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.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Legend Has It That Nimham, A Wappinger Chief and American Revolutionary War Hero, Was Buried in Pelham on Rodman's Neck

In the early to mid-19th century, there were a number of Native American burial mounds located near the entrance to Rodman's Neck (also known as Pelham Neck) near the water's edge on property once owned by George Rapelje. According to legend, two of the largest mounds contained the remains of Anhook and Nimham. Anhook supposedly was the Native American who murdered Ann Hutchinson and members of her family in 1643. Nimham was a Wappinger chief about whom much is known.

This story likely is fanciful -- not factual. There clearly were Native American burial mounds at the specified location that were excavated before the late 1840s. It seems highly unlikely, however, that those mounds contained the remains of Anhook or Nimham. Nevertheless, today's Historic Pelham Blog posting includes an account published in 1848 describing the legend as well as a later account published in 1912 mentioning the legend and providing a biography of Wappinger Chief Daniel Nimham.

In 1848, Robert Bolton, Jr. of Pelham published his two-volume work entitled "A History Of The County Of Westchester From Its First Settlement To The Present Time". Volume I included a chapter on the history of Pelham (pp. 513-59). In that chapter, Bolton related the legend of the burials of Anhook and Nimham:

"Near the entrance of Pelham neck, is situated the favorite burying ground of the river tribes, to which the Indians brought their dead even from Horseneck, Connecticut, for interment. Numerous mounds are still visible near the water's edge, on the property of the late George Rapelje. Two of the largest mounds are pointed out as the sepulchres of the Siwanoys sachems, Ann-hoock and Nimham. The former was opened some years since, and found to contain a large sized skeleton, by the side of which, lay the stone axe and flint spear head of the tenant of the grave. We have examined several mounds near the water's edge; one of these held the remains of an Indian boy about 12 years old, in a sitting position, together with a beautiful specimen of native pottery formed by the hand alone, rudely ornamented with zigzag lines; in this we discovered an arrow head and the bones of a small animal. This practice of burying their favorite utensils and weapons with the deceased, is known to be an ancient Indian custom. Near the residence of Mrs. King, the remains of an Indian were found in a perfect state of preservation with a gun by his side."

Source: Bolton, Jr., Robert, A History Of The County Of Westchester From Its FirstSettlement To The Present Time, Vol. I, p. 517 (NY, NY: Alexander Gould 1848).

In 1912, the Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology published Volume 3 of the Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. In it there appeared a biography of Daniel Nimham indicating that he likely was the Wappinger Chief associated with the legend related by Robert Bolton more than sixty years earlier. The biographical entry reads as follows:

""Nimham, Daniel. A Wappinger chief, noted not only for his active participation in the wars of 1746 and 1754, but especially for his efforts to recover for his tribe the lands lying along the E. side of Hudson r. that had been taken from it while aiding the English. The earliest recorded notice of him is Oct. 13, 1730, the date of an affidavit in which it is stated that the deponent was 'a River Indian of the tribe of the Wappinoes' (Ruttenber, Tribes Hudson R., 51, 1872). Nimham was made chief sachem in 1740; his residence after 1746 was at Westenhuck. In 1755, with most of his fighting men, he entered the English service under Sir William Johnson, and about 1762, in company with some Mohegan chiefs of Connecticut, went to England on a mission regarding their land claims. They received a favorable hearing, and on their return to America their claims were brought into court, but were lost to sight during the Revolution. Nimham was killed at the battle of Kingsbridge, N. Y., Aug. 31, 1778, while fighting bravely in the cause of the Americans. Near the entrance to Pelham's Neck, Westchester co., N. Y., were, according to Ruttenber (op. cit., 81), two large mounds, pointed out as the sepulchers of Ann-Hoock and Nimham. The name of Daniel Nimham, as well as those of Aaron, John, and Isaac Nimham appear in the rolls of New York men enlisted in the service of the Revolution. As Indians are included in the list, Daniel Nimham is doubtless the subject of this sketch. (C. T.)"

Source: Hodge, Frederick Webb, ed., Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico, Vol. 3, pp. 71-72 (Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology 1912).

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At 12:30 PM, Anonymous Michael Keropian said...

Thank you for adding some information about the burial mounds in Pelham. There is some information that should be corrected. First Bolton's mention of Nimham being buried in Pelham may relate to Daniel Nimham's (1726-1778) father refered to as "Old Nimham". Or possibly Daniel's brother " One Shake" who was reportedly sick in 1762. Also mentioned was "Mohegan" he likely means Mohican or Mahican (Dt) from the northwest CT.


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