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.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

More 17th Century References to Native Americans in the Manor of Pelham

I recently purchased another in the "New York Historical Manuscripts Series" -- a copy of  "THE ANDROS PAPERS 1674-1676."  (I also acquired copies of the Provincial Governors papers for the periods 1677-78, and 1679-80.)  There are a large number of references to John Pell in Governor Andros's papers including many during the three-year period beginning in 1674 -- only four years after John Pell arrived in the Manor of Pelham and took control of the lands he inherited from his uncle, Thomas Pell.  

Among the John Pell references in the Andros Papers 1674-1676 are a few that shed light on the Native Americans who continued to live on, or frequent, Manor of Pelham lands twenty-two years after Thomas Pell acquired those lands from Native Americans on June 27, 1654.  These 17th Century references say nothing of "Siwanoys" on those lands.  Rather, once again, these references indicate that Wiechquaeskecks were there.  (I have written before and have questioned whether a Native American group properly known as "Siwanoys" actually lived on Pell's lands or even existed.  See, e.g., Wed. Jan. 29, 2014:  There Were No Native Americans Known as Siwanoys.)  

Dr. Paul Otto in in his book "The Dutch-Munsee Encounter in America:  The Struggle for Sovereignty" (Berghahn Books, 2006) notes that Munsee-speaking Native Americans to whom experts refer today as "Munsees" did not group themselves as a nation, a tribe or even on the basis of small-scale villages.  Rather, “their sociopolitical groups can be defined in a number of levels including villages, districts and maximal groups.”  Id. at p. 4.  

The Munsees, according to Dr. Otto, organized themselves most commonly in villages and related territories.  He notes, however, that villages or even groups of villages also “claimed sovereignty over larger territories such as tracts and districts.”  Id., p. 21, n.7.   Such local associations could form into what Otto labels as “maximal groups” when the need for “broad cooperation or consultation” arose.  Id., p. 4.  Significantly for present purposes, the Munsees “used unique names to identify these various groupings (usually at the village level or close to it) by which the Dutch knew them and recorded in their observations.” These included a host of groupings among which were the Wiechqueaskecks.  Id., pp. 4-5.  Early Dutch and English records indicate that the Munsee band or group known as Wiechquaeskecks ranged in an area on the mainland north of Manhattan from the Hudson River to the Long Island Sound, well north toward today’s Connecticut border and, perhaps, a little beyond.  See id., p. 5.   The area included most, if not all, of the lands acquired by Thomas Pell in 1654.

The Andros Papers contain two important references to Native Americans living on, or using, the land owned by John Pell (much of which later became the Town of Pelham).  The only Native Americans identified in those papers as associated in any way with Pell's lands were "Wickers Creek" Indians, a corruption of the term Wiechquaeskecks widely recognized as one of the more than fifty known spellings intended to refer to this group of Native Americans.  

Below are transcriptions of several of the John Pell references included within "THE ANDROS PAPERS 1674-1676,"  together with a couple of related entries (as well as my commentary addressing the significance of each).  

Minutes of a March 29, 1676 Meeting with Native Americans

On March 27, 1676, New York Provincial authorities at the foot of Manhattan sent word to a group of "Indyans of Wickerscreeke" likely located north of Manhattan on the mainland near hell Gate and demanded a meeting.  

At the time, King Philip's War, known variously as the First Indian War, Metacom's War, Metacomet's War, or Metacomet's Rebellion, was raging in New England.  In the space of little more than a year during King Philip's War, twelve English settlements were destroyed and others were badly damaged.  The New York Provincial authorities were distrustful of the local Native Americans and any hint that they might be gathering to conspire against the New York region or planning to join with Native Americans to the north in support of Metacomet and his bands.  Governor Andros had received a letter " intimating a mistrust of" the local Wiechquaeskecks.  Due, in part, to fears and distrust, on March 27, 1676, the authorities sent word to the Wiechquaeskecks demanding an audience with their representatives.  

Portrait of King Philip by Paul Revere,
Illustration from the 1772 Edition of Benjamin Church's
"The Entertaining History of King Philip's War."
Source:  Wikimedia Commons.

