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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kiel calls chiefs,) the government seemed mon-
archial, but, as of measures that concerned all
they could not conclude aught unto which the
people were averse and every man of due age was
admitted to council, it might also be described as
a democracy. In council, the people were guided
by the eloquent, carried away by the brave ; and
this influence, which was recognized and regular in
its action, appeared to constitute an oligarchy.f

Such substantially was the organization and gov-
ernment of the Mahican and other branches of the
Delaware nation, neither of whom had a written
con^itution. The Mahicans had a chief sachem,

*CalderCs Five Indian Nations. O'Callaglian's New Netherland-,
t History of the United States^ //., 428.

who was chosen by the nation, with the title to
the office hereditary in the lineage of his wife.
He remained at all times with, and consulted the
welfare of his tribe, and concluded all of the
treaties in their behalf. He had charge of the
mnoti, or peace bag, which contained the strings
and belts of wampum, which were the tokens of
amity between his and other tribes and nations.
He was assisted by counselors called chiefs, and
by three others, who were respectively denominated
hero, owl, and runner. Both the hero and owl
were offices of merit ; the former was bestowed on
those only distinguished by prowess and prudence
in war ; and the recipient of the latter must be a
good speaker, with a retentive memory. The
heroes were charged with the execution of war
when that was decided on in council ; the owl sat
beside his sachem and with a foud voice proclaimed
his orders to the people; he also rose at day-light,
aroused the people, and summoned them to their
daily duties. The office of the runner was to carry
messages and convene councils.*

The chief or sachem could not declare war with-
out the consent of the captains, and when war was
determined on the care of the tribe or nation passed
for the time being from the former to the latter,
who relinquished it to the civil authorities again
when peace was proposed. The Delawares, Uke
the Iroquois, but uhUke some other nations, did
not declare war by a formal message ; but sent out
a small party, who killed and scalped the first man
they met belonging to the nation they intended to
engage, then cleaved the scull with a hatchet,
which was left in it, or laid a war-club, painted red,
upon the body of the victim.

But little preparation for war was needed. The
primitive ofi'ensive weapons were bows, arrows and
clubs. The latter were made of the hardest wood,
not quite the length of a man's arm, and very
heavy, with a large round knob at one end. Their
weapon of defense was a shield made of the tough
hide of a buffalo, on the concave side of which they
received the arrows and darts of the enemy. These,
however, were laid entirely aside by the Delawares
and Iroquois, even while the bow, arrows and club
were in vogue ; and fire-arms were substituted for
the latter weapons on the advent of the Europeans.
But previous to the substitution of guns they sup-
plemented the knobs of their clubs with nails and
pieces of iron. To the arrows of the Indians who
greeted Hudson in 1609, points, consisting of sharp
stones, were fastened with pitch. Th eir sole pro-

* Stockiridge, Past and Presimt.



vision on such occasions consisted of pounded corn
and maple sugar. The night previous to their de-
parture was spent in aUmentary debauchery and
dancing. A feast of dog's flesh was always provided
on such occasions.* They were always followed
to their first night's encampment, (which was usu-
ally but two or three miles from the village,) by
the women, who took with them their old clothes
and brought back the finery in which they marched
from the castle.

They often made long and tedious marches to
the lands of their enemies ; and as their provisions
soon gave out, it became necessary to spend some
days in hunting. They dispersed through the
woods for that purpose; but returned to the place
of rendezvous exactly at the time appointed. No
one had precedence during the march, not even
the captain. Their provisions were divided in
equal shares, however small the portion allotted to
each. The Indian warriors possessed astonishing
patience and perseverance, encountered incredible
dangers, and lived upon the most scanty fare ; for
as soon as they entered the enemy's country they
could hunt no longer, and though they had always
sufficient provisions for some days, being frequently
under the necessity of hiding for several weeks in
the woods before venturing an attack, they suf-
fered incredibly from hunger and other inconven-
iences. The utmost care was exercised to prevent
premature discovery and elude pursuit. They al-
ways recorded these exploits by the aid of mne-
monic symbols, rudely sketched on the smooth side
of a piece of bark, peeled for that purpose from a
tree — usually an oak, as being most durable.

