Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The “Grey Mare” And “Mishow” Boulders -- Part of Pelham's Native American Past

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The Native Americans who populated the Pelhams reportedly “paid just respect” to a massive boulder known as the “Grey Mare”. This gigantic rock sat “nearly opposite” what Robert Bolton referred to in his History of Westchester County as the “Haunted Cedar Knoll” located directly opposite The Bolton Priory across Shore Road. It sat on the point of what once was Hunter’s Island on the island’s northwestern shore. It was a huge moss-covered boulder located near another large boulder that reportedly also was important to the Native Americans. That boulder was known as “Mishow”. Hunter’s Island, of course, is now part of the Orchard Beach complex after large sections of the bay adjacent to the island were filled in the 1930s to make the island part of the mainland.

Photo of Grey Mare Taken on August 9, 1925.
Photo Courtesy of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham.

The Native Americans reportedly believed that their God or guardian intentionally placed the Grey Mare at that spot. In 1881, Westchester historian Robert Bolton, Jr. wrote about the Grey Mare, saying:

“Nearly opposite the Knoll on a point of Hunter’s Island is located a mossy rock, or boulder stone, called the “Grey Mare.” To this piece of rude natural sculpture, the Indians invariably paid just respect, believing it to have been placed there by the direct interposition of their God or guardian Manito, for their especial benefit or favor. These rolled stones he called Shingaba-wossins—or in general phrase Muz-in-in-a-wun, or images.” Id. at pp. 37-38.

According to the City of New York Parks & Recreation Department, “[t]he entrance to the Kazimiroff Nature Trail and the Northwestern Shore of Hunter Island, with the Gray Mare and Mishow boulders, are believed to have been two very important Siwanoy ritual sites.” See City of New York Parks & Recreation Department, “Siwanoy Trail Pelham Bay Park” Historic Marker (Dec. 2001).

The boulders once were very prominent objects on the shoreline of Hunter's Island. Just the crown of the Mishow boulder is visible today. The fact that any of the boulder remains visible is due solely to the Herculean efforts of Dr. Theodore Kazimiroff, a local historian in the Bronx for many years. According to one account:

"Landfill operations, begun in 1936 to form Orchard Beach, encroached on Hunter Island, joined it to the mainland, and separated Mishow from the Sound by a wide promenade. The boulder was almost covered by sand, dirt and, finally, topsoil . . . but Dr. Kazimiroff, official Bronx Historian, persuaded the contractors to leave a portion of the rock exposed. As a result, the crown of Mishow is still visible. No longer a dominant feature on the shoreline, Mishow is now just an inconspicuous rock, set in the lawn near the Eastern end of Orchard Beach, and scarcely a soul knows of its past importance. Perhaps when the Summertime crowds have departed and Indian summer draws on, wraiths of the long gone Siwanoys find their way to Mishow and mourn its vanished prominence."

Source: McNamara, John, The Bronx in History: Mishow Rock, Shrine of Siwanoys, Saved from Burial by Historian, Bronx Press-Review, Oct. 5, 1960.

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At 9:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your in depth research of the Siwanoy. I have been trying to learn more about the indigenous people of my native land. I grew up in Scarsdale and now live in New Rochelle. I think it's imperative to learn about the struggles of Native Americans in order to make America a democratic place. I've been hiking the Hunter's Island trails hoping to get a look at the sacred boulders. Could you show me where the Mishow boulder pokes out of the ground?

Thank You
Mike Lamb

At 6:28 PM, Blogger GLRosquet said...

I took photos of the Grey Mare boulder & also of possibly the Mishow boulder in 1980. They can be seen at:


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