James H. (James Hadden) Smith.

History of Duchess county, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers online

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Online LibraryJames H. (James Hadden) SmithHistory of Duchess county, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 3 of 125)
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These traditions agree substantially with those
of the Mahicans,t who inhabited the country
immediately east of the Hudson, and were, says
Heckewelder, a branch of the Lenape family.

The Lenape and Iroquois lived peaceably in the
conquered territory of the AUigewi for a long
period — "some say many hundred years" — and
rapidly increased in numbers. Eventually some
of the more enterprising Lenape hunters and
warriors crossed the mountains to the Atlantic and
discovered the Susquehanna and Delaware rivers
and subsequently the Hudson. After a long

* Heckewelder's Historical Account of the Indian Nations^ 29-32.

t Joannes De Laet, who published his Mieuwe Wereld\ or description
of the West Indies, as the country was then denominated, sixteen years
after Hudson's discovery, designates them by this name ; also in his
map of Nova Anglia Novem Belgium et Virginia, (in Novus Orbis.)
According to Messrs. Dr. Barton and Heckewelder, ( Yates and Moui-
ton^s History of New York^ za6,) the Mankikani imd Mahikans of
DeLafit ; the Mahiccanders (Joost Hartger's work, printed in Amster-
dam, in 1651,) Mohicanders (Barton) and Nahikanders, (Benson's
Memoir,) of the Dutch ; the ManhikaTis, Mahikans or Mokegans, ac-
cording to Prof. Ebeling, and the Mohegans or Mahhekanew, the
original name of the Mohegans, (Gov. Clinton Dis. 2 N. Y. : H. Col.
41,) according to the English, (See Edwards on the Mohegan language :)
the Mokiccans, Mahiccon^ (Ch. Thompson, Esq.,) and lastly the Mahic-
cans and Mahicanni-, ( Barton and Heckewelder,) were aU one people,
originally a branch of the Delaware nation. The name, as adopted by
the early French writers, and given by La Houtan in the old Algonkin, is
Mahingan- (Ruttenber, 51.) Heckewelder says he-is unacquainted with the
origin of the name — Mahicanni — ( Ms Communication to Dr. Miller, 1801,
in Library of the New York Hist. Soc ) Its equivalent — the word Mohe-
gan — says Schoolcraft is not the true Indian term, having been shorn of a
part of its true sound by the early French, Dutch and English writers.
"It was a phrase to denote an enchanted wolf, or a wolf of supernatural
power "—the wolf being "the prevailing totem of all the Hudson River
cantons." The modern Mohegans called themselves Muhhekaniew^ a
term correspondiuR, apparently, with that (Muhheakunnuk) used by
Capt. Hendrick, the Mohawk Chieftain, in his^radition of the Mahicans,
which simifies "great waters or sea, which are constantly in motion,
either ebbing or flowing,"' and which, being the place of their nativity,
was not resembled by any stream in their migrations towards the east
until they reached the Hudson. [.Indian Tribes of Hudson^ s River^ 50,
51. Coll- Mass. Hist. Soc, IX , loi.)

absence they returned, and gave so favorable an
account of the newly discovered country as to
induce the belief among their brethren that it was
"destined for them by the Great Spirit." They
emigrated thither, at first in small numbers, till
the great body of the nation had made it their
place of abode, with their central possessions on
the Delaware. Here they divided themselves into
three tribes. The Turtle, the Turkey, and the
Wolf — calling themselves respectively, the Unamis,
the Unalachtgos, and the Minsis. The former two
chose for their place of settlement the country
lying nearest to the seaj while the Minsis, who
were considered the most warlike and active,
located to the northward, between them and the
Iroquois, who lived in the vicinity of the great
lakes and on their tributary streams.

The Minsis' territory extended originally from
the head-waters of the Delaware and Susque-
hanna south to the mountainous regions of New
Jersey and Pennsylvania, and from the Hudson
west and south-west far beyond the Susquehanna.
Their council fire was located at Minnisink.

These tribes, says Heckewelder, multiplied and
separated into distinct branches, taking the names
of "simple natural objects," or of "something
striking or extraordinary," and settling in distant
localities; until, he says, nearlyforty tribes honored
them with the title oi grandfather, "a title which,"
says Ruttenber, " some of them continue to apply
to the present day."* " This was the case with the
Mahicanni or Mahicans, in the east, a people who
by intermarriage had become a detached body,
mixing two languages together, and forming out
of the two a dialect of their own : choosing to live
by themselves, they had crossed the Hudson River,
naming it Mahicannituck River after their assumed
name, and spread themselves over all that country
which now composes the eastern states." f This
statement of Heckewelder's warrants the assump-
tion that the Mahicans, who inhabited the coun-
try east of the Hudson, were the progenitors of the
Pequots and Mohegans, who inhabited Connecticut
and the country north of it, and were believed by Dr.
Trumbull to be one tribe, taking their names "from

* Indian Tribes of Hudsot^s River, 47.

