Montour was commissioned as a captain in 1754 by Pennsylvania officials during the French and Indian War. He also commanded raiding parties in Ohio in 1764 during Pontiac's Rebellion (1763-1766) at the behest of Sir William Johnson, British superintendent of Indian Affairs. His son John Montour later became recognized as an interpreter and negotiator, serving with rebel forces during the American Revolutionary War.
Montour was likely born in Otstawonkin, a native Lenape village located at the mouth of Loyalsock Creek on the West Branch Susquehanna River, about 1720. His native names were Sattelihu and Eghnisara. He was primarily of Native American ancestry, with a French grandfather. His father was Carondawanna, an Oneida war chief based in New York. He was killed in 1729, when Andrew was young, during a raid on a southern tribe.
His mother was known as Madame Montour and was a well-known, influential interpreter. British and German colonists considered her the leader of Otstawonkin. Although her identity is obscured in speculation and myth, she is believed to have been born in 1667 at Three Rivers, Canada. Her mother was Marie Miteoamegoukoué (Algonkin), and her father was Pierre Couc, a French colonist. The girl was taken captive in an Iroquois raid and adopted by a Mohawk family, growing up in their society in New York.
Madame Montour spoke several languages and often served as an interpreter between Europeans and Native Americans. She had served as an interpreter and adviser to Governor Robert Hunter, among others. Her children, born in New York, are believed to have included a son Louis, who served as an interpreter and was killed in the French and Indian War. Her daughter Margaret, who later led a village known as "French Margaret's Town" at the mouth of Lycoming Creek. The youngest son was Andrew; growing up in a polyglot world, he developed his mother's gift for languages, speaking French, English, Lenape (Delaware), Shawnee, and at least one of the Iroquois languages, likely Oneida.
In 1742, Andrew Montour acted as guide and interpreter for Count Zinzendorf, among the Moravian missionaries who stopped at Otstonwakin. The latter described him by the following:
"This man had a countenance like another European but around his whole face an Indianish broad ring of bear fat and paint, and had on a sky-colored coat of fine cloth, black cordovan neckband with silver bugles, a red damask lapelled waistcoat, breeches over which his shirt hung, shoes and stockings, a hat, and both ears braided with brass and other wire like a handle on a basket. He welcomed us cordially and when I spoke to him in French he replied in English. His name is Andre."
In May 1745, Montour accompanied Conrad Weiser and Shikellamy from Pennsylvania to Onondaga, the central meeting place of the Iroquois League in New York. In 1748, Weiser recommended Montour as a person especially qualified to act as an interpreter or messenger, and presented him to the Pennsylvania Council of the Proprietary Government.
Though Weiser spoke highly of Montour, the interpreter's drinking caused problems between them. Weiser wrote about this in a letter to the Provincial Secretary of Pennsylvania, Richard Peters. Weiser wrote: "I bought 2 quarts of Rum to use on our journey, but he drunk most all the first day. He abused me...when he was drunk..."
Richard Peter described Montour at another time in a letter as "a dull stupid creature", "untractable", and a "fellow who kept low company of which he was more than likely to be the dupe." Peters wrote:
"He has been arrested for fifty pounds and indeed, I would have suffered him to have gone to jail for he is a lavish man, having a wife who takes up goods at any rate and to any value."
Montour had problems with alcoholism and debt in much of his life. When sober, he was highly reliable and officials were willing to pay a high price to secure his skilled services. For example, Colonel George Washington wrote a letter to Virginia's governor Robert Dinwiddie, just before the former's capitulation at Fort Necessity during the French and Indian War, the North American front of the Seven Years' War between Great Britain and France. Washington requested the assistance of Montour, saying that he "...would be of use to me here at this moment in conversing with the Indians, for I don't have other persons to depend on." Washington said he was unsure how to treat the Indians.
In September 1755, Washington requested Montour's services again in Virginia, saying that he was: "...desirous of seeing [Montour] here; and the more so, because I have it in my power to do something for you in a settled way which I hope will be agreeable to you..." In addition, Washington asked for more aid for the Indians, promising that "...they shall be better used than they have been, and have all the kindness from us they can desire." Both the British and French colonists relied on their alliances with Native Americans for much of their fighting forces in this war.
Montour also served under Major General Edward Braddock, though the experience was a sour one. At a council held in Philadelphia during August 1755, one month after Braddock's defeat, Montour told the assembly for Scaroyady:
"We Six Nations must let you know that it was the pride and ignorance of that great General that came from England. [that caused the defeat] He is now dead; but he was bad when he was alive: he looked upon us as dogs, and would never hear anything what was said to him. We often endeavored to advise him and to tell him of the danger he was in with his soldiers; but he never appeared pleased with us, and that was the reason that a great many of our warriors left him and would not be under his command."
Montour received a captain's commission in 1754 during the French and Indian War. Later, under Sir William Johnson's Indian Department of the Northern District, Montour was given command of a raiding party in Ohio in 1764 during Pontiac's Rebellion (1763-1766). For his numerous efforts Montour was granted Pennsylvania lands by the colonial government: in Mifflin County, Montoursville, and Montour's Island near Pittsburgh. So strong was his influence with tribes in the Ohio River Valley that the French had put a bounty on his head to take him out of the action.
During Pontiac's Rebellion, Montour captained several raiding parties. On May 22, 1764 he and a group of Indians arrived at Niagara. While there, the Indians got drunk and threatened to kill him. Suffering hangovers the next morning, they all but forgot their mutinous actions of the night before; he forgave them for this behavior.
He first married a Delaware woman, granddaughter of Sassoonan, a chief. They separated or she died.
Montour secondly married Sally Ainse (Oneida)(c. 1728–1823, also known as Sally Montour), when she was a teenager, as was their practice. Montour left her in around 1757 or 1758. He sent their children to school in Philadelphia and Williamsburg, Virginia to learn English, to be educated for both cultures. Ainse kept a young son Nicholas with her while she was living in an Oneida settlement near the Mohawk River.
Their best-known child was a son, John Montour born in 1744, who followed in his father's footsteps. He became a well-known translator, negotiator, and go-between. John Montour served with American troops at Pittsburgh during the American Revolution.
Montour died on January 20, 1772. Major Isaac Hamilton wrote from Fort Pitt on January 22, 1772, reporting that Montour: "...was killed at his own house the day before yesterday by a Seneca Indian, who had been entertained by him at his house for some days. He was buried this day near the Fort."
For their tribute, "the Indians who came to the funeral beg'd a few gallons of Rum to drown their sorrows for the life of their friend." The cost of the spirits for the Indian's lamentations was pegged at a little better than £7.Montour's Island in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania was granted to him for service and named for him. He sold it during his lifetime.
Montour County, Pennsylvania, was named for him.
Montoursville, Pennsylvania was named for his mother, as it developed near the village where she lived.
The Montour School District, a comprehensive public school system located 16 miles west of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, also bears his name.