The horrible, cruel and remorseless tortures with
which they, in common with other Indians, per-
secuted their prisoners, forms one of the blackest
pages in their history ; while ,the heroism and forti-
tude with which they endured these tortures is the
marvel of civiUzation. Even women were not
exempt from them ; for both men and women were
inexorably subjected to the most revolting and
ignominious tortures, even to burning alive, though
the latter less frequently than the former. Not all
their captives, however, were subjected to torture;
for many were adopted into the families of those
who had lost friends and relatives in the war. Ter-
rible as were these tortures, they are not without a
parallel in the history of civilized nations; and
there is the added virtue that they were measura-
bly free from that vindictiveness which was the in-
spiring genius of the latter. With them it was a

• Colden's Five Indian Nations,

matter of education ; for, says DeWitt Clinton, "to
produce death by the most protracted" suffering
was sanctioned among them by general immemo-
rial usage." Bancroft significantly says : "We call
them cruel ; yet they never invented the thumb-
screw, or the boot, or the rack, or broke on the
wheel, or exiled bands of their nations for opinion's
sake ; and never protected the monopoly of a medi-
cine man by the gallows, or the block, or by fire,"*
As each tribe had its sachem and chief or cap-
tain, so also each had its specific device or totem,
denoting original consanguinity. The totems of the
Mahicans were the Bear, the Wolf and the Turtle.
The former, which, says Ruttenber, " appear to
have been inoccupation in the vicinity of Albany,"!
was according to Mahican tradition, " considered
the leading totem and entitled to the office of chief
sachem." These totems were universally respected,
and were often tatooed on the person of the In-
dian and even rudely painted on the gable-end of
his cabin, some in black, others in red. They en-
titled the wandering savage to the hospitality of
the wigwam which bore the emblem corresponding
with his own. These devices consisted of ani-
mals, birds, etc. They had various uses, but the
most important was that which denoted tribal


Aborigines of Duchess County — Divisions
OF THE Mahicans — Their Territorial Pos-
sessions — The Wappingers — Supposed Iden-
tity with the Sanhikans and Sankikani —
Conflicting Statements Respecting their
Location — Deposition of David Nimham
Regarding it — Chieftaincies of the Wap-
pingers — The Head Chieftaincy Located in
Duchess County — Villages of the Wappin-
gers — Dans-Kammer Point — Traditional
Indian Villages.

THE territory embraced within the present
limits of Duchess County was the home
at different periods of the Mahicans, who have
been styled the first inhabitants of Hudson River,t
the Wappingers, who originally lived west of the
Hudson, and subsequently joined the Mahicans,
and a remnant of the Pequots, the earliest victims

* History of the Untied States, II, 447.

t Indian Tribes of HudsofUs River, 50, (note.)

t Col. Hist. IV., 901.


to the Europeans, who were nearly exterminated
May 26, 1 637, and the remnant subsequently driven
from their homes in Connecticut. The latter dwelt
in the present town of Dover, and are still repre-
sented by their descendants in the valley of the
Housatonic, to which they subsequently removed.
Their sachem was Gideon Mauwee, whose grand-
daughter, Aunt Eunice Mauwee, died in i860, at
the age of 103 years.

The Mahicans were a confederacy,* although the
several nations composing it have never been desig-
nated, says Ruttenber, who adds that certain gen-
eral divisions appear under the titles of the Mahi-
cans, Soquatucks, Horicons, Pennacooks, Nipmucks,
Abenaquis, Nawaas, Sequins, and Wappingers.
The former, the representative nation of the con-
federacy on the Hudson, appears, he says, to have
taken original position there, and to have sent out
snbduing colonies to the south and east, originat-
ing other national combinations. Their ancient
council fire was kindled at Schodack, opposite the
city of Albany, the country in the vicinity of which
they occupied. The Soquatucks occupied the
country east of the Green Mountains; the Hor-
icons, the Lake George district ; the Pennacooks,t
the territory " from Haverhill to the sources of the
Connecticut ; the Nipmucks, the country " about
Worcester, Oxford, Grafton, Dudley, &c., in Mas-
sachusetts j"t the Abenaquis, "the inland country
on the upper part of the Kennebec River, in
Maine ;"§ the Nawaas and Sequins, the country
bordering the Connecticiit, the latter immediately
south of the former ; and the Wappingers, the coun-
try east of the Hudson and immediately south of
the Mahicans, extending from Roelaff Jansen's Kill,
or Livingston Creek, to the sea. The first of these
general divisions was again divided into at least
five parts, as known to the authorities of New York
viz : the Mahicans, occupying the country in the
vicinity of Albany ; the Wiekagjocks, described by
Wassenar as "next below the Maikens ;" the
Mechkentowoons, lying above Catskill and on
Beeren or Mahican Island; the Wawyachton-

* Bancroft says, "the country between the banks of the Connecticut and
the Hudson was possessed by independent villages of the Mohegans, kin-
. dred with the Manhattans, whose few 'smokes' once rose amidst the
forests on New York Island. "—History of the United States, II., 396.

t " The Pennacooks," says O'Callaghan, (Col. Hisi.N. Y, III., 482,)
*' were a New Hampshire tribe, and inhabited Concord and the Merrimac
country above and below that town." A full account of them will be found
in Moore's Annals of Concord, 73 ; and in Collections of New Hamp-
shire Historical Society, I, Z18."

