Egbert Benson.

Memoir read before the Historical society of the state of New-York, December 31,1816 (Volume 2) online

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DECEMBER 31, 1816.


Cui (viuscoe) nomen asilo

ilomanum est, oestron Graii vertere vocantes. — Vir^.






1 HE subject of this Memoir, if so it may be termed,
will be NAMES ; chiefly names of places, and farther
restricted to places in that portion of our country,
once held and claimed by the Dutch by right of dis-
covery, and by them named New Netherland; to he
described, generally, as bounded on the east by the
Connecticut, and on the west by the Delaware, and a
space m breadth, adjacent to the farther bank of each,
the extent of it not now to be ascertained, but, doubt-
less, as far as was judged needful to secure the exclu-
sive use of the rivers.

Held by right of discovery— 2. right gravely ques-
tioned by some, and furnishing matter for wit and
pleasantry to others ; because, with deference to both,
not justly apprehended by either. An understood
conventional law between the maritime nations of
Europe, to prevent interferences otherwise to be
apprehended, that the discovery of territory should
enure to the benefit of the sovereign by whose sub-
jects made. The benefit, where the territory inha-
bited, a right, in exclusion of other sovereigns and
their subjects, to purchase, from the uncivihzed occu-
pants, the SOIL ; their right to which, recognised by
the Dutch in the first instance, and afterward bv the

English on the surrender of the colony to (hem, 16G4.
and ever regarded by both with the best faith. No
grant to their own people without a previous Indian
purchase, as it was termed — no purchase without a
previous license for it — the sale under the superintend-
ence of an authorised magistracy, in quahty as guar-
dians for the Indians ; and hence, complaints from
them of injury, either from their own mistakes, or
from imposition in the purchasers, rare, notwithstand-
ing we meet with a part of the consideration not
more definitely expressed, than as consisting of " some
handsful of powder, "^"^

If asked, whence the inducement in selecting the
subject, a mere research, furnishing httle to please,
perhaps less to instruct ? My answer will simply be,
that nothing relative to the history of country — the
soil that gave hirth — " the place of our father's se-
pulchres'''^ — '^ the paternal seats, our unceasing desire
it may be granted us ourselves to die there," — ^^vas
never with others, and I trust will never be with us,
wholly uninteresting. The English, when speaking
of their country, call \t England ^ when speaking of
it, with emphasis or emotion, at times. Old England ;
still only its name on the map — the Dutch, when
•speaking of their country, always by a name peculiai*
to themselves, Het Vaderlandt, the Father Land,

The order to be observed, will be generally the
]Mimitive Indian, and the subsequently successive
Spanish, Dutch, and English, names.

As authorities,* among others, a reference will be

* Pee Note III

imderstoocl to be to the Theatrum Terrarum Orbi>
of Ortelius, surnamed the Ptolemy of his time, pub-
lished 1572; the Niewee Werldt, cATeiy World, ot"
De Laet, pubhshed in 1625, and the same work in
Latin, published in 1633; the Beschryvinge Van
NiEUWE Nederlandt, Description of New Nether-
land, by Van Der Donck, after a residence here of
some years, pubhshed in 1656 ; and the Brandende
Veen, a burning pile of turf , a collection of seacharts.
with notes by iJo^^ereeii, published in 1675; all ol
them, it must be admitted, imperfect, and in very
many instances, erroneous, but probably not more so
than others, who, at the same period, attempted the
geography, and to borrow the appellation just cited.,
of this, to them, Nezv World ; from necessity, how-
ever, those named must serve as guides, aware, at the
same time, that while we follow, there must still be a
reliance on our own circumspection,


It may be a question, whether the Indians had
general names for large tracts of country ? The five
nations, or, as heretofore, not unusually distinguished
by us, our Indians as residing within our jurisdic-
tion, the Mohocks, the Oneidas, the Onondagas, the
Cayugas, and the Senecas, had no general name for
their domain, or the parts of it, although separated
by duly definite limits, the distinct property of each.
The. extensive, and, as relatively to them, south and
southwestern region, including, at least, a portion of
the Carolinas, they designated by referring to their


general name for its inhabitants, the country of tht
Flat-Heads. They waged war with them, and it
Avould seem implacably so. Returning home from
one of their expeditions, they brought otT, to replace
those lost among themselves in their fights, a whole
people, the Tuscaroras, incorporating them into their
confederacy as the sixth nation, and assigning them
lands for residence, but withholding the power oi

