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History of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 online

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written and improperly understood by authors, point to one and the same people, the
Lenape, who are by this compound word called "people at the rising of the sun," or,
as we would say, Eastlanders, and are acknowledged by near forty Indian tribes, who
we call nations, as being their grandfathers. All these nations, derived from the same
stock, recognize each other as Wapanachki, which among them is a generic name.

The name "Delawares" which we give to these people, is unknown in their lan-
guage, and I well remember the time when they thought the whites had given it to them
in derision, but they were reconciled to it on being told that it was the name of a great
white chief. Lord de la War, which had been given to them and their river. As they
are fond of being named after distinguished men, they were rather pleased, considering
it a complunent.

Heckewelder states that Loskiel, the Moravian historian, called the
Mahicanni "Mohicans/^ but that as this nation has been called by so
many different names, he himself preferred the name the tribe called
themselves. Cooper has given the tribe lasting fame. The name is also
found frequently, Mohegans.

The Five, or Six Nations, Heckewelder called by different names such
as were most common and well understood. The Lenape never used
the designation "Six Nations." "It is a rare thing," wrote Heckewelder,
"to hear these people named otherwise than Mengwe. The Mahicanni
call them Maqua, and now most white people call them Mingoes." He
explained further that when he said the Five or Six Nations, he used the
English mode of speaking, and not that of the Indians, who never looked
upon them as having been so many nations, but divisions or tribes, who
as united have become a nation. When the Lenape happened to name
them as one body, the Lenape word used implied the "five divisions,
together, or united." Heckewelder most frequently used the French
name, Iroquois. The Wyandots, he said, were the same whom the
French call the Hurons, and sometimes Guyandots. This nation was
principally located about Sandusky, but they roamed over Western
Pennsylvania, and their warriors were concerned in all the Indian wars
of that region. They were represented at many conferences at Fort Pitt ;
sometimes they were mentioned as the Sandusky Indians, again as the
Hurons. Weiser calls them Wandats; and Owendots, Wendats and
Yendats are other forms occurring. Wyandot and Wyandotte and
Guyandotte have been retained as geographical names.

It was conceded by the Algonquian tribes that the Lenape were the
descendant^ of a parent stock, and in all Algonquian traditions special
dignity and authority were assigned them. Forty nations (or tribes)
looked upon them with respect, and in Algonquian councils the Lenape
represenUtives took first place as the "grandfathers" of the race. Within

pitti.— 7

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the period of the white settlements, this precedence was not noticeable
for the reason of Iroquois dominance. It is a fact of history that the
Algonquian tribes did not war with each other, and that the Shawanese
and Delawares got along amicably, often dwelling tc^ther during their
sojourn in the Upper Ohio region. Their villages further mixed with
the later Mingoes of that region, a renegade lot of Senacas, the nucleus
of a mongrel banditti composed of Seneca outlaws and wild spirits from
among the Wyandots, who, though of Iroquoian blood, were not of that
Confederacy, and from the Miamis and Minsi, or Munsies. These Min-
goes were among the most savage foes of the borderers in border war-
fare in the period between Pontiac's War and the War of 1812, and their
record is as crimson as any left by any tribe of North American Indians.

The political system of the Lenape, like all Indian systems, was in a
great degree democratic, though it implied a tacit obedience of each
tribe to the war chief when occasion demanded. Chiefs and tribes were
subject to the long established customs, and while the chieftainship was
considered hereditary in certain families, the individual assigned to the
chieftainship was elected by the tribe. It has always been one of the
marvels of the Indian race that such a system should have served so fully
to secure peace and order within a tribe, large or small. Wars of tribes
of diverse races were almost incessant; internal feuds and bloodshed
were rare indeed. The Indian's attachment to his own tribe was unquali-
fied ; such enemies as he had were of another tribe, generally of another
stock. It is an observation of Parkman that there were times when
American savages lived together in thousands, with a harmony that civil-
ization might envy.

