A. D. (Amos Delos) Gridley.

History of the town of Kirkland, New York (Volume 1) online

. (page 4 of 17)
Online LibraryA. D. (Amos Delos) GridleyHistory of the town of Kirkland, New York (Volume 1) → online text (page 4 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

particularly. Among these were John Quinney and his
brother Joseph, John Metoxin, Captain Hendricks and his
strong-minded and most excellent wife Lydia, Mary Dox-


tator and John Kunkerpot. This John Kunkerpot when
a boy spent some time at Dartmouth College, and on
returning to his own people bade fair to become a prom-
inent and useful man. In a few years, however, the influ-
uence of blood and national habit began to tell upon him,
and he became indolent and vicious. My venerable
friend Gaius Butler says of him, " I remember John
Kunkerpot well. He was oftener drunk than sober, yet
he was witty and keen in repartee. When one of our cit-
izens bantered him about the black mark put upon Cain,
he replied, ' P'raps it was a ivhite mark ! '" 1

"While Hamilton Oneida Academy was in process of
erection, Mr. Kirkland brought five Indian boys from
Oneida to his own house in Clinton, to prepare them for
entering the Academy when it should open its doors.
They were taught in a log school-house on the knoll
directly in front of the Lucas place. One of these boys
was David Cusick, who afterwards became somewhat
distinguished. He was quite playful and quick-witted.
One day, as Mr. Kirkland was teaching him the Cate-
chism, to the question, " Who made man ? " he replied,
" God." " And who made woman ? " " God." " And
lioio did He make woman ? " "Out of old husks, I
guess ! "

That the Indian character possessed many excellent

"iv 1 It is often said that the Indian mind is wholly lacking in the sense of humor.
When a missionary, named Cram, once visited the Senecas on their Reservation
in western Xew York, and asked permission to introduce Christianity among
them. Red Jacket, one of their chiefs, replied confessing that the religion they
already had did not make his people very good, and that he would be glad of
another if it would certainly do the work. To test the power of Cram's religion,
therefore, he recommended that he should first go over to the village of Buffalo,
and try it for a few months upon the whites. If it made them honest and vera-
cious and kind, he might bring it to the Reservation, and the Senecas would
accept it. History is silent as to whether the missionary's success warranted his
return to the Indians.


traits none will deny ; yet it was also marred by weak-
nesses, vices and crimes. As illustrating the thieving
propensities of the natives of this region, I will refer
my readers to the story of " the fine, fat steer, 1 ' as told
by Hon. Pomroy Jones, with full detail, pp. 873 to 879,
of his " Annals." Judge Williams relates the same in
fewer words, and I will enrich my pages with his narra-
tive. The story is familiar to the old inhabitants of this
region, and should be handed down to their children.

" In 1787, Theodore Manross, who had commenced a
clearing on the farm for many years occupied by Jesse
Wood, about a mile south of Clinton, missed from his
herd a fine, fat steer. Suspicion soon fell upon a party
of Oneidas who, led by a chief called Beechtree, had for
some days been encamped on the hill south of him, and
were digging ginseng in the vicinity ; search was made,
their encampment was deserted, and the fresh offals of
the animal were found near by, secreted.

" A party of ten or twelve active and resolute young
men was soon formed. Moses Foot was their captain,
and among the company were Jesse Curtiss, Levi Barker,
and several other familiar names.

" The Indian trail was fresh, and their path through
the nettles and undergrowth was as plain to the sharp
eyes of the eager pursuers as a beaten track to the
traveller. They followed them to Paris Hill, then to
the Sauquoit Creek, a little north of the present village,
and thence down the stream. As they came near New
Hartford, the track was so fresh that it was manifest
they were close upon the Indians. Soon they spied them
marching single file, and, taking a little circuit, they
came into the path before them, and turning towards
them, met them face to face.


" ' Stop ! ' said Captain Foot, to Beechtree, their
leader ; ' you have stolen and killed the white man's
steer.' ' Indian has not killed the white man's steer,'
replied Beechtree, leaping forward and drawing from his
belt his long hunting-knife. Quick as thought, Captain
Foot raised a heavy cane and brought it down with con-
vincing force upon the naked head of Beechtree. He
winced, and settled down beneath the powerful blow : it
was enough, the party surrendered, and on search being
made, the hide and bell of the missing animal were found
in the pack of one of the Indians, who bore the expressive
cognomen of Saucy Nick.