} Hol^es^ Annals, /., 413.

%Col. Hist. N. Y., III., 48z, note, which also says: "They were
called Onagonques by the Dutch, Owenagungas by the English, and
Abenakis by the French."

ocks,* who apparently resided in the western
parts of Duchess and Columbia counties ; and
the Westenhucks, subsequently known as the
Stockbridges, who held the capital of the confed-
eracy, and occupied the village of Kaunaumeek,
where the missionary Brainerd labored, and which
he describes as "near twenty miles from Stock-
bridge and near about twenty miles distant from
Albany eastward ; " Potatik, located by the Mora-
vians on the Housatonic " seventy miles inland ;''
and Westenhuck or Wuahktakook, the capital of
the confederacy, located on Sauthier's map, among
the hills south of Stockbridge. The villages of the
Wawyachtonocks, says Ruttenber, are without
designation, but it is probable that Shekomeko,
about two miles south of the village of Pine Plains,
and once the seat of a flourishing Moravian mis-
sion, was classed as one of them, as well as Wech-
quadnach, also the seat of a Moravian mission,
described as " twenty-eight miles below Stock-
bridge." He adds, " that their villages and chief-
tancies were even more numerous than those of
the Montauks and Wappingers" there is every
reason to suppose, but causes the very opposite of
those which led to the preservation of the location
of the latter, permitted the former to go down with
so many unrecorded facts relating to the tribe,"!

The Wappingers, or Wappingis, were, Uke the .
Mahicans, with whom they united, a branch of
the Delawares, and are supposed by Messrs. Yates
and Moulton % to be identical with the Sanhikans,
whom De Laet describes as residing on the west
side of the Hudson, " within the Sandy Hook," §
and with the Sankikani, who, when the Dutch
arrived at New Netherlands another Dutch author, "
Joost Hartger, who wrote in 165 1, twenty-six years
after De Laet, describes as residing " on New York
Bay, on the Jersey shore, opposite Manhattan's
Island, and thence some distance up the river,
lining the shore." Both authors say they were
deadly enemies of the Manhattans, occupying the
island to which it is supposed they gave their

* "This name," says Ruttenber, "is local," and is applied, in a peti-
tion by William Caldwell and others in 1702, to a " tract of unappropriated
lands in ye hands of ye Indians, lying in Duchess County to ye westward
of Westenholk's creek, and to ye eastward of Foughkeepsie, called by ye
Indians by ye name of Wayaughtanock." — Indian Tribes of Hudson^ s
River, 8s, note.

^Indian Tribes of HudsoiCs River, 41. 85-86. A tract of laud
called Westenhook was patented to Robert Livingston, Jr., and others
in 1735, and that as well as Livingston Manor, patented in 1686, became
the subject of controversy between this State and Massachuset ts. — StmiKs
History of New York, 283-288.

X History oftht State of New York, 221. They strengthen this sup-
position by quoting Gov. Clinton.

%Nieuwe Wereldt, Book 3, Chaf. 9.



name,* and were, says Hartger, a much less
ferocious and sanguinary people. De Laet testifies
that they were a better people than the Manhattans,
who, he says, were a wicked nation having " always
conducted towards the Dutch in a cruel and inimi-
cal manner." O'Callaghan says the Dutch dis-
tinguished the Delawares by the name of Sankhi-

The Rev. John Heckewelder,t who says the
Sankhicanni derive their name from Sankhican,
who sigmiiss fire-works, adds, they and the Wabinga
or Wapinga, sprung from the Delawares and Min-
sis, and, living opposite the Mahicanni, on the
Hudson, (the latter the most southerly, up the
Pachsdjeck — i.e. a valley, Passaic,) intermarried
with them, till at length their language betrayed
more of the Mahicanni, than- the Delaware. The

