HAY (Hayes, Hays), JEHU (John), army officer, Indian department official, and lieutenant governor of Detroit; probably b. at Chester, Pennsylvania; m. 1764 Julie-Marie Réaume at Detroit, and they had a large family; d. 2 Aug. 1785 at Detroit.
Jehu Hay purchased an ensigncy in the Royal Americans (60th Foot) and was formally commissioned on 2 April 1758. He was assistant engineer at Fort Niagara (near Youngstown, N.Y.) in 1760 and from about the beginning of August 1761 was adjutant there. On 27 April 1762 he was promoted lieutenant and shortly after was sent to Detroit with Henry Gladwin. Hay played an active role in the defence of the fort against Pontiac*’s siege in 1763 and his diary is a major source for the history of this episode. The disbanding of much of his regiment in 1763 caused Hay anxiety over his prospects, especially when his improvident father died that year and left him responsible for a brother and sister. On Gladwin’s recommendation he was made fort major in August 1764. Later that fall, however, he was placed on half pay.
In February 1765 Hay sought employment in the Indian department from Sir William Johnson and in mid 1766 was appointed commissary for Indian affairs at Detroit with a salary of £200 a year. In this capacity he supervised trade with the Indians, attended conferences, and procured intelligence on Indian affairs. He experienced his first problems with the Detroit mercantile community at this time because he had to enforce unpopular restrictions on the Indian trade [see Sir William Johnson]. It has been alleged that his handling of crown funds would not have stood close scrutiny; Hay, however, felt that his superiors’ auditing was already too rigorous.
As a result of the British government’s decision in 1768 to turn over responsibility for Indian affairs to the colonies, the department’s funds decreased and the commissaries were discharged as of 25 March 1769. Hay did not secure another appointment in the department until early 1774, when he was made the Indian agent at Detroit. At this time Thomas Gage commissioned him to tour the Ohio valley and report on the increasingly chaotic situation there. Hay left in July but had to turn back because of the hostility of the Shawnees, who were at war with Virginia.
In 1775 Detroit received a lieutenant governor in Henry Hamilton. He and Hay became close, and by 1778 Hay was Indian agent, acting engineer, barrack master, and major, commanding six companies of the local militia. He played an important role in Hamilton’s expedition against Vincennes (Ind.) in the fall of 1778, supervising preparations, obtaining intelligence, conferring with the Indians, and leading the advance party in the final successful approach to the fort. Over the winter he assisted in rebuilding and supplying it. When George Rogers Clark attacked Vincennes in February 1779 Hay took part in the negotiations for its surrender. Clark believed that Hamilton and Hay were responsible for Indian raids on frontier settlements in Kentucky and the Ohio valley and spoke of executing them as murderers. Governor Thomas Jefferson of Virginia shared Clark’s hostility and delayed releasing them as long as he could. They gave their paroles on 10 Oct. 1780, proceeded to New York, and sailed for England on 27 May 1781.
On 23 April 1782 Hay was appointed lieutenant governor of Detroit as a reward for his service, and he reached Quebec late in June. He soon came into conflict with Governor Haldimand, who was unwilling to change the command at Detroit at what he felt to be a critical juncture in the western campaigns. Haldimand did not want to remove the commandant, Major Arent Schuyler De Peyster, or to insult him by requiring him to serve under an ex-lieutenant. By the end of October 1783 he had decided to transfer De Peyster to Niagara and send Hay to Detroit, but he angered Hay by leaving responsibility for Indian affairs in the hands of Alexander Mckee.
Hay reached his post on 12 July 1784. He was soon in trouble with both Haldimand and the inhabitants about the enforcement of strict and unpopular British controls over shipping on the Great Lakes, and about expenses at Detroit, the eviction of non-residents, and the removal of local records to Quebec. Once again he was the man in the middle and could satisfy neither party. He repaired Detroit’s fortifications and barracks and worked well with McKee, an old associate, in gathering intelligence and conducting diplomacy among the tribes. His health was poor, however, and he died on 2 Aug. 1785.
Clements Library, Jehu Hay, diary. [Henry Bouquet], The papers of Col. Henry Bouquet, ed. S. K. Stevens et al. (19v., Harrisburg, Pa., 1940–43). The capture of old Vincennes: the original narratives of George Rogers Clark and of his opponent, Gov. Henry Hamilton, ed. M. M. Quaife (Indianapolis, Ind., 1927). G.B., Hist.