" This was pretty good proof. As the modem and
fashionable defenses of sleep-walking, insanity, and the
like were not known to these untutored wild ones, they
frankly confessed the deed. The prisoners were marched
back in a body, and forthwith were confined and guarded
in the house of Col. Timothy Tuttle, standing on the
site of the present Royce mansion. Mr. Kirkland was
immediately sent for, and by permission of the guard they
sent a swift messenger to Oneida to summon their friends
and chiefs to their assistance, sending a message to them
at the same time to drive over a certain cow as a means
of settlement for the wrong committed.

" Before the morning sun had risen high, their friends
appeared, led by the wise and venerable Skenandoa,
The negotiation was carried on in the house of Mr.
Tuttle, mainly between Captain Foot and Skenandoa,
Mr. Kirkland acting as interpreter. And finally it was
agreed that the Indians should give the cow which had
been driven from Oneida, to Mr. Manross, to make him
good, and the ginseng which they had dug, to the party
of young men who had pursued them, to pay them for


their time and trouble. The whole matter was concluded
before noon, and this resolute conduct of the settlers
entirely prevented the recurrence of similar aggressions.

" Saucy Nick was alone sullen and revengeful. The
theft was more especially charged to and proved upon
him ; and on the march from New Hartford to Clinton,
he had had a bitter wrangle with one Lemuel Cook, who,
if all accounts are true, was as much entitled to the appel-
lation of ' saucy,' as Nick himseK. His abusive speech
had sunk deep into the Indian's memory, and his ardent
longing was for revenge and blood. Soon after, he un-
successfully attempted to kill Cook at Fort Schuyler, and,
the next season, as Cook was ploughing on his farm (now
owned by Mrs. Luther Comstock), an Indian arrow
whistled swiftly past his ear. The hand that sent it,
though unseen, could not be mistaken, and Cook, warned
of his danger, soon sold his farm and returned to Con-
necticut." 1

From all accounts, it is evident that Saucy Nick and
his family were of bad blood. They were noted among
the Oneidas for their great physical strength and their
cruel dispositions and ferocious temper. It was one of
this evil race who sought Rev. Mr. Kirkland's life at
Oneida, before the Revolution, and from whose bloody
hands he was saved by being concealed in a chest of
drawers. It is also supposed that this man was the
original after whom the novelist Cooper drew the charac-
ter of Wyandotte, in his " Hutted Knoll."

An incident less commonly known than the foregoing,

1 Lecture, p. 26. Mr. Cook finally died at the house of his son, in Clarendon,
N. Y., May 21, 1869, aged one hundred and four years. Five generations of his
descendants were present at his funeral. He was to the last a great story-teller,
and one of his favorites was that of " The fine fat steer and Saucy Nick."


•and exhibiting the brutal character of the Indians, may-
be found in the early life of Heinrich Staring, who
afterwards became first judge of Herkimer County.

One day, late in the month of November, 1778, while
in the woods near Herkimer, he fell in with a strolling
party of Oneida Indians, who seized him and marched
him off in the direction of Clinton, stopping for the night
a few miles south of this village, in what is now Deans-
ville. Here they took possession of a small uninhabited
wigwam, on the eastern bank of the Oriskany Creek
This wigwam was made of logs, and consisted of two
rooms, separated by a log partition. Into the larger of
these rooms the outside door opened, and was the only
entrance to the building. There was also a door in the
partition between the two rooms. In the small room
there was a little window six feet above the floor. The
Indians brought their captive into this room, where they
supposed he could be kept safe until morning. To make
the matter sure, they bound his hands behind his back
with withes, and fastened his ankles together in the same
way, and then laid him on the ground. Then they built
a fire in the other room, and sat down to consult what
final disposition should be made of him. That he should
be put to death they were all agreed : the only point of
deliberation was, how to do this so as to afford them the
Greatest entertainment. The conclusion was that he
should be burned alive the next morning before a slow
fire. During their conference, Staring began to contrive
some method of escape-; and before they had finished
their talk, he had loosened one of the withes from his
arm so that he could draw it out at pleasure. This
accomplished, he knew that the rest would be an easy
matter. He then slipped his hand back into its place,


and feigned sleep ; and when the Indians came in soon
after to examine him and found all safe, they retired,
whispering to each other with fiendish exultation that he
was sleeping for the last time. They then stretched
themselves before the fire, and soon fell into a profound