On the other hand, there is abundant reason to be-
lieve, that, inlayidj every distinct space, scarcely more
extensive than a neighbourhood, and, on the coast, every
river, bay, and cape, and every island, its contents not
more than to serve as the abode of a single tribe, had a
distinct name. Of the places on the coast, Tybee,
Ocracock, Hateras, Roanoke, Currituck, Chesapeake,
Chingoteague, Squan, Nevesink, Rockaway, Nan-
tucket, with its secondary Muskegut, are those only
^till known to our mariners by their Indian names.

Montock, it is true, is Indian, but the appropriation
of it, as a name for the extreme eastern point of
Long-Island, is by the English, and probably since the
reign of Queen Anne, the point appearing on a chart
of the coast, dedicated to her son the Duke of Glou-
cester, without a name. It is the name of a peninsula
denoted in a petition to the government in 1680, for a
license to purchase it from the Indians, " as a tract
eastward of Easthampton, called Montauck ;" and we
find it at the same period called Montaukett, and its
sachem formally claiming before the governor and
council, a right, and as by conquest, to sell the lands as
far west as Matinicock. The peninsula is within thr


limits of the town of Easthampton ; the whiles, the
appellation generally in use with us, when intending
to distinguish between ourselves and the Indians,
exercising only a modified right of property, the right
of pasturage; the remnant of Indians still there, en-
joying the exclusive right of culture. The tribe was
known as the Mattozvas, or Mattowaks, or Mattouwax,
all of w^hich, however ditferentlj spelt or pronounced
by the whites, doubtless purport the same name ; but
whether the tribe took their name from the place, or
the place took its name from the tribe, is a question
from which it behooves me to refrain. As of Dutch
descent, I ought ever to have before me the n^arning
from the ^^ mighty contests^'''' in the parent country of
my family, on the question whether the hook catches
the fish, or the fish the hook, and the parties accord-
ingly distinguished as the Hoecks, and the Cabel jaus,
the Hooks, and the Cods.

The immediate neighbours to this tribe were the
Shinnicocks^ v/ho, and aiso at an early period, pre-
sented a sachem elect to the governor for his appro-
bation ; a sohtary instance. At a treaty with the
Oneidas, at Fort Schuyler, in 1788, they presented
to the commissioners a lad, made a sachem the day
before, and Skonondo, a respectable individual among
them, as the guardian during his minority. The in-
tent of the one ceremonial, the making a sachem, as
furnishing an occasion for the other, the announcing
it being understood, the keg of rum, the expected com-
pliment in return, was not withheld.

From the mere suggestion by the Montauck Indians
of a claim, by conquest, to the whole of the territory


between their home and Mattinicock, we are led to
suppose they were numerous and powerful, the natu-
ral consequence a pre-eminence, and thereby their
name in time becoming the general or national name
for the Indians throughout the whole island. It was
usual with the Dutch to speak of the maquaas, and
the English afterward by the name, as pronounced
by them, the Mohocks^ intending at the same time the
whole confederacy. Our historian expresses himself,
in the tBxt^ "all the Indians on Long-Island were in
subjection to i\\efive nations, and acknowledged it by
the payment of an annual tribute,'' and concludes a
note on the passage, that the tribute still continued to
be paid to the Mohocks, Indeed, it is well known that
Mohock was the standing bugbear, with the matron-
squaws on the island to /n^^^en their unquiet children,
when losing their patience with them.

Nayack — The name of a place at the Narrows, on
the Long-Island side : In the grant to Corlelyaxi,
1671, the land is described "as to begin at the point
oi Nayack, and to stretch along the bay," and hence
Nicolls, who commanded the armament sent against
the Dutch here, dates his summons of surrender to
the town, " on board his Majesty's ship the Guyney,
riding before Nayack." The lands, the western
bank of the river, for a few miles northward from the
Tappan meadows, known by the same name, Nayack.
The bay, between the geele, ye lloiv, and the roode.
rrd. Hook, still retains its Indian name, Gazuanns.



