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 6 of 125)
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east of the AUeghanies, including the Mahicans or
River Indians, became the efficient allies of the
colonists, though the number of the latter must
have been inconsiderable. In 1774, Governor
Tryon thus refers to them : —

" The river tribes have become so scattered and
so addicted to wandering, that no certain account
of their numbers can be obtained. These tribes —
the Montauks and others of Long Island, Wap-
pingers of Dutchess county, and the Esopus, Papa-
goncks, etc., of Ulster county — ^have generally
been denominated River Indians and consist of
about three hundred fighting men. Most of these
people at present profess Christianity, and as far
as in their power adopt our customs. The greater
part of them attended the army during the late
war, but not with the same reputation as those
who are still deemed hunters."J

In April, 1774, the Provincial Congress of
Massachusetts apprised the Mahicans and Wap-
pingers at Westenhuck of the gathering tempest,
and expressed a desire to cultivate a good under-
standing with them. " Capt. Solomon Ahhannuau-
waumut, chief sachem of the Moheakounuck In-
dians," to whom the message was addressed, visited
Boston on the eleventh of that month, and his
reply on that occasion sufficiently evinces the
warmth of their attachment to the colonists.
Among other things he said : " Whenever I see
your blood running, you will soon find me about
to revenge my brother's blood. Although I am
low and very small, I will gripe hold of your enemy's
heel, .that he cannot run so fast, and so light, as if
he had nothing at his heels. * * * 'Wg are
ready to do anything for your reUef." After his
return from the battle of Bunker Hill, in which he
and his warriors participated, at a council at
Albany, he renewed this pledge in language most
eloquent. " Depend upon it," he said " we are true
to you, and mean to join you. Wherever you go,
we will be by your sides. Our bones shall he with
yours. We are determined never to be at peace
with the red coats, while they are at variance with
•Co/. Nisi. y/i.,s»3- — — —

t Heckewelder, 67, 68.
XCol.Hist. VlII., 4Si.



you. We have one favor to beg. We should be
glad if you would help us to establish a minister
amongst us, that when our men are gone to war,
our women and children may have the advantage
of being instructed by him. If we are conquered,
our lands go with yours ; but if you are victorious,
we hope you will help us to recover our just
rightsv"* Wherever the influence of the Mahicans
could reach, it was exerted among their brethren
of the west. Their valor and devotion was dis-
played on the field of White Plains, Oct. 28, 1776 ;
and at Cortland's Ridge, in Westchester county,
August 31, i778.t

Not a representative of this once numerous
aboriginal race remains in the county ; and scarcely
a vestige of their former occupancy survives the
obliterating agencies of the century since their


The Moravians — Moravian Mission at Sheko-
MEKo — Christian Henry Rauch Establishes
THE First Successful Moravian Mission in
North America at Shekomeko — Joined by
Buettner — Joseph Shaw sent to Sheko-
meko AS School Master — The Mission-
aries, Pyrl^us, Senseman and Post join the
Mission — Communion First Administered at
Shekomeko — New Chapel at Shekomeko —
Mission at Pachgatgoch Broken Up — Diffi-
culties AT Shekomeko — Efforts to Break
Up the Mission — Persecutions of the Mis-
sionaries and their Indian Converts —
Death of Buettner — Indians Driven from
Shekomeko and Wechquadnach — Interest
in Shekomeko and Wechquadnach Revived
after the Lapse of a Century — Their Sites
Identified — Monuments Erected Thereon
to the Memory of the Missionaries Buett-
ner, Bruce and Powell — Description of
the Monuments.

HAVING examined cursorily the character
of the aborigines of this section of country,
we are prepared in a measure to estimate the
qualities of those who undertook the evangelization
and the difficulties with which they had to contend.

* This has reference to several tracts of land claimed by the Mahicans,
the principal of which was a portion of the Livingston Patent, and lands
at Westenhuck, the latter of which they claimed to have leased to the
whites for a term of years. The matter has several times been before the
New York Legislature, but, like the claim of the Wappingers, has never
been adjusted.

t Indian Tribes of Hudson's River, »69-z87.

This task, so far as this county is concerned, was
confined to the Moravians, whose heroism, devo-
tion and self-sacrifice find their parallel only in the
zeal of the Jesuits, of whom Parkman says, " No
rehgious order has ever united in itself so much to
be admired and so much to be detested." Each
alike were men of culture and intelligence, who for-
sook homes of luxury in Europe, and submitted
with a wonderful patience and heroism to the most
menial offices, the utmost hardships and privations,
and cheerfully accepted missions attended with the
most inconceivable danger in the zealous pursuit
of their calling.