When they had been a long time quiet, Staring slipped
his hand from the withes, unfettered his ankles, cautiously
climbed up the logs on the side of the room, and leaped
from the window without alarming his keepers. To re-
move his ankles from the withes, he had been obliged to
take off his shoes ; and in the haste of escaping, he had
forgotten to bring them with him. So now, though out-
side of the hut, he was barefoot in a frosty night, twenty
miles from home, without guide or path, and a pack of
blood-thirsty savages intent on killing him. But escape
seemed possible, and so, hastening noiselessly to the bank
of the creek, he began to follow its course down stream.
He had gone only a few miles, when the whoop of the
Indians and the bark of their dogs fell on his ear. To
throw the dogs off their scent, he plunged into the water,
and ran along the channel for some distance, and then
crossed to the other side. Being a good runner, he out-
stripped the Indians, and ere long had the satisfaction of
finding that they had given up the pursuit. When he
reached the path from Oneida to Fort Schuyler, which
crossed the Oriskany Creek " about half a mile north-
west of the present village of Clinton," he took this trail
and followed it to the Mohawk Valley. On reaching
Fort Schuyler, he found a canoe which had floated down
the river, and lodged in some willow bushes near the
landing. Taking possession of this, by a vigorous use of
the paddles, aided by the current, he soon reached home. 1

1 See Tracy's Lecture, p. 24.


It is an old saying that the Indian never forgets a favor
nor forgives an injury. Judge Jones relates a story
which does not confirm this opinion. His account, much
condensed, runs thus : A young Oneida chief called with
his wife one day at the tavern of Barnabas Pond, in
Clinton, and asked for rum. Mr. Pond replied that he
never sold it to Indians intoxicated, but as he appeared
sober, he would let him have a little. After dividing his
dram with his wife, he went away.

In the afternoon they returned, and five other Indians
with them. The young chief was now excited with
liquor. As he stepped up to the bar and demanded a half-
pint of rum, Major Pond repeated what he had said in
the morning, and refused to sell him any strong drink.
" But I want to treat my friends," said the chief, " and
will not taste a drop myself : " at the same time he
showed a piece of silver coin which he had tied up in his
handkerchief. Major Pond then let him have the rum,
and, true to his word, he gave it to his companions. Just
as they were leaving the inn, Major Pond reminded the
chief that he had not paid for his liquor. " Haven't got
no money, and can't pay for it." "Not so," said the
major ; " you showed me money before you had the rum,
and now you have lied about it." " What ! you say I
lie ! " shouted the angry savage, and bounded toward the
major with his drawn knife. Major Pond, a strong and
courageous man, struck the uplifted arm of the Indian
between the elbow and shoulder, causing the knife to fly
out of his hand, then gave him a blow across the throat,
and at the same time tripped up his feet and brought him
to the floor. To use the major's figure in relating it,
" He fell like an ox knocked down in a slaughter-house."
At first, he lay breathless, and Mr. Pond began to fear


lie had dealt liim too hard a blow ; but shortly the Indian
recovered his breath and rose to his feet. When fully
restored, he threw his handkerchief to the major, who
took out his pay, and returned the balance and the knife.
The chief refused to take them, as did his wife likewise,
and the whole party soon went away.

Not many weeks afterward, the Indian came again,
apologized to Mr. Pond, saying that he was a fool when
drunk, that the major had treated him just as he de-
served, and he hoped that they should continue to be
good friends. Mr. Pond forgave him, and pledged his
friendship, provided that the chief behaved well in future ;
and then went and brought the handkerchief and knife to
their owner. They were again refused on the ground
that they had been forfeited by his misconduct. Here
the matter ended ; the chief, who afterwards came often
to Clinton, never showing any resentment towards Major

