American Historical Society George Thornton Fleming.

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

. (page 9 of 81)
Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 9 of 81)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

shall endure, which we may consider to be for all time, unless destroyed
by some cataclysm of nature, or like Ypres and Verdun.

It is true that the Mound Builders made no history that concerns
Pittsburgh. The Red Race that came after or descended from them,
made enough, and in the recording of that history and its succeeding
history, lies the duty and the task of the historian of the region.

Many will agree with the learned Dr. Doddridge that the antiquities
of the Western Country of his day— our region of Western Pennsylvania,
Eastern Ohio, and Northern West Virginia — do not present to the
mind the slightest evidence that this section of our country was ever
inhabited by a civilized people before the white man came across the
sea. No traces of the arts of building, sculpture or painting, were
found in Dr. Doddridge's lifetime, and none since; and no stones for
building purposes that bear the mark of a hammer. Rude sketches
of birds and animals, chiseled into rocks, are still extant, notably on the
shore of the Ohio river at Smith's Ferry, Pennsylvania, almost at the
State line, and now under water by reason of slackwater navigation, and
on the Allegheny river. near Franklin, Pennsylvania. To these the name
"Pictured Rocks" has been given. One of the best specimens and
largest of these rocks was on a farm near Millsboro, Pennsylvania, on
the Monongahela river, which was blown up by the irate landholder
a few years ago to stop the continual trespass of curiosity seekers who
came in numbers, to the detriment of his crops.*^ We may also conclude
that it is idle to amuse ourselves with fanciful creations, while great
and momentous facts of history are waiting to find a record and com-
ment, many of which have occurred within the memory of men now
living. Indeed, but a few generations ago there resided in the country
about Pittsburgh many old people who had lived in Colonial days.
Early historians of Pittsburgh knew these persons — Neville B. Craig

29Pictures of this rock in ''Pennsylvania, Colonial and Federal/' Howard M. Jen-
kins, Vol. I, p. 20. Picture of "Indian God Rock" near Franklin, in Schoolcraft's
"Indian Nations," etc.; Vol. VI.

Digitized by



and Henry Marie Brackenridge, for instance. Then, too, there are the
events of absorbing interest in the two decades of the twentieth century
that have already passed ; hence we proceed to the stories of more modern
times, and permit the prehistoric races — ^rather, what remains of them
— to lie unexhumed, wrapt in the mystery that shrouds them.

Digitized by


Digitized by


Digitized by


In the Days of the Iroquois.

When the first white men crossed the Allegheny mountains and
came to the Western Country, they found it "occupied by the Indians,"
some historians assert ; others say "inhabited by the Indians." Both are
in a measure wrong in their statements. "Possessed" is altogether a
better word, and more truthfully expresses the fact. The first history
of the region arises from this possession; its origin and nature passes
rapidly to English claims and English-Indian alliances, disclosing a
rivalry ages old and leading to extended warfare. Most histories of
Pennsylvania begin with accounts of the Indians that William Penn
found dwelling on the Delaware in 1682, and with whom he made his
famous treaty. Some histories go back to Columbus.

Neville B. Craig begins his "History of Pittsburgh" with some
account of the earliest known occupants of the region; Howard N.
Jenkins' first chapter in that elaborate work, "Pennsylvania, Colonial
and Federal," is headed, "The Indians of Pennsylvania." Judge James
Veech, in his "Monongahela of Old," first tells of the Mound Builders,
passes to the story of the Indian occupants, thence follows the line of
events. So, too, others — and the same is true of most histories of the
United States. The Aborigines cannot be passed over, and their history
must be told, regionally at least, in any history of any part of the country.
It is more than regional history when Pittsburgh is the subject, for
hereabouts mighty events, following trivial ones, took place, which
brought on the long war between France and Great Britain, called by
the English colonists the French and Indian War, which in the end
decided the fate of the North American continent, when the issue was
whether Celtic Gaul or the Anglo-Saxon should rule this continent, and,
incidentally, whether the region treated of in this history as "Pitts-
burgh and Its Environs," in fact the Western Country, should be part
of New France in America or be brought under the Royal Banner of St.