The Moravians, a name " redolent with Christian
faith and hope" — were then just emerging to promi-
nence from under the cloud of religious conten-
tion and persecution which, for centuries, had
tinged their history with a melancholy interest;
and they entered upon their arduous and self-ap-
pointed labors with the vigor of resuscitated man-
hood succeeding protracted and enfeebled infancy.
But, says the Moravian historian, Reichel, it was
under peculiar difficulties that they commenced
their labors among the nomads of this western
world. Entering upon them at a time when the
contending civilizations of Europe on this con-
tinent, which, for nearly a century and a half had
a doubtful issue, were approaching a determinate
issue, and just upon the eve of those difficulties
which culminated in the French and Indian war,
they became an object of two-fold suspicion. They
stood between the Indian and the aggressive An-
glo-Saxon, but were friends of both.

They adopted as peculiarly their own the mission
of converting the heathen in fields which others
had not attempted to cultivate. In 1732, the first
missionaries of the society were sent to the Island
of St. Thomas in the West Indies, *hen and still
under the Danish government; and in 1733, a
successful mission was established on the inhospi-
table coast of Greenland. In 1734, a number of
brethren living in Berthelsdorf, in Upper Lusatia,
under the protectorate of Count Nicolas Lewis
von Zinzendorf, a son of one of the prime min-
isters at the Court of Saxony, resolved to go to
Georgia; but on arriving at Holland, changed
their minds and removed to Pennsylvania, estab-
lishing the Moravian colony at Bethlehem in that
State, which became the headquarters of the Society
in this country. In November, 1734, others, under
the leadership of John Toeltschig and Anthony
Seyffart, left Herrnhut, a Moravian settlement in
Saxony, to establish a colony in Georgia, on a



tract of land granted to Count Zinzendorf by the
Trustees of that province, for cultivation by the
brethren, who hoped that a way might thus be
opened to preach the gospel to the Creek, Chicka-
saw and Cherokee Indians. In London they were
joined by Rev. Augustus GottHeb Spangenberg.
They arrived in Georgia in the spring of 1735, and
were joined by others during the summer. The colo-
ny had but just entered upon a career of prosperity,
when they were involved in serious political com-
plications. The Spaniards made an effort to expel
the English from Georgia, and the brethren were
called upon to join the other colonists in arms to
resist the attempt; but this they refused to do.
This dissatisfied the other colonists and the
brethren were constrained to leave their flourish-
ing plantations, which a portion of them did in
1738, and the remainder in 1740, retiring into

Under these discouraging circumstances was
commenced the Moravian mission at Shekomeko,
in the town of Pine Plains in this county — a place,
which, says Mr. Isaac Hunting, was notorious for
its wickedness, and had been for years before.
Seeking another field of labor, one of these brethren.
Christian Henry Ranch, was dispatched to New
York, where he arrived July 16, 1740. There he
unexpectedly met Frederick Martin, a missionary
from St. Thomas, who introduced him to several
influential persons, who, it was thought, would take
an interest in the work, and give him information
respecting the Indians and the best means of gain-
ing an influence with them. But they unanimously
discouraged the attempt, saying "that the Indians
were, universally, of such a vicious and abandoned
character, that all efforts for their improvement
would be dangerous, as well as utterly in vain,'' as
all hitherto made had been.

Not discouraged, however, he sought out an em-
bassy of Mahicans, who had recently arrived in
New York on business with the Colonial Govern-
ment. At his first visit, and for some time after-
ward, they were "in a state of beastly intoxication
and terribly ferocious in appearance and manners."
Patiently awaiting their return to sobriety, he opened
a conversation with two of the principal chiefs —
Tschoop and Shabash — who, from their intercourse
with the Dutch settlers along the Hudson, were
slightly acquainted with the Dutch language. With-
out ceremony he inquired if they desired " a teacher
to instruct them in the way to salvation ?"
"Tschoop answered in the affirmative, adding, that
he frequently felt disposed to know better things

than he did, but knew not how, or where to find
them; therefore, if any one would come and in-
struct him and his acquaintance, he should be
thankful; that they were all poor and wicked, yet
he thought that it might answer a good purpose, if
a teacher would come and dwell with them." Sha-
bash gave his assent. Rejoiced at this disposition,
Ranch promised to accompany them on their re-
turn ; " upon which they declared him to be their
preacher, with true Indian solemnity." "Some
days after he visited again, but found them so much
intoxicated, that they could neither speak nor
stand. Upon his third visit he found them sober,
and having agreed to set out before them, they
promised to call for him at Mr. Martin Hoffman's,
on North River." Here for some days he awaited
their arrival in vain, when, going in search of them
to a neighboring Indian town, they missed him, and
proceeded on their journey.