Two days later on March 29, 1676, a pair of representatives ('Sachems") of the Wiechquaeskecks named Wissakano and Ammone arrived for the requested meeting with four representatives of the Provincial Government and an interpreter.  Governor Andros was not present for the meeting.  

As the minutes make clear, the New York Provincial authorities, through the interpreter, conveyed to the two Sachems their concerns that the Wiechquaeskecks might join forces with Native Americans to the north allied with the Native American named Metacomet who was known to the English as "King Philip" (i.e., the "North Indyans") or others "not friends to this Government under whose protection they desire to live."  

The Wiechquaeskeck Sachems denied the accusations and promised their best behavior.  They further insisted on having a pass (a "Note") to allow them to move about freely as long as they behaved themselves "as they ought."  The New York authorities promised such a Note to the Wiechquaeskecks.  Significantly, the Sachems also told the authorities that half of their corn remained on John Pell's land and they wished permission to send some young men in canoes to retrieve the corn.  Given that it was March, this seems to have been a stock of stored corn that the Native Americans wished freedom to travel to the northeast to retrieve from Pell's land.  The Sachems also told the authorities that had left a half dozen "old men, women, and boyes" in Greenwich whom they wished to "fetch."  The authorities told them that they would raise these issues with Governor Andros whose return was expected at any time.  

The Sachems replied that they would stay until Andros's return to get answers.  The authorities granted them permission to travel to the baker, "Thomas Laurens," on Pearl Street to stay overnight to await the return of Governor Andros for answers to their requests.  [NOTE:  I find this reference particularly fascinating and need to follow up on it.  Among the English witnesses who signed Thomas Pell's June 27, 1654 deed entered into with Native Americans -- whom I long have suspected were Wiechquaeskecks -- was Thomas Lawrence, who could be this "Thomas Laurens" with whom the Native Americans stayed overnight on March 29, 1676.  There were, however, at least two men in the region at the time known by similar names.]  

As the meeting ended, the New York authorities presented each of the Sachems with a coat because the Sachems had been so "friendly" and had come so willingly and so soon after the New York authorities had sent for them.  Though the Sachems professed that no such gifts were necessary, they happily accepted the gifts, according to the minutes.  

Below is a complete transcription of the minutes of the March 29, 1676 meeting.



Mar:  29:  1676.

C. Brockholes
Mr. Mayor
Mr. Philips.
The Secr.

The Indyans of Wickerscreeke having beene sent to the 27th Inst. came now this day here.  Their names are Wissakano and Ammone the 2 Sachems sent for to come.  The occasion of their sending for was Upon a Letter from the Go:  intimating a mistrust of them by reports above.

Mr. Sam:  Edsall Interpreter.

The matter being told them by the Interpreter They deny to have had any thoughts of joyning or treating with North Indyans or others not friends to this Government, under whose protection they desire to live, according to their Engagements to the Go.

They desire as before from Mr. Philips, to have leave to come upon this Island and hereabout oystering.  

They are promist to have a Note to certify that they have liberty behaving themselves as they ought.  

They desire liberty to send some young men with Canooes to Mr. Pell's for the Remainder of their Corne, (having had but one half from thence already) and to fetch about half a dozen old men, women, and boyes, from Greenwich that they left behind there.  [Page 348 / Page 349]

They are told, wee shall speake to the Governor about it, but referre it to the Go, who was daily expect.

They say they shall stay till then, when they will come againe.

Upon their friendly Comport and for that they came so willingly being sent for, they are presented with 2 Coats for the 2 sachems.

They pretend not to expect or deserve them, their hearts being good without them, but they being desired to accept of them for that reason, receive them.

They are appointed to goe to Thomas Laurens the baker in Pearl street to stay all night.

[ENDORSED:]  Wickerscreeke Indyans at Mr. Philips.

Mar. 29, 1676."

Source:  Christoph, Peter R. & Christoph, Florence A., eds., The Andros Papers 1674-1676 - Files of the Provincial Secretary of New York During the Administration of Governor Sir Edmund Andros 1674-1680, pp. 348-49 (Syracuse, NY:  Syracuse University Press, 1989) (The New York Historical Manuscript Series Volumes XXIV-XXV; with translations from the Dutch by Charles T. Gehring).