William Penn, fresh from the tyranny of Britain, after one year in
Pennsylvania, noticed this harmony and wrote of it thus: "The King
hath his council and that consists of all the old and wise mep. Nothing
of moment is undertaken, be it war, peace, selling of land or traffic, with-
out advising with them, and which is more with the young men, too. It
is admirable to consider how powerful the kings are, and yet how they
move by the breath of their people." We may pause to admire Penn's
metaphor, and then remember that by "king" he means a head-chief or
sachem, and that the English words king and queen have no proper place
among Indian titles, though we find them most frequently, especially in
our Pittsburgh history, as "King" Beaver, the "Half-King" Tanachari-
son, and "Queen" Aliquippa.

The Lenape could not have been a large nation. The best estimates
fix their number within the limits of Pennsylvania as about two thousand
people. They had no central or "fixed" town. They had many places of
resort — ^rivers and creeks in which they fished; mountains where they
hunted; and cleared spaces where they planted; but they had usually no
buildings more substantial than the simple hut or lodge, commonly called

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the wigwam. This was formed of sapling trees atid covered with the
bark of larger trees. Each lodge sheltered a single family, as Brinton has
noted, and in this respect other writers have remarked the difference
from the Iroquois communal system. Sometimes the Lenape huts were
placed in groups, thus forming a village, and sometimes the village was
surrounded by a palisade of driven stakes for defense, as was the Indian
custom, but all such structures rapidly decayed and disappeared when
abandoned by their occupants. Such, but not palisaded, were the Dela-
ware villages about Pittsburgh, except Logstown on the Ohio, which, as
its name implies, was a group of Ic^-cabins, originally built by the French
half-breed Peter Chartier for the Shawanese and Ohio . Mingoes, and
destined in the history of the West to become one of the most notable,
its site later the encampment of Wayne's American Legion in 1793, and
hence the name Legionville, which has been handed down.

Charles A. Hanna, in his most elaborate work, "The Wilderness
Trail*' (1911), has with patient care and by long-continued research
traced the locations of all the Delaware villages in Pennsylvania, and in
his history of this nation in the chapter he has headed "The Petticoat
Indians of Petticoat Land," has included all that is extant concerning the
Lenape in Pennsylvania, and necessarily also of them in the Ohio Valley.
The local history appended is rare, and perhaps found in no other single
work, and to him all subsequent historians must accord admiration as
they have access to his books.

The Delawares, as other Algonquians, were hunters and fishermen in
time of peace ; warriors before the Iroquois conquest or "pacification,"
and savage warriors when they asserted themselves free and proved it.
The Pennsylvania and New Jersey habitats of the Lenape abounded in
wild life, and to such extent that all early explorers wrote vivid descrip-
tions of its abundance. When the white men came, their first thought
was to turn the fauna to commercial account; hence the "fur trade"
arose, and trading stations were established, to which the Indians
brought their peltries of many kinds — bear, deer, sable, otter, beaver, fox,
wild-cat, lynx, raccoon, even mink and muskrat had good value, though
small in size. The Indian was a shrewd trapper, a good shot with bow
and arrow, and he used also the spear and club with advantage. In fish-
ing, he speared the fish in the shallow places, or when driven into ponds
formed by brush dams, and most frequently caught them with hook and
line. When the Lenape came to Western Pennsylvania, they came to a
land of rivers and streams where fish and game abounded, and where the
traders soon found them, and then came trouble and warfare.

Under the Indian system there was never any individual ownership
of land ; its use was always in common. A family had only a right of
temporary occupancy. Near their villages were generally rich alluvial
bottom lands, and if not, the woods were cleared by a burning which