With that decision the history of the region changed, but the phases
given it by the Indians still continued. In the sense of color, it was
red; perhaps not so sanguine in hue as when the French allied tribes
ravaged the length and breadth of Pennsylvania and left a shocking
record. Not until Anthony Wayne punished the Western tribes on the
Maumee in August, 1794, did the menace of the red warrior depart from
Western Pennsylvania. From the time when Governor Dinwiddie sent
the youthful George Washington as ambassador to the French com-
mander in Northwestern Pennsylvania in 1753, until twenty years after

Digitized by



British sovereignty had ceased in the Thirteen Colonies, the bane of
the savage was ever at hand in the Western Country, and armed forces
and block houses were constantly required to protect the settlers in
even a slight degree, not only in the trans-Allegheny region, but also the
older settlements along and east of the Susquehanna. True, there were
lulls in the warfare — intervals of peace — ^but the menace remained, and
the peaceful periods were short and fleeting.

It will therefore be proper to tell of the tribes that occupied the
Western Country, their mode of life, and how governed ; their activities
in war; their racial and political enmities; their espousal of the cause
of "Onontio" — the governor-general of French Canada, or of "Onas"
— William Penn, the proprietor of Pennsylvania, each claiming jurisdic-
tion of the region about the Forks of the Ohio, and thereby running
counter to the claims of the government of the colony of Virginia.

Before coming to these claims of the English colonial governors,
and antecedent even to the claims of France to the region, the story
of the Pennsylvania Algonquins and their subserviency to other tribes,
or their enmity, must be written, and a strange story it is. Then, too,
how came these tribes to the region, neither indigenous nor long seated
here? Herein first looms up the power of the most wonderful con-
federacy of savage nations, the purest democracy since the early days
of Athens, rivaling that, in fact — the League of the Iroquois, "The
Romans of America," in the language of De Witt Clinton. In the
story of the Indians of Western Pennsylvania the Iroquois are the land-
lords; the other tribes were tenants at will — especially the Delawares
and Shawanese — for both these tribes had fixed habitations assigned
them in the region of the Upper Ohio, and with them most of the Indian
history of Pittsburgh has to do.

The Ottawas, Wyandots, Miamis, Cherokees, Mohicans, and even
more remote tribes, have also place in our local Indian history, but in
the main, the Delawares and Shawanese are the chief sources of it.
The Mingoes, oftmentioned, were Iroquois; emigrants, we may term
them, from the most western of the Western Iroquois in New York, or
those who dwelt on the shores of Lake Erie and at the headwaters of
the Allegheny, thence following an easy waterway to the Ohio, which
river they regarded as the main stream, only a continuation of the
Allegheny. Delaware and Seneca names therefore are most common
commemorations in our regional geographical nomenclature, and will
receive more extended notice farther on, as they most frequently occur
in this history and should have mention.

The region beyond the Alleghenies, to be more explicit, that extend-
ing westward from the northern Susquehanna at its forks was Iroquoian
hunting grounds. In this vast timbered area, abounding in mountain
and stream, the Indian found his ideal country. The Iroquois, while

Digitized by



savage in nature and indulging to excess all their savage propensities
and barbaric rites, were nevertheless semi-civilized. They had their
dwelling houses of bark, their farms and gardens well tilled by their
women, and above all their Long House, or seat of assembly. They
were warriors — a race of warriors, whose origin was lost in myths,
weird, shudder-causing, wonderful. But they loved the chase also,
for they required the peltries of the fur-bearing animals for clothing
and home comfort. So when the conquest was over for a season, their
hunters sought the woodland wilderness, trapped the bear, the otter
and the beaver, and killed the buffalo and deer for meat and skins, and
in this pursuit roamed over wide stretches, for the warrior-hunter was
at home anywhere. He was never lost or dismayed. In the inimitable
language of Parkman we are awakened to this truth. He tells us
that "The Indian is the true child of the forest and the desert. The
wastes and solitudes of nature are his congenial home. His haughty
mind is imbued with the spirit of the wilderness, and the light of
civilization falls on him with a blighting power. His unruly pride and
untamed freedom are in harmony with the lonely mountains, cataracts
and rivers, among which he dwells; and primitive America, with her
savage scenery and savage men, opens to the imagination a boundless
world, unmatched in wild sublimity."^