Minutes of What Possibly May be the Follow-up Meeting After the Meeting of the Representatives of Governor Edmund Andros with the Two Wiechquaeskeck Sachems

The records among the Andros Papers 1674-1676 suggest that the follow-up meeting with the two 
Wiechquaeskeck Sachems named Wissakano and Ammone did not occur the next day or so as originally suggested.  Rather, it seems that the two Sachems had to return sixteen days later on April 14, 1676 to meet with Provincial Governor Andros.  

The minutes of that meeting indicate that the Wiechquaeskeck Sachems asked the Governor for news of the "Indyans" to the north as far as Albany (given the events of King Philip's War underway at the time).  In effect, the Governor responded that when he left Albany, all was "well there."  

This time the Sachems complained that if the Wiechquaeskecks were barred from ranging freely from upper Manhattan to Stamford and, instead, were ordered to remain near their winter grounds at Hell Gate, they would be so near the "Christian plantacions" that the cattle and horses of those settlers would always be trespassing on their planting lands.  

The Governor answered that their complaint was not an issue because if they experienced such a circumstance and "receive[d] injury" as a result, they need only complain to authorities and then "bee relieved."  The Governor further offered to help the Wiechquaeskecks find their own peninsula (i.e., "Necke") on the mainland or on Long Island on which to reside and plant their crops.  

The minutes suggest that the Sachems neither accepted nor rejected the offer ("They pause upon it").  Instead they expressed a desire for the Wiechquaeskecks to travel to Stamford and join with other Native Americans and also to be permitted "to plant upon a Neck at Wickerscreeke together" -- likely Pelham Neck on John Pell's land where numerous records indicate the Wiechquaeskecks had a corn planting ground.  

Additionally, the Sachems asked for permission for their group to travel to Stamford "to fetch some Corne from Stamford that they left."  Although the minutes are ambiguous, they suggest that this request was denied on the grounds that the corn in Stamford did not belong to the Wiechquaeskecks.  Paradoxically, however, the Governor and his aides offered to "buy" the corn stored in Stamford in what appears to be an effort to throw a little money at the "problem."  Governor Andros and his aides also offered the Sachems the freedom to harvest oysters and to fish "any where here about."  

The minutes of the meeting end with a notation that the two Wiechquaeskeck Sachems "will come againe 12 days hence."

A transcription of the minutes of the April 14, 1676 meeting appears immediately below.



Apr. 14, 1676

There appeared the two Sachems of the Wicerscreeke Indyans that were here last in the Go:  absence.

They desire to know of the Go:  how matters above at Alb:  are with the Indyans, for that they have had no Newes of it.

The Go:  tells them that when hee came up hee found the Maques returned from following the North Indyans, that the Mahicanders were fled, but hee sent to them to come backe, and that one of the Mahicanders prisoners being taken by the Maques hee demanded him and being delivered sett him free, that some of them were come backe upon the Go:  promising the protection if they should come, and if any of them wanted land that hee would supply them.

That hee left all well there.  

That the Go:  comming at the Sopez, the Sachemacks were with him and all things were well there also.  And that some of them desiring land by the redout Creek, the Go:  consented to it.  

They pretend they would come upon this Island or any where neare, but being neare the Christian plantacions their Cattle and horses would allwayes bee trespassing upon them.  

Its answered if they receive Injury they may complaine and then bee relieved.  They are offered to find out some Necke easy to serve either upon this or Long Island.  [Page 352 / Page 353]

They pause upon it; After desire to joyne with the Stamford Indyans and to plant upon a Neck at Wickerscreeke together, and that they may have liberty to fetch some Corne from Stamford that they lett.  

Its a fallacy, and no way belongs to them.  They are offred all freedome of fishing or Oystering any where here about.  

Their Corne at Stamford is offer'd to be bought.  They will come againe 12 days hence.

[ENDORSED]  April 14, 1676.
                           Some Wickerscreeke Indyans
                           appear before the Go:"

Source:  Christoph, Peter R. & Christoph, Florence A., eds., The Andros Papers 1674-1676 - Files of the Provincial Secretary of New York During the Administration of Governor Sir Edmund Andros 1674-1680, pp. 352-53 (Syracuse, NY:  Syracuse University Press, 1989) (The New York Historical Manuscript Series Volumes XXIV-XXV; with translations from the Dutch by Charles T. Gehring).