Wappingis, occupied the highlands on the west
side of the Hudson, from which they were known
by the Y>\A(Ai.z.%Hocklanders, (Highlanders.) The
Sankhicanni extended their settlements towards
the site of Albany. In course of time these two
tribes were under the necessity of leaving their
country, when they went over to the Mahicanni, with
the exception of a few famiUes, who again joined
the Delawares, but for fear of being again driven
from their settlements by the whites, went first to the
Susquehanna, and subsequently to the Ohio. The

Wappingis says Heckewelder derive their name
from the opossum, which in the language of the
Delawares, is called Waping. Wappingi signifies
" the opossummani." §

Mr. Charles ThompscJn, Secretary of the first
American Congress, locates the Wappingers be-
tween the west branch of the Delaware and the
Hudson, from the Kittatinny Ridge (Blue Mts.)
down to Raritan. || Prof. Ebeling observes that
the Esopus Indians, who proved so troublesome

* Heckewelder, in Ms. Comm. to Dr. Miller, says his inquiries in re-
spect to a nation or tribe of Indians called Mankattos or Nanathones
were fruitless. They were unknown at the middle of the eighteenth
century to both the Mahicans and Delawares. He was convinced that
the Delawares and Minsis occupied Manhattan or New York Island,
which the former then called Manahattani or Manahachtanink. The
Delaware word for island, he says, is Mznaiey ; the Minsi word, Man-
ttchtey. Early writers, however, are emphatic in naming this tribe, and
De Rasieres, who wrote in 1626, intimates that they were conquered '* by
the Wappenos."

t History of New Netherlands /., 48.

X Ms. Communication to Dr. Miller in 1801. now in possession of the
N. Y. Hist. Soc.

§ Wappingers, says Ruttenber, is a corruption of ivahun, east, and
ackif land, which, as applied by the Indians themselves, may be rendered
Eastlanders, or Men of the East. The French preserved the original
very nearly in Abenague, and Heckewelder in Wapanachki. The
Dutch historians are responsible for JVappingerSy perhaps from their
rendering of the sound of the original word, and perhaps as expressing
the fact that they were, in the Dutch language, wapertt or half-armed In-
. dians. — Indian Tribes o/HudsoTCs River, 170 — 371.

li Note 5, Appendix to Jefferson's Notes on Virginia.

to the early Dutch settlers, were supposed to be
Wappingers.* Ruttenber says : "Although it is so
stated on Van der Donck's map of New Nether-
land, and assumed by Gallatin as a fact, there is
no evidence that the Wappingers extended west of
the Hudson, but, on the contrary, the conclusion is
certain that they did not. The record of the Esopus
wars and the sales of lands show what and who the
latter were. The error of Van der Donck's in-
formants was in confusing totemic emblems, and
similarity of dialect, with tribal jurisdiction." f

Whatever may be the fact with reference to the
Wappingers having once possessed lands west of
the Hudson, it is certain that their later settle-
ments were on the east side of that river, as is
shown by the following deposition of David Nim-
ham, whose father, Daniel Nimham, was made
chief sachem of the Wappingers in 1740, and dis-
tinguished himself not less by his persistent efforts
to recover lands in Putnam county, of which his tribe
were defrauded, than by his tragic death at the battle
of Cortland Ridge, in Westchester county, where he
and some forty of his followers, including his son,
were killed or wounded August 31, 1778, by the
British, against whom they had espoused the cause
of the Colonists. I The deposition reads as fol-
lows : —

" David Nimham, aged thirty-six years, being
duly sworn, maketh oath, that he is a River Indian
of the tribe of the Wappingers, which tribe were
the ancient inhabitants of the east shore of Hud-
son's River, from the city of New York to about
the middle of Beekman's Patent ; that another of
River Indians, called Mahiccondas, were the an-
cient inhabitants of the remaining east shore of the
said river; that these two tribes constituted one
nation. That the deponent well understands the
language of the Mahiccondas. It is very Uttle
different from the language of the Wappings tribe.
That the Indian word Pattenock signifies in the
language of the Mahiccondas, a fall of water, and
has no other signification. And this deponent
says that he is a Christian, and has resided some
years with the Mahiccondas at Stockbridge.




" Sworn the second day of August, 1762, before

The chieftaincies of the Wappingers, say Rut-
tenber,§ were the Reckgawawancs^ who occupied
Manhattan Island and a portion of the mainland,
with their principal village,|| says Bolton, at the

* Yates and Moiilion' s History of the State of New York^ 221,

t Indian Tribes of Hudson River-, 84.

X Sintcoe^s Military Jo^irtial.

% Indian 'rrihes 0/ Htidson's River^ 77-84.