" The Delawares call all Tuitions, (except the Uengwa, as they, or
' Maqua,' as the Mahicanni term the Five Nations or Iroquois, and
except the Wyandots or Hurons,) this side of the Mississippi, and even
beyond it : all the southern nations, all the eastern, and those of the
Canadas (except as above,) 'iV<7(7fAwwjai,' that is, ' my grandchild-
ren ;,' and these all acknowledge the Delawares their ' Mochomes,'ita.i
is, 'their grandfather.' "—Yates and Moulton's History of New
York, 217.

Schoolcraft bears equally strong testimony to this fact.

^Heckeweldet's Historical Account of the IncUan Nations, 26 35.



the place of their situation."* "The Pequot country
proper," says Ruttenber, was principally within the
three towns of New London, Groton and Stoning-
ton ;"t and that author, as well us Gallatin J and
DeForrest,§ assumes the identity as to race of the
Mahicans, Pequots and Mohegans, though he as-
serts a distinct tribal organization. || Elsewhere
Heckewelder quotes authorities IT supposing the
identity of the Mahicans and Pequots.**

The Mahicans, who, says O'Callaghan, ("the
Mahicanders or River Indians,") lined the Hud-
son on either side to its mouth,tt '^^.d, according
to Heckewelder's account, been confined to the
east bank of the river at the time of Hudson's
advent in 1609. Heckewelder's information " of
the extent of country the Mahicanni inhabited,"
(the best he could obtain,) " was from an aged and
intelligent man of this nation, whose grandfather
had been a noted chief." He said the western
boundary was the Mahicanniltuck, (the Hudson or
North River ;) and that their " settlement extended
on the east side of this river froni Thuphane or Tup-
hanne, (a Delaware word for cold stream, from
which the whites have derived the name Tappan,)
to the extent of tide water up this river; here was
the uppermost town. From thence our towns were
scattered throughout the country on the smaller
rivers and creeks." " Our nearest neighbors on
the east," continues the narrative, " were Warapano.
These inhabited the Connecticut river Jf down-
wards, and had their largest town where the sea
runs a great way into the land, and where the white
people have since built a town, which they call New
Haven. These (the Wampano) were in possession
of an island, which the white people call Rhode
Island. Adjoining the Wampano, east, were the
Munachkcanni ; next to these the Paamnakto ; then
the Patuchtinnau ; then the Wawidchtenno, and the
Machtitschwdnnau. These latter lived at or near
a place on the sea, where there were a number of
islands together, through which a strong current
ran, wherefore they were called by this name,
which signifieth the same. All these nations were
with the Mahicanni Hke one, and assisted their
grandfather, the Delawares, in carrying on the war

* History of Connecticut.

t Indian Tribes of Hudson^s River., 4J, (note.)

X Gallatin. II , 34-

§ History of the Indians of Connecticut.
> 11 Indian Tribes of Hudson^ s River-, 44.

H Coll. Mass. His. Soc. IX, 77. Trumbull^s History of Connecticut,
I, 28.

** Historical Account of the Indian Nations, 78.

tt His.ory of New Netherland, I., 47.

%\ Connecticoota, meaning Long River, was the Indian name.— Judge
Benson's Memoir.

against the common enemy the Maqua, until the
white people had come into their country. Our
grandfather (the Delawares,) owned and inhabited
all the country from the extent of tide-water above
Gdschtenick* to the extent of tide-water, in a river
far to the south, where a place was called Pathd-
mook or Pate-ham-inok.\ Clean across this extent
of country (viz, from Albany to the Potomac,) our
grandfather had a long house, with a door at each
end, one door being z.X Pate-ham-mok, and the oth-
er at Gdschtenick ; which doors were always open
to all the nations united with them. To this house
the nations from ever so far off used to resort,
and smoke the pipe of peace with their grandfather.
The white people coming over the great water, un-
fortunately landed at each end of this long house
of our grandfathers, and it was not long before they
began to pull the same down at both ends. Our
grandfather still kept repairing the same, though
obUged to make it from time to time shorter, until
at length the white people, who had by this time
grown very powerful, assisted the common ene-
my, the Maqua, in erecting a strong house on
the ruins of their grandfathers.''^ This accords
substantially with a communication from Dr. Bar-
ton, which says, " the Mahicans occupied * * * ■
the east side of the Hudson, from a site opposite
to Albany down to the Tappan Sea. They were
chiefly confined to the Hudson shore, or within ten
or fifteen miles east of it."§ "Tliese were the
people that swarmed the eastern banks of the river
when Hudson sailed by their settlements, from the
borders of the Manhattans to the tide-water beyond
Albany. They were so much more numerous than
other Indians on the same river, that they in par-
ticular were subsequently denominated the River