The devoted missionary soon followed them to
their village of Shekomeko,* which was situated
in "a most beautiful and romantic spot," on lot 12
of the Little Nine Partners, now the farm of Mr.
Edward Hunting, about, two miles south of the
village of Pine Plains. He arrived August 16,
1740, "and was received in the Indian manner
with much kindness.'' Tschoop and Shabash had
previously "announced him as the man whom they
had appointed to be their teacher;" and he im-
mediately addressed them on the subject of his
mission, and of the means of redemption, to which
they listened " with great attention," and, appar-
ently, " not without impression." But the next day,
when he repeated his exhortations, " he perceived
with sorrow that his words excited derision, and at
last they openly laughed him to scorn." Not dis-
couraged, however, at this rebuff, he indefatigably
visited the Indians in their huts and made them
the subjects of personal exhortations. Amid
mental suffering, while struggling with outward
distress and famine, he persevered in his efforts,
traveling on foot from one Indian town to another,
as he had neither the means to keep a horse nor
hire a boat, suffering from heat and fatigue, and
often denied even the poor shelter of an Indian
hut for refreshments and rest.

* Mr. Isaac Huntings of Pine Plains, in a contribution to The Dutch-
ess Farmer^ under date of April la, 1878, says, this word, which he
spells Che-ko-me-ko, with the accent on the last syllable, means '^ Little
Mountain" — *' one of the range of high hills three miles south of the
villaG;e of Pine Plains, the one whose high point terminates so abruptly to
the west in the Sterrick Valley, " which Loskiel calls **Stissik mountain.'*
We have adopted the orthography in general use among authors. Mr.
Lossing, the historian, says, on the authority of Aunt Eunice Maweehu,
the word is more correctly pronounced with the accent on the second


At length his zeal and devotion, which gradually
won the confidence and respect of the Indians,
was rewarded by the conversion of Tschoop, " the
greatest drunkard and the most outrageous villain
among them," who asked the missionary, says
Loskiel, " what effects the blood of the Son of
God, slain on the cross, could produce in the heart
of man." Shabash was soon after awakened,
"and the labor of the Holy Spirit became remark-
ably evident in the hearts of these two savages.
Their eye? overflowed with tears, whenever Brother
Rauch described, to them the sufferings and death
of our Redeemer. They often lamented their
former blindness in worshiping idols." These
conversions aroused the neighboring Christians,
particularly the inhabitants of Rhinebeck, who
became eager to hear the gospel, and desired the
missionary to preach to them in a barn. Many,
says Loskiel, received an abiding blessing. The
change which took place in the heart and conduct
of Tschoop was very striking; for he had been
distinguished in all parties met for diversion as
the most outrageous, and had even made himself
a cripple by debauchery.

But now, says Rev. Sheldon Davis, in his S/ie-
komeko* many of the white settlers, who, while
they corrupted, abused and vilified the Indians,
lived upon their vices, and made large gains, es-
pecially by their drunkenness, conceived that their
interests would be injured by the success of the
missionary. They therefore stirred up the more
vicious Indians, and raised a persecution against
him, and even instigated them to threaten his life
if he did not leave the place. Even Tschoop and
Shabash were filled with mistrust, and became
disaffected towards him. The former even sought
an opportunity to shoot him, says Loskiel; and
the latter, though he did not seek his life, avoided
him everywhere. Once, he adds, an Indian ran
after him with a hatchet, and would doubtless have
killed him, had he not stumbled and fallen into
the water. Thus not only contempt, mockery and
insults were, as he expressed it, his daily bread,
but several white people even sought an occasion
to beat and abuse him, and some threatened to
hang him in the woods.