Our island of Manhattan^ or as pronounced by i\\v
Dutch, and spelt by the whites of New-England, and
both prefixing the article^ the Manhadoes ;* and the
like observed by Stuyvesant in his answer to the sum-
mons to surrender, " the Manhattans," and in the arti-
cles of capitulation, signed at the governor's Bou-
WERIE, Farm, still in the family, the road or lane lead-
ing to it, known as the Bouweriesche Laening, cor-
rupted to Boxoery-Lane, now Bowery -Street, the town
and the inhabitants are mentioned as the " town of
Manhattans," "the town of ^/le Manhattoes," "the
townsmen of the Manhattans."

A marsh or swamp extended across the island, from
between where Canal-street terminates at the North
river and the space of the shore of the East river, the
portion of Cherry-street between James and Catha-
rine streets. Cherry-street, so called from being laid
through a public garden, with a bowling-green in it,
called Cherry-Garden, having a front on the East
river of 384 feet, and extending in the rear to the
meadow of Wolvert Webbers, the property of Rich-
ard Sacket, Malster ; the western side of his malt-
house the line of the eastern side of Roosevelt-street
there. James-street, called after Jacobus, James,
Roosevelt, and Catharine-street, after Catharine, the
wife of Hendrick Rutgers, proprietors, at the time, of
the grounds through which they were laid.

There was a large pond, or Kolck, in the marsh

"^ See Note IV.


about midway between Broadway and Chatham-street,
and a stream, or '' rivulet^^'^ from it, running eastward,
and crossing Chatham-street, between Pearl and Roose-
velt streets, and there a bridge over it. The English
pronounced the word Kolck, as if consisting of two
syllables, Kol-lick, and the waters from the adjacent
high grounds collecting in it, an etymologist, not long
since, chose to imagine the true original name to have
been an English one, Collect ; and, the pond having
lately been filled up, thence the name of a street pass-
ing over the space it occupied, Co//ec/-street. The
pond, besides being referred to very generally as
emphatically the Kolck, was distinguished by the
appellation of the Versche Water, F7'esh Water, and
which was also at times applied to the stream. A part
of the description of a piece of land, in an ancient
conveyance, is " being beyond the Fresh Water,'''' and
then farther denoted by its Indian name, Warpoes,
Also a piece of land on the north side of the island
Manhattans, called by the Indians, Muscoote, The
Indian name for the grounds now known as Grcenzvich,
the name given to the place by Captain, afterward
Sir Peter, Warren, when on the station here, and
purchasing them, was Sapokanikan, and, in like man-
ner, as Manhadoes, retained in use by the Dutch, and
spoken of as a distinct place, so that the skippers
when, in coming down the river, they had turned Sa-
pokanikan Vomi, would express themselves, ''they
were in sigjht of Manhadoes.'^'' The Indian name for
the extreme southern point of the island, to be con-
sidered as the point on the shore dividing between tht;
watpoken of as a disease not known before, and, as It
would seem, attributed to the extreme coldness of the
climate. " From April to the middle of December,'*
says Champlain, in De Laet, " the air of Canada i?
healthy, but January, February, March, are unhealthy,
and you are then severely afflicted with the scurvy.''
He came out with Des Monts as his geographer, and
went afterward to Canada, and probably the tirst who
explored the lake still bearing his name. In the ac-
count of the voyage, as taken from his own publica-
tion of it, speaking of the river in the Bay of Passama-
quoddy, he calls it the river of the Etchemins ; in like
manner with De Laet, designating it by referring to
the name of the tribe of hidians inhabiting its banks,
it having, but of which he was not informed at the
time, an Indian name, the Scudiac.

The Indian name of our river is Sha-te-muc, Here,
however, not having general tradition, or written docu-
ment, to warrant me, it is proper 1 should state, and
so submit, my authority.