Of the Brothertown tribe, several were noted in their
day, though they are now nearly forgotten. Asa Dick
and his brother Joseph were of the Narragansett stock,
and were men of niucli intelligence. Our fathers speak
also of David Fowler, Elijah Warupe, John Tuhi, and
Dolphus Fowler, who came with others into the region
of Deansville, before the Revolutionary War. On the
breaking out of this war, as they maintained a friendly
neutrality to the colonists, the largest portion returned to
New England, because they feared the Iroquois, most of
whom had sided with the English. A few, however, re-
mained, spending a part of their time overseeing their
property at Brothertown, and the rest of it at Fort Stan-
wix. Elijah Wampe was one of these. One day, as he
was going from the fort to Brothertown, and had pro-


ceeded only a few miles, a hostile Indian sprang out from
an ambush and pointed his rifle at him. Wampe in-
stantly sprang forward, knocked up the muzzle of the
gun, sending the ball over his head, and then fell upon
his adversary with his knife and soon dispatched him.
Wampe, reflecting at once that the report of the Indian's
rifle would soon draw his comrades to the spot, caught up
the gun and bore it in triumph to the fort.

After an interval, Wampe ventured to return to
Brothertown, and for a year or more kept up a rude sort
of tillage of his lands ; but he so often met with harsh
usage from strolling bands of hostile Indians, — once, in-
deed, barely escaping with his life, — that he finally con-
cluded it was useless to attempt farming in war time, and
was glad to take refuge under the protecting guns of
Fort Stanwix. 1

Our sketches of Indian life and character in this region
thus far, have not reflected favorably upon the honesty
or the humanity of the natives. But a somewhat differ-
ent shade may be given to this picture before we finish it.

Tradition relates that one Otatocheta, a chief of the
Oneidas, aided in forming the confederacy of the Five
Nations. The chief of the grand council addressed them
at the close of the ceremonies thus : " And you, Oneidas,
a people who recline your bodies against the Everlasting
Stone that cannot be moved, shall be the Second Nation,
because you give wise counsel." . . .

Mention is also made of Atondutochan, a distinguished
Oneida chief, who in the year 1655 visited Canada, and
exerted a powerful influence among the Iroquois.
•^Few persons in this country have not heard of Skenan-
doa, the Oneida chief, equally famous among his own

1 See Appendix B.


people as warrior, statesman, and orator. He was born
about the year 1706, though the place of his birth is not
known, nor the events of his early life. It is generally
admitted that in his young manhood he was fierce and
revengeful in disposition, and intemperate in his habits.
In the year 1755, while attending a council at Albany, he
one night became intoxicated, and in the morning found
himself stripped of his clothing and personal ornaments.
The discovery filled him with such shame and mortifica-
tion that he thereupon vowed never again to touch or
taste the debasing fire-water, a vow which it is believed
he religiously kept. In a speech made to his people late
in life, he adjures them thus : " Drink no strong water.
It makes you mice for white men, who are cats. Many a
meal have they eaten of you."

In person, he was tall and commanding, being more
than six feet in height, and of goodly proportions. Ac-
cording to Indian custom, he was tattooed in nine lines,
running across the shoulders and chest. He had great
strength and power of endurance. Even at eighty-five
he was a match for any member of his tribe in feats of
agility. Noble and dignified in address, he was also wise
in counsel and eloquent in speech. Rev. Mr. Kirkland
considered him as in all respects the most remarkable
man of his acquaintance among the Iroquois. One of
our local historians writes of him : " In his riper years,
he was one of the noblest counselors among the North
American tribes. He possessed a vigorous mind, and was
alike sagacious, active, and persevering. As an enemy,
he was terrible ; as a friend and ally he was gentle in
disposition and bearing, and he was faithful to his en-
gagements. His vigilance once preserved from massacre
the inhabitants of the little settlement at German Flats,


and in the Revolutionary War, his influence induced the
Oneidas to declare in favor of the Americans." 1

From his interest and sympathy with the colonists, and
from his fidelity to his word, he was distinguished among
the Indians as " The White Man's Friend." Not long
after Mr. Kirkland's settlement among the Oneidas,
Skenandoa professed his belief in Christianity ; and
though he never became free from errors and imperfec-
tions, in the judgment of charity he was a sincere and
humble christian.