In the midst of these bitter trials he writes :
"Yet I will continue to preach the death of the

* This is the title of a pamphlet published at Foughkeepsie, in May,
1858, by Rev. Sheldon Davis, an Episcopal clergyman, then resident at
Pleasant Valley. As early as 1850, Mr. Davis' attention was called to
the existence of certain memorials of the Moravian missions in this
countyf and he first directed the attention of the public and the Moravian
Church to the condition of these mission sites in this State and Connecti-

Lord Jesus, for my soul hungers and thirsts after
the salvation of these heathen. To gather souls
for Him, is the chief desire of my heart, and I
proceed upon the word of my I.,ord in spite of the
combined force of the enemy; for no gate of Hell
is so well secured as to resist the power of Christ
to burst it open." Nevertheless, he thought it
advisable to depart for a while ; and he sought and
found refuge with a German settler named John
Rau, (now spelled Rowe,) a farmer living two
miles east of Shekomeko, and whose sons Matthias
and Philip are the more immediate ancestors of
the Rowes now living in and about Pine Plains.
Mr. Rau was friendly to the cause of Christiani-
ty and to the missionary ; but endeavored to dis-
suade him from the attempt to Christianize "a set
of savages, more like incarnate devils than human
beings," as he regarded the objects of Mr. Rauch's
labors. However the missionary was not to be
diverted from his purpose, which was to pursue
his higher calUng as opportunity offered, while
supporting himself by the labor of his hands and
by applying the httle skill he possessed in the use
of medicines. Admiring his zeal, Mr. Rau offered
him a home, on condition that he instruct his chil-
dren, for, added he, " we white people are as wicked
and ignorant as the heathen." He was ever after
the firm friend of the faithful missionary, and
aided and defended him and those subsequently
associated with him through all the persecutions
which ultimately drove them from the colony and
compelled them to abandon the mission.

During all these trials, the good missionary fol-
lowed his converts " with patierice and much love,
praying for them, and sowing the word of God in
tears." His courage, prudence, meekness and per-
severance gradually restored the confidence of the
Indians, with whom he spent much |ime in their
huts, ate and drank with them, and even slept
among them with the greatest composure. This
latter circumstance particularly impressed them, es-
pecially Tschoop, who remarked to himself: " This
man cannot be a bad man, he fears no evil, not
even from us, who are so savage, but sleeps
comfortably, and places his life in our hands."
Tschoop was the first reclaimed, and Shabash soon
followed; and notwithstanding the base efforts
made to seduce them, they persevered in the course
of rectitude. Such was the success of the mission-
ary's labors, that many Indians, not only in Sl^ko-
meko, but also in Wechquadnach, Pachgatgoch
and other neighboring towns, "were powerfully
convinced of the truth of the gospel."



In June, 1741, Ranch visited the brethren in
Bethlehem, and returned in company with Bishop
David Nitschman, the companion and co-laborer
of Count Zinzendorf, who, on his return, gave a
favorable report of what he had seen in Shekomeko.
In October, 1741, Gottlob Buttner, Christopher
Pyrlseus and William Zander arrived from Europe
to assist in the missions of the society, and in Jan-
uary, 1742, Biittner, a native of Silesia, and a weaver
by trade, by appointment of Count Zinzendorf, who
arrived in Pennsylvania in the latter part of 1741,
visited Shekomeko, to invite Rauch to a synod of
of the brethren of Oley, Pennsylvania. "The
gentle and laborious Biittner, "a martyr to the
blessed work upon which he then entered," "whose
grave at Shekomeko," says Davis, "has called up
and preserved the memory of this noble effort of
the Moravians, and whose brief history is of the
greatest interest in connection with this mission,"
spent ten days with Rauch, and first preached
to the Indians of Shekomeko, January 14, 1742.

January 22, 1742, Rauch and Biittner left She-
komeko to attend the synod at Oley. They were
accompanied by three Indian converts, Shabash,
Seim and Kiop. They traveled on foot, and, being
in the company of Indians, "were refused admit-
tance at some inns,'' while at others, they were
" not only laughed at, but their bills were purposely
overcharged." They reached Oley February 9th,
and on the i ith, Rauch and Biittner were ordained
deacons by Bishops Nitschman and Zinzendorf.
After this ceremony, Rauch baptized the three In-
dians who accompanied him, calling them respec-
tively Abraham, -Isaac and Jacob. These were
the first fruits of the Moravian missions in North
America. Tschoop was too lame to undertake so
long a journey at that time.