Wassenar, an early Dutch writer, states that at
the time of the discovery, the Mahicans held
twenty-five (seventy-five English) miles on both
sides of the river in the vicinity of Fort Orange,
which was built on their lands ; but concludes with
the statement that the Maquas (Iroquois) held the
west shore. This latter statement harmonized with
that of DeLaet, who wrote in 1625; and, sajs
Ruttenber, if it is considered that Wassenar wrote
"at different periods extending from 1621 to 1632,

* The Mahicanni name for Albany.

t The Potomac. This is a Delaware word which signifies "an arrival
of persons hy water. ^^

% Heckewelder's Ms. Communication to Dr. Miller, iSoi. Library
New York Hist. Soc. Yates and Moulton's History of New York,

§ Ms. with New York Hist. Soc.

11 Yaif^s and Moulton^s History of New York, 230.



his account will be found entirely consistent with
itself." " From information subsequently obtained,
however," adds Ruttenber, "and especially that
furnished by treaties and other documentary papers,
it would appear that at the time of the discovery, the
Mahkans held possession under sub-tribal organi-
zations, of the east bank of the river from an un-
defined point north of Albany to the sea, includ-
ing Long Island; and that their dominion extended
east to the Connecticut, where they joined kindred
tribes ; that on the west bank of the Hudson they
ran down as far as Catskill, and west to Schenec-
tady."* Messrs. Yates and Moulton think it
"probable that they had in former times reached
to the head-waters of the Hudson, until they met
their rivals in the vicinity of Lacus Irocoisia,
(Champlain,) or near the Green Mountains west of
that lake. There is no doubt they once owned
and occupied the. Saratoga tract, now including a
county of that name in this State."t


The Iroquois Family — TheAlgonkin Family —
Their Inherent Weakness — Universality
OF their Language — The Dela wares — Rel-
ative Rank of the Three Tribes of the
Delawares — Their Organization and Gov-
ernment — Succession of Chieftaincies He-
reditary in the Female Line — Duties and
Powers of the Chief — Indian Mode of Ex-
piating Murder — Organization and Gov-
CLARING War — Offensive and Defensive
Weapons — Preparations for War — Endur-
ance and Sufferings of Indian Warriors —
Indian Torture — Indian Totems.

WHEN the Europeans first had inter-
course with the aborigines of North
America, the latter consisted of two great famiUes,

* Indian Tribes of H-udsan's Rivtr, 34. Wassenar's Historie Van
Euro^a, Amsterdam 16ZI-1632.

t History of New York, 95, 230. From the translation of the Sara-
toga purchase, (among the manuscripts of the New York Hist. Soc.,) say
these authors, (230, note,) it appears that the * 'iWarAf>tff«rf" Indians were
present at the court-house in A'bany, July a6, 1683, at the purchase of
the lands at Saratoga, and saw the Mohawks receive payment. Being
required to say whether they had any claim on the lands, they then de-
clared that they desisted from all right and ownership which they former-
ly had thereto, deferring to the discretion of the purchasers to give them
something of an acknowledgment or not, as it was their land of old,
before the Mohawks conquered (or won ) it. They also signed a quit-
claim or memorandum, declaring in the name of the whole nation who
might have any pretension to the same, that they would, so far as respects
their Nation, clear them from all demands. Whereupon the purchasers
gave them seven duffels garments, as a w^Wfon'fl/ of the aforesaid pur-
chase, two half casks of beer, and two kegs of wine. Albany Records,
C. fol. 290.

who are at present known as the Iroquois* and
the Algonkins.f The immediate dominion of the
Iroquois proper, or Five Nations, extended from
the borders of Vermont to Western New York, and
from the lakes to the head-waters of the Ohio,
Susquehanna and Delaware. To the north and
west lay the Huron, Neutral and Erie nations, and
to the south the Andastes, all kindred tribes of the
Iroquois family.