In his old age he was blind, and he spoke English with
little fluency ; yet such was his sagacity and intelligence,
his decorum of manner and speech, that his society was
much sought after. On one occasion late in life, he was
visited by a party of young ladies escorted by a daughter
of Mr. Kirkland. After a few words of courtesy, Skenan-
doa asked, " Are these ladies married?" On being an-
swered in the negative, he replied, " It is well, for there
are many bad men." Miss Kirkland, who understood
the ways of the old sagamore, afterwards remarked that
if the reply had been in the affirmative, he would have
rejoined politely, " It is well, if you have good hus-
bands." To Prof. Seth Norton, who, in a similar con-
versation confessed his old-bachelorhood, he replied, " It
is well, for there are many bad women."
, As to the precise time when the most remarkable
speech of his life was made, authorities differ. Some
maintain that it was delivered to his tribe at the time of
a treaty made for the sale of some of their lands ; others
that it was addressed to a company of white people who
came to see him shortly before his death. But whenever
uttered, it is worthy of all the encomiums that have been

1 Jones, p. 866.


bestowed upon it: "I am an aged hemlock. The winds
of a hundred winters have whistled through my branches.
I am dead at the top. The generation to which I be-
longed have run away and left me. Why I live, the
great Good Spirit only knows. Pray to my Jesus that I
may have patience to wait for my appointed time to die."

After Mr. Kirkland's removal to Clinton, Skenandoa
often expressed the desire to be buried at his death by
the side of his friend and teacher, so that " he might
cling to the skirts of his garments, and go up with him
at the great resurrection." In the later years of his life,
he several times came to Clinton, hoping to die here.
.During these visits to Mr. Kirkland he was treated with
great consideration and kindness. Miss Eliza Kirkland
(afterwards Mrs. Dr. Robinson) assumed special charge
of him, taking care of his little bedroom, washing his
face and hands, brushing his hair, and keeping his clothes
whole and tidy. His last sickness, however, came upon
him at Oneida Castle. As his end drew near, prayers
were offered at his bedside by his great-granddaughter,
and while the words were being uttered, he sank into
the sleep of death, on the 11th of May, 1816, aged about
one hundred and ten years.

In accordance with a promise made by the family of
Mr. Kirkland, his remains were brought to Clinton and
interred by the side of his spiritual father. Funeral
services were held in the Congregational church, and
were largely attended by white people and Indians, many
of the latter coming from Oneida for that purpose. An
eye-witness (my mother) relates that the Indians, men
and women, were seated in the middle pews of the
church, and the whites in the other seats and in the
galleries. Rev. Dr. Backus, President of Hamilton


College, made an address to the Indians, which Judge
Amos Dean, standing beneath the pulpit, interpreted.
The Indians rose to their feet during this address. If
Indian stoicism forbade tears and loud lamentations, yet
doubtless every heart mourned for the brave old chief
with ingenuous sorrow. After prayer and the singing
of appropriate hymns, the body was carried to the grave,
the order of the procession being as follows : first, stu-
dents of the college ; next, the hearse, followed by the
Indians ; and behind these, Mrs. Kirkland and family,
Judge Dean, Rev. Dr. Norton, Rev. Mr. Ayres, President
Backus and other officers of the college, and citizens.
The remains were borne to the garden of Mr. Kirkland,
where they were buried according to his desire. In the
year 1856, by authority of the trustees of the college,
the body of Rev. Mr. Kirkland, together with those of his
family and of Skenandoa, were disinterred and removed
to the college cemetery. A memorial-stone was erected,
many years ago, to the memory of the Indian chief.
We rejoice to record that during the present year (1873)
a suitable monument has been raised over the grave of
the Indian missionary and the founder of Hamilton Col-
lege. 1

Another chief of the Oneidas, bearing the sobriquet
of Plattkopf, though younger than Skenandoa and less
influential as a counselor, was hardly less distinguished
for his eloquence. Tradition has preserved the outlines
of one of his addresses, which we give substantially in
the words of one who heard it. It was made at a council,
held several years after the Revolution, to consider the
question of the sale of their reserved lands to the State.
The council was held beneath a large pine-tree, known

1 See Appendix C.


since as the Council Tree, which stood on the south side
of the turnpike road, a short distance west of the village
of Oneida. On the third day Plattkopf rose to speak.
He descanted upon the numbers and strength of the
Oneidas before the white man came. Pointing to the
tree under which they stood, which though large was
beginning to decay, he said : " We were once like this
great pine-tree. It was then young and vigorous. It
drew its nourishment from the soil, the whole ground,
for the Oneidas then owned it all. And it grew larger
and stronger and more beautiful every year. So did the

1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryA. D. (Amos Delos) GridleyHistory of the town of Kirkland, New York (Volume 1) → online text (page 4 of 17)