Minutes of What Seems to Have Been the Second Follow-up Meeting After the March 29 Meeting of the Representatives of Governor Edmund Andros with the Two Wiechquaeskeck Sachems

The meeting that was supposed to happen "12 days hence" following the April 14, 1676 meeting with the Wiechquaeskeck Sachems seems to have occurred on April 27, 1676.  That meeting, however, was a bigger regional meeting with Native American representatives from the Wiechquaeskeck region as well as from Connecticut and Long Island.  

The Native Americans brought gifts of deer skins, beaver pelts and a bear skin.  They declared themselves to be "good friends" and professed an intent to continue the friendship.  Governor Andros accepted the gifts, and responded by giving coats to the Sachem representing the Wiechquaeskecks named Wessecanoe as well as two other Native American "cheifes" from "Stratford River."  The Governor further promised protection to the Native Americans within his jurisdiction, but not outside it.  He further confirmed that he had found the Wiechquaeskecks to be "good Indyans" and declared that "they may have all friendship and freedome here, so long as they behave themselves well."  

A transcription of the minutes of the April 27, 1676 meeting appears immediately below.



Apr. 27, 1676.


All of the Councell.
The Mayor and some of the Aldermen
and others of which 2 Justices.

About 50)

Severall Indyans appeared before the Governor in the Fort;

They say they belong to a place called Wayattano, at the head of Stratford River, with them were some of Wickerscreeke and some Stamford Indyans.  The sagamore of Wickerscreeke (Wessecanoe) came with them.

They declare themselves to bee good friends and desire to continue so and make a present of about ten deerskins, a beareskin and 4 small beavers, given at three times repeating their desire of friendship; 

The Governor accepts of it, and promises protection to them within within this Government but will not undertake anything without; 

That hee had heard from the wickerscreeke Indyans that they are good Indyans, and now findes them so, and they may have all friendship and freedome here, so long as they behave themselves well.

The Governor presents them with three Duffells Coates, one to the Wickerscreek sachem, the other two to the two cheife from Stratford river.


Apr. 27. 1676.
At a Meeting of Indyans in the Fort.
Stratford River and Wickerscreeke."

Source:  Christoph, Peter R. & Christoph, Florence A., eds., The Andros Papers 1674-1676 - Files of the Provincial Secretary of New York During the Administration of Governor Sir Edmund Andros 1674-1680, p. 358 (Syracuse, NY:  Syracuse University Press, 1989) (The New York Historical Manuscript Series Volumes XXIV-XXV; with translations from the Dutch by Charles T. Gehring).

Undated (But Roughly November 1675) Petition Referencing Native Americans on John Pell's Lands

There is a reference to the "Indians at Mr. Pells Plantation" in what might, at first blush, seem to be an unrelated petition filed on behalf of whalers operating out of Easthampton on Long Island.   Once again, the reference is to efforts, this time in the autumn of 1675, to restrict the movement of Native Americans north of Manhattan out of fears that they might conspire with other Native Americans during King Philip's War which was raging at the time.  

Here is a little background.  In the spring of 1675, a group of Easthampton sailors put together a company of men and two whaling vessels to engage in the whaling trade.  While assembling the crews for the vessels, they contracted with twelve Native Americans to serve on their crews and paid them a modest upfront payment to seal the agreements.  

In the meantime, King Philip's War began.  The rumor mill churned as settlements in the region and in parts of New England were destroyed.  As distrust of local Native Americans grew and fear of Native American conspiracies to join with King Philip in the slaughter of settlers grew, at least one order was entered directing the Wiechquaeskecks on John Pell's land in Pelham to remove to their usual winter quarters near Hell Gate.  See Hough, Franklin B., ed., A NARRATIVE OF THE CAUSES WHICH LED TO PHILIP'S INDIAN WAR, OF 1675 AND 1676, BY JOHN EASTON, OF RHODE ISLAND. WITH OTHER DOCUMENTS CONCERNING THIS EVEN IN THE OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE OF NEW YORK. PREPARED FROM THE ORIGINALS, WITH AN INTRODUCTION AND NOTES, pp. 165-66, 169-70 (Albany, NY: J. Munsell 1858) (1676 references to the “Application of Mr. John Pell . . . concerning the Indyans living upon his Land at Anne Hookes Neck” and “The Wyckerscreeke Indyans having made Suite to the Governor that the Restraint of their going into and passing to and fro in ye Sound in Canooes may be taken off, in regard to their planting on Mr. Pells Land at Anne Hoockes Neck or ye Islands adjacent”). See also id., pp. 77-78 (“and the next Morning went myselfe in my Pinnace as farre as Mr. Pells, to the Indyans there”).  Id., pp. 169-70.  See id., pp. 92-95. 