The Algonkin family was much more numerous
than that of the Iroquois, but lost much of its
eifective strength by being dispersed over a wide
extent of country. This made many of its tribes
an easy prey to the rapacity of the Iroquois, who,
from the want of thorough concert of action among
their enemies — for though cognate they were not
coherent — were enabled to attack and subdue them
in detail. " The primitive lafaguage which was the
most widely diffused, and the most fertile in dia-
lects," says Bancroft, "received from the French
the name of Algonkin. It was the mother tongue
of those who greeted the colonists of Raleigh at
Roanoke, and of those who welcomed the pilgrims
to Plymouth. It was heard from the Bay of Gasp^
to the valley of the Des Moines; from Cape Fear,
and, it may be, from the Savannah, to the land of
the Esquimaux ; from the Cumberland River of

* This was the French name for the five confederate nations of Indians
who resided mostly within this State, and was given them, says Charle-
voix, because they usually began and finished their speeches with the word
hiro, which means, " I say," or " I have said," and combined as an affix
with the word Koue, is an exclamation expressing joy or sorrow, accord-
ing as the pronunciation is long or short. {Gameai^s History of Can-
ada.') By the Dutch they were called "Maquas." They denominated
themselves "Mingoes," meaning United People. (Clark's Onondaga.)
Their true name is " Hodenosaunee, " or " People of the Long House,"
because the five nations were ranged in a long line through Central New
York, and likened to one of their long bark houses. (Parkman's
Jesuits.) Loskiel says "they call themselves AqiianuschUmi, that is.
United People ; always to remind each other that their safety and power
consists in a mutual strict adherence to their alliance." (Mission of the
United Brethren, Part I., Chap. I., l.) They also call themselves
"Canossioone," or " Konossione," meaning, in the Iroquois language,
"the whole house, or all the Indians together." (Colonial History, IV.,
78, 196. )

They were subsequently denominated the Six Nations on the admis-
sion to their confederacy in 171 3, of the remnant of the Tuscaroras, who
formerly belonged to them, (Colonial History, V., 176, 387,) and who,
in resisting the encroachments of the proprietaries of North Carolina,
who assigned their lands to the German Palatines, were almost destroyed
in their fort on the River Taw, March 26, 1713, having lost 80a in pris-
oners, who were sold as slaves to the allies of the English. The Tusca-
roras were assigned lands by the Oneidas, west of and in close proximity
to them, and they, like the Oneidas, remained friendly to tile colonists
during the Revolutionary war, while the rest of the Six Nations mostly
remained the allies of the English.

t The French called them .Adirondacks, or, more properly, a tribe liv-
ing in Canada, bearing the family name. (Colonial History, V., 791,)*
In Iroquois the name signifies "tree eaters," (Colonial History^ IV.,
899,) and was given them in derision by the Mohawks, because, subsist-
ing mostly by the chase, during the long Canadian winters when game was
scarce, they were driven by hunger to subsist for many weeks together
upon the buds and bark and sometimes upon the young wood of forest



Kentucky to the southern bank of the Missinipi.
It was spoken, though not exclusively, in a territory
that extended through sixty degrees of longitude
and more than twenty degrees of latitude."*

We have in a preceding chapter followed the
Delawares, the principal branch of the Algonkin
family, in their migrations from the west to the
east, and fixed the location of the Mahicans, a
branch of the Delawares, at the period of Euro-
pean settlement, on the east side of the Hudson.
The Delawares, as we have seen, were divided
into three tribes, of whom, says Loskiel, " the
Unami are considered as the head of the nation,
the Wunalachtikos are next in rank, and then
follow the Monsys."\ Each tribe was but a union
of families,! and each had a chief, who, says Los-
kiel, was nothing more than the most respected
among his equals in rank. Each chief, he adds,
had his counselors, who were " either experienced
warriors, or aged and respectable fathers of fami-
lies." These constituted the council, " appointed
to watch over the welfare of the tribe." In mat-
ters regarding the whole nation they s'ent repre-
sentatives to attend a general council. It was
imperative that the chief be a member of the
tribe in which he presided. He was not chosen
by his own tribe, but by the chiefs of the two
other tribes, who, with their counselors and whole
tribes, moved in procession with singing towards
the place appointed for the election to take place,
entering the council house at the east end. The
succession depended on birth, and was inherited
through the female line. The child belonged to
the clan of the mother, not that of the father,
from whom it could not inherit anything. All
rank, titles and possessions passed through the
female. The son of a chief could never be a
chief by hereditary title, though he might become
one through personal merit ; but a grandson, great-
grandson or nephew might succeed him.