Rauch and the three Indians soon after returned
to Shekomeko, where, on the i6th of April follow-
ing, the first sacramental ceremony was performed,
and Tschoop was baptized, receiving the christian
name of John. "This man," says Loskiel, "who
formerly looked more like a wild bear than a hu-
man creature, was now transformed into a lamb,
and whoever beheld him, was amazed at so evident
a proof of the powerful efficacy of the word and
sacrament of the Lord." He, as well as Abraham
and Isaac, and the wife of Abraham, with others
to the number of eighteen, fell a victim to the small-
pox, which prevailed among the Indians in 1746,
first at Bethlehem and then at Gnadenhwetten. He
died at Bethlehem, August 27, 1746, andlies buried
there with his Indian brethren.

The wonderful change which had taken place in
these four baptized Indians, whose countenances,
says Loskiel, as compared with the unbelieving
Indians, were so different, as to be remarked by
all who saw them, awakened the attention of oth-
ers, who flocked to Shekomeko, from a distance of
twenty-five to thirty miles around.

In the summer of 1 7 42, Rauch was visited at
Shekomeko by the distinguished Count Zinzendorf,
his daughter Benigna, said to be beautiful and in-
teresting, and Anthony Seyffart. This was an
event which adds no little interest to the associa-
tions which cluster around Shekomeko. They left
Bethlehem on the 21st of August, and crossed the
country to Esopus, (Kingston,) where they were
joined by another party of brethren from New
York. They arrived at Shekomeko on the 27th,
" after passing through dreadful wildernesses,
woods and swamps, on which they suffered much
hardship." The missionary received them into
his hut with unexpressible joy, and the follow-
ing day lodged them in a bark cottage, erected
for them, which the Count afterwards declared
was "the most agreeable dwelling he had ever

During the Count's stay he baptized six Indians,
named Kaupaas, Kermelok, Herries, and the wives
of Shabash, Seim and Herries. To the men he
gave the baptismal names of Timothy, Jonah and
Thomas; and to the women, Sarah, Rebecca and
Esther. These six, together with the four previ-
ously baptized, he formed the same day into a
Christian congregation — the first congregation of
Indians established by the Moravians in North
America. The "four firstlings were appointed
assistants, and blessed for their office with impo-
sition of hands ;" because, says the eighth article
drawn up for their guidance, " a peculiar power of
grace and spirit evidently rests upon them." John
( Tschoop) was appointed Indian teacher and inter-
preter; Abraham, (6'-4ffl^aj/4,) elder; Jacob, {Kiop,)
exhorter; and Isaac, {Seim,) servant.

The Count took an affectionate leave of Rauch
and the Indians at Shekomeko, Sept. 4, 1742, and
set out for Bethlehem, accompanied by some un-
baptized Indians ; two of whom, having answered
satisfactonly several questions put to them in the
presence of the whole congregation, were baptized
by the Count and the missionary Biittner, and named
David and Joshua. They were the first Indians
baptized in Bethlehem. David, as well as Thomas,
before referred to, were among the small-pox vic-
tims of 1746.



Eiittner, who has been called the Luther of the
Shekomeko mission, spent some time after his
ordination at Bethlehem and its vicinity, preaching
and searching for a wife, whom he found in the
person of Margaretta, third daughter of John
Bechtel, of Germantown. With his wife, to whom
he was married by Count Zinzendorf, Sept 14,
1742, he rejoined Ranch at Shekomeko, Oct. i,
1742 ; and the two preached with unanimity and
zeal, either in English or Dutch; while John,
Jonathan and other baptized Indians interpreted
and confirmed their words, both in public and in
private, with great energy. The Indians from the
neighboring towns made frequent visits to Sheko-
meko, and many "who had formerly Hved like
wild beasts, worshiping idols, bloody-minded, and
eagerly pursuing all manner of vices and abomina-
tions," flocked to hear the gospel. Towards the
close of the year, Martin Mack and his wife arrived
at Shekomeko to engage in missionary labors ; and
Rauch went on a visit to Bethlehem. Such was
the success which rewarded their zeal, that at the
close of the year 1742, the number of baptized In-
dians in Shekomeko was thirty-one — all Mahicans.

December 6, 1 7 42, a burying ground for the use
of the baptized Indians was laid out, and in it the
lamented Biittner was afterwards buried. The first
interment in it was that of a child named Lazara.

The spiritual harvest at Shekomeko demanded
more laborers. Count Zinzendorf returned to
Europe in the beginning of the year 1743; but
previous to his departure sent Joseph Shaw to
Shekomeko, as schoolmaster to the Indian chil-

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 6 of 125)