In 1 785, 1 met with a person of the name of Rouw :
his parents were of the German families, who came
over in 1710, under the protection, and at the expense
of Queen Anne, and settled on a tract of six thousand
acres, within the limits of the Manor of Livingston,
heretofore known as the German Camp, now German
Tow7i, purchased for them, it being intended they
should raise hemp, and, the pine then abounding in
the vicinity, make tar, for the use of the navy. In
the conversation with him, he told me his father, at a
very early day, parted with his farm in the Camp, and
took a lease for one, from the proprietor of the Ma-


nor. at a place called, by the Indians, Stissinck, about
twelve miles from the river ; that the family were, as
it respected white neighbours, for a long time, almost
solitary; that their chief intercourse was w^th the
Indians, who were still numerous there ; that the In-
dian boys were his play-fellows, so that, as he grew
up, the Indian became as familiar to him as the Ger-
man, the language of the family. Among other in-
quiries, I asked him if he knew the Indian name of
the river? He replied, he did; it was Sha-te-muc»
With a view to ascertain w^hether he was not repeat-
ing only individual hearsay, I asked him how he came
by the know^ledge of the name ? He rephed, it was
always called so by the Indians ; that, when going to,
or coming from, the river, they w^ould say they w^ere
going to, or had come from, Sha-te-muc ; in short, that
he had come to the knowledge of the Indian name for
it, in the same manner he had come to the knowledge
of the name by which it was known by the whites,
the North River, I then mentioned, that, possibly, it
was the name for a portion of it, a reach in it, there ;
he replied, it was usual with him, when a young man,
and the deer scarce in the Tackhanick mountains in
the neighbourhood, to go and hunt w^ith the Wiccapec
Indians in the Highlands^ and the river was known to
them by the same name. I was a stranger to him
personally ; but when I resided at Red-Hook, in
Dutchess County, at a previous period, I knew seve-
ral of the family, and they w^ere respectable ; his re-
collection and judgment were entire, his appearance
decent, and his deportment proper. I might have
saved myself the necessity of the surmise to him. thtit


possibly it was only the name of a portion of the rivei'.
had it occurred to me, that the Indians, using the
same language, have the same name for a river
throughout its whole length. An Indian meeting a
white man on the confines of Canada, asked him
where he came from ? He told him from Connecticut
river ; the Indian, instantly extending his arms late-
rally from him to the utmost stretch, as the expressive
gesture, repeated the name Connecticoota, adding its
meaning. Long River,

Croton River — supposed to be the mispelling of
the name of an Indian, probably the proprietor of the
lands at the mouth of it, as we find it, in very early
documents, in the genitive, Croton's River. In an
Indian deed, 1685, the river is called Kitchazvmi, and
the lands adjacent to it, on the south, Sincksinck,

Schenectady — A tract within the limits of the Co-
j.ONiE or JuRisDicTiE of Rensselaerwyck, extend-
ing from the river in a northwestern direction, a mile
in breadth, was formed by the Dutch government into
a separate Jurisdiction, known as the Jurisdiction of
Schenectady^ the name of the five nations, for the site
of the only settlement, at the time, within it, the
Dorp, or village of Beverwyck, on the bank of the
river, and its meaning on the further side of the pint
wood, denoting its situation relatively to them. The
license from Stuyvesant to Van Curler and his asso-
ciates, to purchase the lands, described in it, as " the
well known Flatt lying behind the Fort Orange, land-
ward in," is dated in 1661. The term Flatt has
obtained among us as a translation of the Dutch
Vlachte, when used to denote lau,ds on a river bv


alluvion. This Flatt was, at the time, distinguished
by the Dutch as the Groote, or Great^ Vlachte.
The Indian name for it, Oronowaragouhre, It was
instantly settled by the whites, and their village con-
sidered as within the Jurisdiction of Schenectady.
Nicolls, very shortly after the surrender of the colony,
erected the Jurisdiction into a city, giving it the name
of Albany^ after the Scotch title of the Duke of York,
but restricting its western extent to sixteen miles from
the river; the residue however, and especially as it
regarded the settlement at the Gr-eat Flatt, whicli
would otherwise, if so to be expressed, have become
extraparochial, was considered as still subsisting as a
Jurisdiction, and no new one being assigned to it, the
name of Schenectady of course continued to be used :
and the Schout or Sheriff as still in office ; and at the
moment happening to reside there, we accordingly
fmd the following entry in the minutes of the Council,
15th October, 1675, "Sanders Leenderts Glen, and
Ludovicus Cobez, Schout of Schenectady, appeared
with a request from their village for a patent. Or-
dered, that they have a patent for the land about and
above Schenectady. The Bowerys, or Farms, at
Schenectady, are to pay for each of them, containing
twenty morgan, and in proportion, four bushels oi
wheat, as a quitrent. The magistrates of Schenec-
tady to have liberty to impose a levy ;" and thus the
name was transferred from the Schenectady of the five
nations to their Oronowaragouhre,