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provided a field wherein the women planted maize, which the first set-
tlers termed "Indian corn," and the world knows simply as "corn." The
time for planting was "when the oak leaf was the size of a squirrel's ear."
They raised some other vegetables, usually beans and pumpkins. It is
well authenticated that the process of making maple sugar was an Indian
discovery; at least, the whites obtained the method from them. Zeis-
berger, the Moravian missionary, describes the process and states that
the women went into the woods in February to boil the maple sap. The
Indians had no fruit but wild fruit until they followed the white men's
example and set out orchards. Pennsylvania, rightly named Penn's
woods, was at Penn's coming and for more than a century later, an
unbroken forest. Estimates have fixed only one-tenth of the State's sur-
face as then treeless land. Large trees stood most often at the edges of
the running streams and lakes, and as the Indians habitually sought resi-
dent locations along streams and by the waterside, their agricultural
facilities were limited in area, as well as primitive in method of cultiva-
tion. When one traveled west in Pennsylvania, he was said to have gone
"into the woods," and emigrants to the borders of the province
"into the backwoods," hence the term "backwoodsmen," synonymous in
a degree with "bordermen" and "frontiersmen," for these latter, though
pioneers, were not always settlers, for they included trappers and traders
with no fixed habitations.

The -Indians were not artisans; they were not workers of metal,
for they had no cutting instruments of metal. The copper articles they
had were mostly ornamental, the material wrought from "native" or pure
copper, as Brinton states, procured from surface deposits or shallow
mines. They could not reduce ores to extract metal, or work it by fire
and hammer.

That the women's part in their economic system included the Ubor
in the fields and lodge, is not as strange as ordinarily considered. There
were good reasons. The exertions of the males were far more arduous.
They needed strength and agility for the chase, and most especially for
war. Labor tended to impair their swiftness of motion and freedom of
limb, and any deterioration of strength and vitality might be fatal in
combat, in that the vanquished warrior was not evenly matched with his
antagonist. Boys were trained from their earliest years to run, jump,
fish and shoot, to endure hardship, suffer hunger and thirst in silence.
The Indian was a trained stoic.

The Indians lived close to Nature. Sometimes their existence was
placid and their subsistence easily procured; at other times with great
difficulty, and famine was not rare. The Indians' faculties of observation
have been the wonder of all conversant with them. Signs of life and
movement in forest and field which a civilized person would not observe,
appeared plain to them. Early writers on the Indians record many

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instances of remarkable and accurate deductions. That formerly much
esteemed writer of his years, Samuel G. Goodrich (Peter Parley), is one
who will be remembered as reciting in his little book, "Manners and Cus-
toms of the American Indians,'' some of the most striking instances of
Indian reasoning from outward observations. The habits of all wild
animals, weather phenomena, the growth and decay of vegetation,
aspects of nature in various forms, both of atmosphere and sky, were
familiar to all Indians in the minutest detail, and these details constituted
their education. They had a calendar, for they knew the seasons
occurred regularly; there was a seedtime and consequent harvest; the
trees budded, and the leaves fell in uniform intervals; the moon's
phases appealed to them as a striking example of natural regularity,
hence they made their own year in thirteen moons, and each person could
count his own age and assign to events their due order of succession.
Among the Lenape, these chronicles were mental. Some Algonquins
used notched sticks to record certain things. It can be said, however,
that the Indians generally made no records, erected no monuments,
carved no stones, of commemoration. Their traditions, always cherished ;
their laws, their history — ^were altogether oral in transmissal, and had
been handed down thus by wdrd of mouth for time immemorial.

Until the traders came, the Indians had no metal implements or arms.
Stone was their main material. They made axes from it, and hammers,
and the pestle, and frequently the mortar in which they pounded the
com for meal. They had even stone knives, which they deftly used in
stripping off the skins of the animals they killed. They had stlso stone
hoes and spades, and many other articles in common use. They had
stone pipes for smoking their tobacco which they raised; stone quoits
for their games ; and stone ornaments for personal adornment. Many of
these did not differ materially from those found in the mounds of the
primitive American race. The later Indians had the same weapons of
stone, arrow heads and spear heads, and tomahawks, or battle axes.
These stone objects surviving for ages and found widely spread, have
remained the most notable evidences of the Indian period of Pennsyl-
vania. They were found in profusion in many places in and about Pitts-
burgh, as stated in previous pages.