II History of Westchester County.


mouth of Neperah (Neperhan *) or Saw Mill
Creek, where the village of Yonkers now stands,
and at whose strong stockade fort, which stood on
Berrien's Neck, on the north bank of the Spuyten
Duyvel commanding the romantic scenery of that
creek and the Mahicannituck, Hudson first dropped
anchor on his ascending voyage, and was attacked
by the Indians on his return ; the Weckquaesgeeks,
who, as early as 1644, had three entrenched
castles,t one of which remained as late 1663, and
was then garrisoned by eighty warriors. Their
principal village, named Weckquaskeck, was on the
site of Dobb's Ferry, and its outlines, it is said,
can still be traced by numerous shell beds ; a
second one called Alip Conck, occupied the site
of the village of Tarrytown. Their territory seems
to have extended from Norwalk on the Sound, to
the Hudson, and to have embraced considerable
portions of the towns of Mount Pleasant, Greenburgh
White Plains and Rye, or, according to O'Calla-
ghan, J from the North to the East River, " on the
banks of two smaller streams, called the Sintsinck,
and the Armonck, a few miles north of the fierce
Manhattd^ or Manhattans,- a ' cruel nation,' who
held their council fires on an extensive island im-
mediately south, which, retaining their name, was
afterwards called Manhattans ;" the Sint-Sinks,
who, apparently, were not numerous, but had two
villages, one Ossing-Sing, on the site of the present
village of Sing Sing, the other, Kestaubuinck, located
between Sing Sing Creek and Croton River ; the
Kitchawongs or Kickfawancs, whose territory ap-
pears to have extended from Croton River to An-
thony's Nose, embracing a principal village named
Kitchawonck, located at the mouth of the river
bearing their name ; another named Sackhoes, on
the site of the village of Peekskill, and a fort,
which stood at the mouth of Croton River, and is
represented as one of the most formidable and an-
cient Indian fortresses south of the Highlands;
the Tankitekes, whom Brodhead locates at Haver-
straw, O'Callaghan on the east side of Tappan
Bay, and Bolton, in the eastern part of Westchest-
er, (the latter of which, from the deeds given by
them, Ruttenber affirms is correct,) and who, says
the latter, occupy " a prominent ' place in the
Dutch history through the action of Pecham, ' a
crafty man,' who not only performed discreditable
service for Director Kieft, but was also very largely
instrumental in bringing on the war of 1645 ;" the
Nochpeems, who occupied the highlan ds north of

*F7encKs Map of the State of New York,

1 younial of New Netherland, Doc. Hist., IV.,-IS.

X History of New Netherland, I., 47.

Anthony's Nose, (where Wassenar locates the
Pachany, and Brodhead the Fachimis, whom — the
Pachamis — O'Callaghan locates on the east side of
Tappan Bay,) and to whom Van der Douck
assigns three villages on t\itYi\xA%ox^—Keskistkonck,
Pasquasheck and Nochpeem — but whose principal
village, says Ruttenber, situated in what is now
known as Canopus Hollow, in the town of Putnam
Valley, appears to have been called Canopus, from
the name of their sachem; the Siwanoys, also
known as "one of the seven tribes of the sea
coast," who were one of the largest of the Wap-
pinger subdivisions, and occupied the northern
shore of the sound, " from Norwalk twenty-four
miles to the neighborhood of Hell-gate;" the
Sequins, who took their name from one of their
chiefs, who occupied a larg^ extent of country,
with their principal seat on the west bank of the
Connecticut, and had jurisdiction over all the
south-western Connecticut clans; and the Wap-
ptngers, the acknowledged head of the chieftaincies
of the tribal organization of that name, whose ter-
ritory covered the major portion of Duchess
County. The location of their principal village is
not known, but presumably on the creek which
perpetuates their name, on the south side of which
— the Mawenawasigh, its beautiful Indian name —
Van derDonck's map locates three of their villages.
Others of their villages were located in the town of
Fishkill, and at Fishkill Hook. " Until quite recent-
ly, there were traces of their burial grounds, and
many apple and pear trees are still left standing."*
Here, on a farm of three hundred acres, adjoining
Putnam County, which was claimed as a reserva-
tion, the Indians lingered long after the sale of
their lands in that locality; and even after their
removal to the West, a few came occasionally to
renew their claims, remaining a few weeks to hunt
and fish, while plying the vocation of mendicants.
North of Wappinger's Creek they appear to have
been known as the Indians of the Long Reach,
and on the south as the Highland Indians. Of
their possessions on the Hudson there is but one
perfect transfer title on record, that being for the

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 4 of 125)