" This system of clanship with the rule of
descent inseparable from it, was," says Park-
man, " of very wide prevalence. Indeed, it is
more than probable that close observation would
have detected it in every tribe east of the Missis-
sippi; while there is positive evidence of its ex-
istence in by far the greater number." The Chip-
pewas, however, furnished an exception to this
rule. With them, says Loskiel, the son of a
chief had a legal right to succeed his father.

* History of the United States, II., 394-J9S-

t History of the Mission of the United Brethren among the Indians
in North America, Part I., Chap. I., p. '■.
X Bancroft's History of the United States, II., 417.

This rule, though binding, was very elastic, and
capable of stretching to the farthest Hmits of the
tribe. Invariably with the Delawares the chief
was succeeded by a near relative, well acquainted
with the affairs of the State, but he must always
be acceptable to the whole nation.

The new chief was inducted into office by a
formal council of the chiefs of the nation, who en-
joined on him his duties regarding the preserva-
tion or re-establishment of peace, and admonished
him not to meddle with the affaiis of war, but to
keep his people from it, continually to attend to
the welfare of his nation, and willingly hear their
remonstrances if he should commit a fault. He
was required, with the advice of his counselors, to
keep good order amongst his tribe, and to decide
all quarrels and disputes; but he could neither
command, compel nor punish, as in that case he
would have been forsaken by the whole tribe.
Every word savoring of command was immediately
rejected with contempt by the Indian, who was
always jealous of his liberty. He was compelled
to keep up his reputation and enforce his authority
by a prudent, courteous and winning behavior.
He held his office by reason of merit and the
esteem in which he was held by the people, and
forfeited that distinction when this esteem was
lost. A respect for native superiority and a
willingness to yield to it were always conspicuous.
As he was not vested with the power to punish,
neither was it his prerogative to pardon. The
punishment of murder and other atrocious crimes
was relegated to the injured family.

It was the duty of the chief to entertain stran-
gers to visit the tribe on business, also ambassadors
from other nations ; but if their number was too
great they were put into a separate house, and
their wants supplied at the public expense. That
he might be able to dispense this hospitality with-
out impoverishment, the men of his tribe furnished
him with game, and the women assisted his wife
in her plantations. When he designed visiting
another chief he sent him a piece of tobacco, with
this message : " Smoke of this tobacco and look
towards my dwelling, then thou shalt see me com-
ing towards thee on such a day."

The chief received no compensation for his ser-
vices. Honor and esteem were his chief rewards ;
shame and being despised his punishment. The
principal men were generally poorer than the
common people; for they affected to give away
and distribute all the presents and plunder they
got by treaty or in war. Thus while the system


held out ample incentives to valorous achievement,
there was nothing to tempt the covetous and

" A captain," says Loskiel, from whose interest-
irfg account these facts are mostly derived, " is the
chief's right hand. He must undertake everything
committed to him by the chief, even at the hazard
of his Ufe, for his duty as captain requires this of
him. But if he is either wounded or killed by the
enemy, the whole nation joins in revenging his
death." The office of captain is neither elective
nor hereditary, but is bestowed as a recognition of
ability in war.

"The principal duty of the first chief of the
Delawares," says the same author, "is to maintain
the peace and covenants made between them and
the rest of the Indian nations and Europeans. He
therefore carries on a kind of correspondence with
them, with a view to be always acquainted with
their disposition towards his people. He also
sends embassies, but generally with the advice and
consent of the two other chiefs. If the Europeans
or Indians send a disagreeable message, the chiefs ■
answer has always a double meaning. It would
be deemed very rude to inquire an explanation,
and against the law of the State to give one." For
small mistakes he was admonished by his people ;
but for any misdemeanor jeopardizing the com-
monwealth he was reprimanded by the two other
chiefs, and for continued delinquency he was for-
saken and his power at an end.

" The governments of the aborigines," says Ban-
croft, " scarcely differed from each other," except
as accident gave a predominance to one or the
other of the elements entering into them. " Each
village governed itself as if independent, and each
after the same analogies, without variety. If the.
observer had regard to the sachems, (whom Los-

Online LibraryJames H. (James Hadden) SmithHistory of Duchess county, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 3 of 125)