The Lenape had, as all Indians, some arts of manufacture. Though
their handiwork was crude, it was sensible and practical. They were
skilled in dressing the skins of animals, especially deer skins. They
made earthenware utensils, baking them hard and black. They hollowed
out soapstone for pots and pans, and made also some household vessels
of wood. The large wild gourd, the calabash, they readily utilized for a
water carrier and as a dipper, and it is one of their few contributions to
the use of the whites, but not so largely in use as in pioneer days. The

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women were proficient in weaving mats from the tough though flexible
inner bark of trees. They were skillful also in the making of ornamen-
tal garments from the plumage of birds. They made "wampum" strings
of beads which were used to decorate ceremonious belts, and in a limited
way served as money. Wampum was usually made from bits of shells
from the seashore. The women were adepts in dyeing; they used wild
cherries, certain barks, and the sumac berries. They found colored
clays which furnished them a coarse but satisfactory paint. When the
white traders came, they brought a new line of goods, and most of the
materials and crudities of Indian economics were discarded.

The Lenape, as other tribes, had no domestic animals except a half-
wild dog. They had never seen a horse or a cow until the white settlers
broke in upon their hunting grounds. They had no beasts of burden,
and hence no means of transportation or movement save those which
their own vigor supplied. On land they walked or ran ; if in company,
always in "Indian" or "single file ;" on water they paddled their canoes,
which have become famous in song and story. Some tribes made canoes
of bark ; usually the Lenape canoe was constructed from a hollowed log.
The labor of this work required rare diligence. By fire and with the
stone axe, the workman felled the suitable tree, cut off the proper length,
hollowed it, and shaped it into a "dug-out," or "pirogue," and these boats
were found by the first white explorers of the Delaware when the Indians
rowed out to the vessels in midstream.

On his journey to the Wabash in 1793, Heckewelder found the "dug-
out" of great advantage in a perilous crossing of Stony creek in Somerset
county, Pennsylvania. The stream was very high, and the canoe they
expected to use had been carried away in the night. He relates : "After
many entreaties and promises on our part, a sug^r trough^ was brought
from the woods, and in this novel vessel we were safely ferried over, but
had almost lost our horses."

In a previous chapter the making of a trail has been described. This
by their long and frequent marches in the chase or in war, and how these
worn paths or trails have developed into main roads that are justly called
historic highways, has been told.

The Lenape were typical Algonquins ; they were straight, of medium
height, and reddish brown in color. William Penn was impressed with
their strength and virility. He described them as "generally tall, straight,
and well built, and of singular proportion ; they tread strong and clever,
and mostly walk with a lofty chin." In other words, "they carried their

5A ''sugar trough" is thus described by him: "Hollow logs, either naturally such
from decay and the ravages of animals, or scooped out artificially, were frequently
used by the Indians of the Delaware family as canoes, and among them the earlier white
settlers for industrial purposes. The birch bark fitted for boating is not common in
these parts of the country."— ''Journey to the Wabash," in "Penna. Magazine of His-
tory;" Vol. XI, pp. 46-47.

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heads high/' Penn called their complexion black, but thought it was
artificially produced by the free use of bear's grease and exposure to sun
and weather. Governor Pennypacker in his "Germantown" quotes the
statement of Daniel Pastorius to the same effect, that the parents rubbed
their children with fat, and browned them in the hot sun.

They married young, the men generally when seventeen, the women
thirteen or fourteen. As large families were not the rule, the tribes
could increase but slowly. Polygamy was tolerated, but was not com-
mon. Marriage was not always a permanent relation ; either party could
terminate it at will. Heckewelder is authority for the assertion that the
wife could leave her husband. It is thought that such cases were rare.
Marriage among the Lenape in one particular was controlled strictly by
the tribal law, which required that a man of one sub-tribe marry a woman
from one of the others. Thus a man of the Turkey tribe must choose a
wife from the Turtle or Wolf. The descent of sub-tribal membership, of
property and honors, was through the female line ; the child's totem was
that of the mother. The Lenape, like the Iroquois, recognized the axiom
of law that there can be no question that the blood of the mother is in the
child. A chief among the Lenape could not be succeeded by his son, he
might be by his brother or by the son of a sister or by a son of some
female of his own blood and gens.