In the wilderness of Western Pennsylvania, in its vast forests of
pine and hemlock and in the deciduous woods along its quickly flowing
streams and on its clear lakes, the Iroquois hunters reveled in the
chase, and that, conquerors as they were for centuries, they should
share this hunting ground with the conquered, awakens surprise and
evokes inquiry. The tribes of the Algonquian stock were here by
their permission — the Delawares and the Shawanese driven here at
the behest of Onas, and in all it is a strange story, curious in inception,
dramatic in its forceful telling, and tragic in its ultimate results: The
name Delawares, it will be noted, is of English derivation ; rightly these
were the Lenape — ^in Indian orthography, the Len-ni-Len-a-pe, a tribe
of the great Algonquian family whose history is more inextricably inter-
woven with Pennsylvania history than that of any other, not even
excepting the Iroquois and the Delaware congeners variously called
Shawanese, Shawanoes and Shawnees.

The Iroquois therefore call for special and specific mention, for they
were the masters. Again recourse to Parkman. He tells us in this
regard :

Foremost in war, foremost in eloquence, foremost in the savage arts of policy,
stood the first people called by themselves the Hodenosaunee, and by the French the
Iroquois, which has since been applied to the entire family of which they formed the
dominant number. They extended their conquests and their depredations from Quebec
to the Carolinas, and from the western prairies to the forests of Maine. On the south

^''Conspiracy of Pontiac," Francis Parkman, Vol. I, Chap, z ; also quotations post.

Digitized by



they forced tribute from the subjugated Delawares, and pierced the mountain fastneflset
of the Cherokees with incessant forays. On' the north they uprooted the ancient settle-
ments of the Wyandots; on the west they exterminated the Eries and the Andastes and
spread havoc and dismay among the tribes of the Illinois ; and on the east, the Indians
of New England fled at the first peal of the Mohawk war-cry. Nor was it the Indian
race alone who quailed before their ferocious valor. All Canada shook with the fury of
their onset; the people fled to the forts for refuge; the bloodsmeared conquerors
roamed like wolves among the burning settlements, and the colony trembled on the
brink of ruin.

From the hour when the fire-spitting arquebusiers of Champlain
astounded and decimated the Mohawk hordes at famous Ticonderoga
on Lake George in 1609, the entire Confederacy hated the French with
that intensity of hatred characteristically Indian. Hence there came
a day when the Six Nations, as the English called the reinforced Con-
federacy, stood a blazing wall between the French in Canada and the
feeble colonies of New York and Pennsylvania with hundreds of miles
of unprotected wilderness frontiers. This alliance with the English will
be most forcefully apparent in the recital of Braddock's campaign, in
the story of the few Iroquois allies of the colonial forces whose well-
meant efforts were spurned by the haughty British general, and the
Iroquois chieftain and warriors were insulted by his bitterly disdainful
words. By reason of Braddock's defeat, the region of Western Penn-
sylvania, not alone the trans-Allegheny region but all the country from
the Appalachian chain to the Mississippi, became unmistakably French
soil, a large part of New France in America. The French were in
control, and the fleur-de-lis, their beautiful emblem of sovereignty, flew
triumphantly to the forest breezes not alone at Fort Du Quesne, at the
Forks of the Ohio, but from the forts at Venango, Le Boeuf. Presque Isle
and on the Wabash. Well then for the English colonists the Iroquois
friendship ! Well, indeed, the Iroquoian domination of the French allied
tribes! Better had it continued, but the Iroquoian yoke becoming bur-
densome, with Indian pride and Indian racial hatred undying, and
strong at all times, there was needed only the stimulation of the crafty
French to arouse the spirit of the fighting ancestors of the Delawares,
Shawanese and Wyandots, and cause these by no means despicable war-
riors to toss the galling yoke lightly aside, and bid defiance to their
masters and drive the Iroquoian overlords from the Algonquian villages
along the Upper Ohio and its tributaries. The Delawares were no
longer "Petticoat Indians ;" the Shawanese no longer "Bedouins." They
were henceforth fighting savages in every sense, and in consequence of
their new-found freedom, from every page of Pennsylvania's history of
the twenty succeeding years there arises more than one shudder in
its perusal, for much of this history is a shocking record.

