Visiting History Professor Michael Leroy Oberg presents talk on Eleazer Williams

PLATTSBURGH — Eleazer Williams’ straddled worlds, native and non-native, in Lower Canada and the United States during the colonial era.

He was the son of Chief Thomas and Mary Ann (Rice) Williams of Kahnawake. He was a descendant of Eunice Williams, a Puritan girl, who along with others, including her father, the Rev. John Williams, was taken into captivity during the French and Indian raid on Deerfield, Mass., in February 1704.

Williams (1788-1858) became a chief, Congregational and Episcopalian minister and posed as the Lost Dauphin, heir to the French throne after the execution of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution.

He is the subject of Dr. Michael Leroy Oberg’s lecture, “The Indian Confidence Man: Eleazer Williams’ American Odyssey, “ at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Krinovitz Recital Hall, Hawkins Hall, SUNY Plattsburgh. The lecture is presented by the McLellan Distinguished Visiting Professor Lecture Series.

‘CAREER SHEDS LIGHT’

The lecture’s title is derived from Oberg’s forthcoming book, “The Professional Indian: Eleazar Williams’ American Odyssey,” published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Oberg learned about Williams while researching Indian land claims at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

“From that correspondence, I became interested in this Mohawk missionary that spent most of his time with the Oneidas,” said Oberg, who is a professor of history at Geneseo and spent a decade researching Williams.

“I became interested in the role he played in Iroquois history in the first half of the 19th century, which is still a very understudied area of Iroquois history. What strikes me about him is his long career sheds light on the many different worlds of the Iroquois in the 19th century. I think that’s the critical part of it.”

William’s life offers a glimpse of the nature of Christianity in Iroquoian communities.

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