It is true of the Lenape, as of all Indians, that they had a glimmering
perception of religious truth. They believed in a Manitou, a Great
Spirit, the creator and preserver of heaven and earth. They believed also
in a soul as the spiritual and unmaterial part of man, and in a future exis-
tence. They were not idolaters, though they gave a superstitious refer-
ence to light, and especially as manifested in fire and in the sun, and to
the four winds as typical of the cardinal points and as rain-harbingers.
They conceived many inferior Manitous, servants of the Great Manitou,
to whom he had committed rule and control over special conditions and
circumstances, and they therefore desired to conciliate these Manitous by
sacrifices, dances, fasts, and in other ways. They did not fear a devil,
Heckewelder states, for they were confident of safety so long as they had
the approval of the Supreme Manitou. Other authorities agree with
Heckewelder that the idea of an evil spirit was not known to the Lenape
and perhaps other Indians, until it was communicated to them by the
whites. They had their dances, songs and sacrifices, which were signifi-
cant as prayer, propitiation, and as thanksgiving. No great undertaking
was begun without some regular ceremony^ and this was obligatory if the
undertaking proved successful. Song, dance festival, were characteristic
Indian performances. William Penn noted and wrote of the corn festival
among the Lenape.

We come now to an estimate of the moral character of the Indians,

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and it is conceded that it is difficult to form a fair judgment for want of
an accepted standard. Penn thought as well of the Lenape as they did of
him. To them he was "Brother Onas," their word for feather, an end,
such as a tail-feather, being Onas, hence a quill, and quills were used for
pens, hence also the sensible application of the word as Penn's title.
There can and has been no standard of comparison. Jenkins thinks if we
judge them by the highest white man's ideals, attained only by a few, the
Indians will be found woefully deficient. If we compare them with
other primitive peoples, they bear the comparison well. Few whites of
Anglo-Saxon blood loved an Indian. Missionaries may be excepted-—
the celebrated John Eliot, and Loskiel, Heckewelder, and their fellow-
Moravians, (but these were not English) ; Conrad Weiser, a German ;
and , George Croghan, an Irishman who lived among them — ^may be
named as some who shared with Penn the belief that the Indians were
likable, and deserved honest treatment, and that to each individual there
was due the respect that his merits and worth demanded in like manner
as to a white person. To.the above we may add Washington and Chris-
tian Frederick Post and John Frazer, and perhaps other bordermen, and
to the fact that these men circulated among them freely, even in times of
great excitement and turmoil, in acute danger, and came out unscathed,
was because the Indians recognized fully that these men were just men,
in truth their friends, and on this fact alone the Pennsylvania authorities
relied in their diplomatic intercourse with the Pennsylvania Indians, both
Iroquois and Algonquian, and the success of this diplomacy was of vast
import, as will develop. Weiser's influence was a tower of strength, and
to him alone the commonwealth of Pennsylvania appealed more than
once when dire peril was portending.

That the Indians were without the ordinary vices of the white races
before the whites came, there can be no doubt. With the acquisition of
these vices, intensified by the free use of vile liquors, Indian nature
changed — ^perhaps better said, his savage nature became more savage,
his hatred more intense, and his revengeful spirit knew no subduing.
Slight wonder then that the question of the Indians' morals and merits
should have been confused, and vehement differences of opinion result.
To many, the Indians were not merely savages, but "heathen," *'vermin,"
whom it was necessary and a moral duty to exterminate. "The only
good Indian is a dead Indian" is an old slogan. It has passed, but the
potency of the belief in it in Pennsylvania caused much horror, and gave
rise to a long and painful catalogue of outrages. To many, no reasoning
could justify the Indians' right of existence. It was a most praiseworthy
act to end that existence by any means at hand.

The Indian, however, has had many friends and some enthusiastic
defenders. Penn's first settlers were altogether friendly, and Quaker

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blood was long safe in his colony. The Moravians became warmly
attached to the Lenape, and their attachment was reciprocated. The
labors of these good people in the Upper Ohio region and in Western

Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 14 of 81)