Pennsylvania Indian Traders:Peter Bezaillion



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Pennsylvania Indian Traders
The Early Traders of Conestoga, Donegal, and Paxtang, in Hanna, 1911, The Wilderness Trail
Canadian Biography
Notebook:Jim LaLone's research into the family of Peter Bezaillion


Based on Source:Hanna, 1911, The Early Traders of Conestoga, Donegal, and Paxtang, In "The Wilderness Trail"

Peter Bezaillion[1] ...was also an early French Canadian Trader in what are now Delaware, Chester, and Lancaster counties, before 1696. His brother, Richard, was associated with him. Thomas Jenner and Polycarpus Rose, on December 19, 1693, accused them and the Le Torts before the Council of having carried on a secret correspondence with the "strange Indians called Shallnarooners" (Shawnees) the year before. The latter of these informants swore, "that about a year since, there was a packet of letters sent from Philadelphia, from Peter Basilion, Capt. Dubrois, and Madame Le Tort, to the strange Indians called Shallnarooners, sealed up in a blue linen cloth, and was left at James Stanfield's plantation [in what is now Marple Township, Delaware County], by Richard Basilion's servant, who then run away; and the letters being there three days, James, the Frenchman, came and carried them away." In 1701, William Penn and the Council considered the case of "Louis [Michel?] and Peter Basailion, who have been suspected to be very dangerous persons in their traffic with the Indians, in this troublesome conjuncture of affairs." Accordingly, it was resolved, "that it was absolutely necessary the said two Frenchmen should be confined, and restrained from inhabiting or trading amongst the Indians." Two years later, both Peter Bezaillion and James Le Tort, Junior, were required by Council to give bonds in the amount of five hundred pounds each, that they would behave themselves as loyal subjects of Queen Anne. Le Tort was locked up in the common "gaol" for a time in 1704, and again in 1711; while Bezaillion also was imprisoned in 1711, at a time when his fidelity was again suspected.

It is quite possible that Bezaillion came over with Le Tort and the other French Protestants in 1686. In a letter written by William Markham, Governor of Pennsylvania, to the Governor of Maryland, June 26, 1696, Markham says: "Upon the copy of what Coll. Herman gave into your Excellency and Council, I shall require security for Le Tort [the father] and Basalion, tho' I know that will not satisfy the Coll. He still uneasy until he get all the Indian trade to himself. I have known Coll. Herman for a long time, and he that trades for him on Susquehanna (Amos Nicholls) is better known than trusted. I enclose to your Excellency what I found among castaway papers. Basalion was in equal partnership with Petit and Salvay, though it went in only their two names, Basalion coming in after the others had provided for the voyage, and after the voyage was overthrown, I divided the left cargo, and Basalion had one-third. But as to Le Tort he is a Protestant."

Peter Bezaillion at one time owned a plantation on the west side of the Schuylkill, referred to in the minutes of the Board of Property in February, 1718, as "the old plantation where Peter Bizalion formerly dwelt." From there he moved towards Conestoga; and eventually settled in East Caln Township, Chester County, where he made his permanent home a few miles east of the present site of St. John's Church. This church was built largely through the efforts and contribution of Bezaillion's wife, Martha Coombe, who was an Episcopalian. Bezaillion, himself, was referred to by the Governor in 1710, as a Frenchman, a Roman Catholic (which is doubtful), and a suspicious person generally, who traded with the Indians at Conestoga. He traded at Conestoga before 1696, and until the time of his imprisonment at Philadelphia in August, 1711. In November, 1708, the Property Commissioners gave him permission to erect a house and plant fields for his own use on the lands above Conestoga. He was licensed by the Governor in May, 1712, and in July of the same year the Governor told the Conestoga Indians that Bezaillion was the only Trader who had ever been allowed by the Government to settle amongst them. In 1714, he received a warrant from the Commissioners of Property, allowing him to "seat himself at Pashtang, or any other Indian town or place on Susquehanna, in this Province, and to erect such buildings as are necessary for his trade, and to enclose and improve such quantities of land as he shall think fit, for the accommodation of his family there." He acted as interpreter for the Delawares in a conference held at Conestoga, July 18, 1717. Two years later, 700 acres of land were surveyed for his wife on the east bank of the Susquehanna, between Chickasalunga and Conewago creeks, adjoining the Conoy Indian town. In March, 1721, Bezaillion had a trading post near Paxtang, "about thirty-six miles higher up on Sasquehannah" than Conestoga; and in May, 1728, he acted with Nicholas and John Scull as interpreters at an Indian conference in Philadelphia. He was reported, as early as 1708, to have joined with James Le Tort and Martin Chartier in building cabins on the upper branches of Potomac (Antietam and Conococheague creeks, in what is now Franklin County, Penna.), and also had a trading post near Paxtang, as we have seen. Peter Bezaillion died in 1742, at the age of eighty.

His wife's brother, Moses Coombe, was also successfully engaged in the Indian trade, in Donegal Township, where he had a post on Conoy Creek before 1716. Mrs. Bezaillion had a nephew named John Hart. Possibly, he was an Indian Trader himself, and the son of that John Hart, one of the "Shamokin Traders," who was accidentally killed while hunting with the Indians on the Ohio, 1729-30.