Nachicnack — The Indian name for the point of
land, the site of the village of Waterford, and sold at
an early day, and the grantees denoted ia the deed,


by the names of Gozen Gerritse, and Philip Pk-
TERSE, the last syllable, se, an abbreviation of sen.
varied from zoon, son, the Christian name of the fa^
therof theone being Gerrit, and of the other, Peter.
and their surnames, Van Schaick and Van Schuy-
ler. Taking this species of Patronymic^ and using
it as a surname, a practice our Dutch ancestors
brought over with them, and it has now, in some fami-
lies, become the permanent surname : Instances —
the Myndertses, the descendants of Myndert Van
Everen ; the LEFFERTSEs,of Leffert Van Haage-
wouT ; the Martenses, of Martin Schenck ; the
RiKERTSES, abbreviated to Riker, of Rikert Lent :
the Remsens, of Rembrandt, abbreviated to Rem.
Van Der Beek, — with some the English son, as be-
ing of the same import, has been substituted for the
Dutch sen : Instances — the Johnsons of King's and
Ulster counties ; the Gei-ritsons ; the Everisons ; the
Bensons ; — with a number of our Dutch families, (he
preposition Van, of, as a part of the surname, has
gone into disuse : Instances — the Van Ten Broecks,
the Van Gansevoorts, the Van Varicks, the Van
KouwENHOVENS, and in the family of Philip Petersk
Van Schuyler, already named, the use of it proba-
bly ceasing with him, as it does not appear to have
been used even by his son, Major Peter Schuyler, "dis-
tinguished," says our historian, "for his singular bra-
very and activity in the defence of his country. In
Ihe summer of 1691, he, with a parly of Mohocks,
passed through the Lake Champlain, and made an
irruption on the French settlements at the north end
of it. Dt Callieres, the Governor of Montreal, to


oppose him, collected a small army of eight hundred
men, and encamped at La Prarie, Schuyler had
several conflicts with the enemy, and slew about thre(
hundred of them, which exceeded in number his
whole party ; he succeeded to the influence and ho-
nours of Van Curler. Whatever he recommended
or disapproved, had the force of a law with the five
nations ; and they afterward addressed the Governor
of the Colony by the title of Gorah Quider, instead
of Peter, which they could not pronounce. Governor
Peter." The nick-name formerly much in use with
the Dutch here : Instances — the residence of Jak
RooDHAER, a little freely translated Foxy-head John,
referred to in a grant, his name, though somewhat an-
glicised in spelling. Van Salisbury ; a grant to Ja-
cob Flodder, Jacob Rafter, his occupation on the
river, his name Gardinier. Vader Kees, Father
Cornelius, the plaintiff in a suit, his name Jansen. A
few famihes, descended from clergymen, still using the
surname as Latinised by their classical progenitors :
Instances — Goetius, Polhemius, Curtenius, Man-


Our names for the five nations, are not their names
in their own language ; they are the names by which
the Indians inhabiting the banks of the river, the Mo-
hegans, or, as pronounced by the Dutch, Mahik An-
ders, denote them, and being those first communica-
ted to the whites, they have retained them in use :
Their names, in their own language, are, the Mohocks,
Te-ka-te-righ-te-^o-ne, Council of two Bands, alluding
to the two clans, or castles, of them, the one at Fort
Hunter, so called after Governor Hunter, the other m


Fort Hendrick, so called after their distinguished chieC
usually known as King Hendrick, who fell in the bat-
tle at Lake George, 1755; the Oneidas, Ni-ho-ron-ta-
o-o-wa, a great tree ; the Onondagas^ Ro-tigh-re-a-na-
gigh-tSi, carrying their houses on their hacks ; the Cay-
ygas, Sho-ti-non-no-wen-te-zyee-ne, the great pipe :
and the Senecas, Ya-te-ho-ni-non-hagh-Aon-te, the

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Online LibraryEgbert BensonMemoir read before the Historical society of the state of New-York, December 31,1816 (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 9)