The story of the Iroquois dominancy of the Algonquian tribes, the
open alliance of the latter with the French and the allegiance of the
Iroquois to the English, must ever find place in the history of Pittsburgh

Digitized by



and Western Pennsylvania, for in this region there occurred startling
events in consequence. Woe, indeed, to the Colony of the Penns and
the frontiers of Maryland and Virginia when the hitherto easy-going
Delawares, the submissive Shawanese, and the compliant Wyandots,
and all the Western tribes in sympathy with them, dug up the tomahawk
and went on the warpath. Then entered on the stage of our history
in tragic array that great conspirator Pontiac, the Ottawa, and his
myrmidons, and the chief warriors acknowledging fealty to him and
following his leadership; — Guyasutha, the renegade Seneca, and the
White Mingo, his tribesman; Shingiss and Custaloga, and the Beaver
Captain Jacobs and White Eyes, and a long line of chiefs and chief
warriors of the Delawares; Kissinautcha, Nymwha and Red Hawk,
Shawanese chiefs; and in the perilous days of the Revolution, Simon
Girty, the white savage, and his equally savage brothers, all three steeped
in the blood of the innocent and helpless of their own race.

These red actors in the great drama of the eighteenth century in
North America, with other noted chiefs and warriors of the Wyandots,
Miamis, Ottawas, and the more Western tribes, came on the stage of
action after the Iroquoian ascendency had terminated; but before pro-
ceeding with the narrative of events, it is well to accord some con-
sideration to the state of the subservient tribes in the region of Western
Pennsylvania and the Upper Ohio, and observe how it originated and
how it was maintained, and in the revolt of the Delawares and Shawanese
see the fine hand of French intrigue appear ungloved, and the French
sovereignty of the Western Country made secure for a brief season. In
the overthrow of that sovereignty, the first history of Pittsburgh occurs.

The Iroquois, having so large a place in the history of Western
Pennsylvania, are deserving of more extended study than is usually
accorded them in our local histories. Their origin and the causes that
compelled the formation of their Confederacy and its maintenance must
appeal to us aside from the recital of their activities in our region. They
were not only prominent in the stirring days of Penn's Colony, but
more especially so in the days of the Revolution, and the history of
Pittsburgh during that struggle is the history of Fort Pitt, its garrisons
and commanders demonstrating its importance as a frontier outpost,
recounting also the expeditions sent against these Indian allies of the
British in the West, in our section mainly the Senecas. We are reminded
of the Six Nations most frequently from the Indian geographical nomen-
clature they have bequeathed us, and a most interesting chapter of our
local history is the story of Indian commemorations in street and local
designations in and about Pittsburgh. These, too, serve to keep the
Iroquois in mind.

The Iroquoian legend relating to their origin and- union into a Con-
federacy is both pretty and sad. They relate that ages ago they were

Digitized by



confined under a mountain near the falls of the Oswego in New York,
from where they were led by the "Holder of the Heavens*' into the
beautiful Mohawk Valley, along which river and farther westward each
nation settled, but in different localities. The sixth nation, the Tusca-
roras, left and moved "towards where the birds fly in winter." The five
nations remaining kept at war with each other. After a time a fierce
and most warlike tribe with many warriors came from the home of the
North Wind, and falling upon the Onondagas, one of the five, almost
exterminated them. This threw the other four nations into consterna-
tion. Unless they could unitedly overcome these barbarians from the
North, each nation would perish. In great distress they called upon the
"Holder of the Heavens," affectionately called by the Iroquois Hi-a-
wat-ha, the "Very Wise Man." The Iroquois were his dearest children,
and they followed his advice at all times. Hi-a-wat-ha told them to call
representatives from all the tribes to a great council to be held on the
banks of Lake Onondaga. They complied, and the great council fire
blazed for three days, and yet Hi-a-wat-ha did not appear to help or

At length, guided by the Great Spirit, he was seen coming across the
lake in a white canoe bearing with him his beautiful little daughter.
Scarcely had they landed upon the shore when suddenly there arose a
mighty wind, and an immense bird, so large as to darken the landscape,
swooped down upon the beautiful girl and crushed her to the earth.
Speechless with grief, Hi-a-wat-ha mourned for three days ; then he said
to the assembled tribesmen, "I will meet you tomorrow and unfold to
you my plans."

We may note here a bit of impotency in the "Holder of the Heavens,"
else he might have saved his darling daughter, and that the relevancy of
her terrible taking off is not apparent. But he was as good as his
word, and when the council met on the day appointed he arose and
spoke as follows:

Brothers, you have come here from a great distance to provide safety for your-
selves and your homes. How shall it be done? We can make no progress by opposing
these tribes from the Cold North singly. We must unite all our tribes into one band
of brothers. In that way we shall be able to keep our enemies from our land.

You, the Mohawks sitting under the shadow of the "Great Tree" whose roots sink
deep into the earth and whose branches spread over a vast country, shall be the first
nation because you are warlike and mighty.

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

And you Onondagas, who have your habitation at the "Great Mountain" and are
overshadowed by its crags, shall be the third nation because you are gifted in speech
and are mighty in war.

And you Cayugas, whose habitation is the "Dark Forest/' and whose home is every-
where, shall be the fourth nation, because of your superior cunning in hunting.

And you Senecas, a people who live in the "Open Country" and possess much wis-
dom, shall be the fifth nation, because you understand better the art of raising com
and beans and making cabins.

Digitized by



You five great and powerful nations must unite and have but one common interest,
and no foe shall be able to disturb or subdue you. If we unite, the Great Spirit will
smile upon us.

Brothers, these are the words of Hi-a-wat-ha. Let them sink deep into your
hearts. Admit no other nation and you will always be free, numerous and happy. If
other tribes and nations are admitted to your council they will sow the seeds of jeal-
ousy and discord and you will become few, feeble and enslaved. Remember these
words. They are the last you will hear from Hi-a-wat-ha. The Great Master of Breath
calls me to go. I have patiently awaited his summons. I am ready to ga Farewell !

The legend further relates that when Hi-a-wat-ha finished his speech,
the air was filled with entrancing music. The beautiful white canoe
rose slowly into the air, and it bore the good friend and wise counsellor
far into the eternal blue. The music slowly died away, and the dusky
red men were left to try the experiment of becoming a federated nation.
How successful the experiment proved, all the history of our country

Just when these five nations united to form that great "Barbaric
Republic" which enacted so great a part in our intercolonial wars and
the Revolution, is not known. It may have been ages before Columbus
set foot on the Western Continent. It had reached its greatest potency
when the white men came.

The Confederacy successful, slight wonder the tribesmen called
themselves "Men surpassing all others," and earned the reputation of
being the proudest representatives of natural manhood ever discovered.
The Senecas, their western wall, were the main defense against their
fierce foes in that quarter, and gradually, as the Confederacy extended
its conquests to the Mississippi, the Senecas penetrated farther and
farther into the conquered territory. It was solely upon this conquest
which included the region of the Upper Ohio, that the British based
their claims to the territory as against the French, and led to the opening
of the French and Indian War, we may say, right where our doors are
now, for Washington's little skirmish in what is now Fayette county,
in which Jumonville was killed, was the first overt act in that war
which in its termination made the debatable land beyond the AUeghenies
debatable no more. Great States have been carved from the land thus
won, and to the conquest of the region by the Iroquois Republic the
State and Nation surely owe some debt for their claim of conquest
proved, under the arbitrament of arms, better than that resting upon
La Salle's right of discovery — ^a mere shadow when applied to the region
of the Upper Ohio county ; and what, we may inquire, would have been
the history of North America had the Iroquois thrown their influence
on the side of the French?

sThe tradition of Hiawatha, Longfellow tells us, is common to aQ North Ameri-
can Indians. He found the inspiration for his "Song" in Schoolcraft See **Algic
Researches," Vol. I, p. 134. "History, Conditions, etc., of Indian Tribes," Part III.
p. 314.

PitU.— 6

Digitized by



As the Senecas kept the Western gate, so, too, the acknowledged
ablest warriors of the Aborigines of America, the Mohawks, kept the
Eastern gate of the Iroquois home country. Near Lake Onondaga,
where Hi-a-wat-ha had appeared to the tribes assembled, the Five
Nations kept the great council fire of their Confederacy. It was the duty

Online LibraryAmerican Historical Society George Thornton FlemingHistory of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 9 of 81)