According to the Easthampton whalers, although the order seemed to be limited to Native Americans on John Pell's plantation, some of the Native Americans with whom they had contracted to serve on their whaling crews, were using the order and a "pretence of zeale in fulfilling" the order as an excuse to claim that they could not serve on the whaling vessels -- in effect, to back out of their contracts.  The petitioners noted that the whaling season was about to begin and that they would go "broke" without full crews to man their vessels.  They sought clarification that the Native Americans with whom they had contracted could serve.

As might be expected, the authorities granted the petition.  That petition is transcribed in full immediately below.



To the Honorable Edmond Andross Esquire Generall of all his Royall Highnes his Teritories in America:  And Governor at New Yorke:  

The Humble Peticion of Jacob Schallenger, Stephen Hand, and James Soper, and others adjoyned with them in the whale Designe at Easthampton.  [Page 278 / Page 279]

Humbly Shewing to your honor that the last Spring your Peticioners appoynted or agreed to Joyne together in one entire Company for whaleing:  For the carrying on of which theire Designe they agreed together to Indent with 12 Indians to man=forth Your Peticioners two boats they prepared with all suitable Craft thereunto:  According whereunto, your Peticioners seeing the Indians Yearely imployed by other men both of theire own Towne, Southamption and elcewhere:  And knowing Nothing but that they might assume like liberty, and doe therein as themselves and others used to doe in former yeares, They hired, and Covenenated with 12 Indians, about June last, to goe to Sea in theire said boats with Craft this whale season soe Nigh at hand, upon terms which your Peticioners and the said Indians agreed on:  But it fell out soe that fowre of the said Indians (competent and experienced men) belonged to Shelter Island, whoe with the rest received of your Peticioners in part of theire hire or wages 25s a peece in hand at the time of the contract, as the Indians Custome is, and without which they would not engage themselves to goe to sea as aforesaid for your Peticioners:  After all which premises had passed your honors Order come downe to Eashampton quarters for winter though your peticioners understand it relates onely to the Indians at Mr. Pells Plantation:  And some of the Town of Easthampton wanting Indians to make up theire Crue for whaleing they take advantage of your honors said Order thereby to hinder your Peticioners of the said fower Shelter Island Indians, One of the Overseers being of the Company that would Soe hinder your Peticioners:  And Mr. Barker warned your Peticioners Not to entertaine the said fowre Indians without licence from your honor:  And although some of your Peticioners opposites in this matter of great weight to them seek to prevent your Peticioners from haveing those said fowre Indians under pretence of zeale in fulfilling your honors order, yet it is more than apparent that they endeavour to break your Peticioners Company in that maner that soe they themselves may have opertunity out of the other eight Easthampton Indians to supply theire owne wants.

The premises Considered, And for that your supplicants designe is utterly broke for this whale season if they cannot enjoy the help of the said fowre Indians, which will bee to theire great loss and disappoyntment:  Alsoe for that there is now noe hope of supply by home Indians, because all capable are by others already hired:  Alsoe It is hopefull in reason, that fowre poore knowne Indians belonging to a place soe  neere adjacent will not, nor can they doe much harme to the Towne if reall trouble should come, which is [Page 279 / Page 280] hopefull may not come, however not this winter season:  And alsoe for that your Supplicants are like to bee deprived of the pay before mentioned which they were necessarily exposed to imparte to the said Indians upon Indentment with them.  

Your Supplicants most humbly and Earnestly beseech hour honor to take this theire address and weighty concerne into your Serious Consideration, And of your goodnes grant liberty unto your Supplicants of the help of the said fowre Indians this Imediate ensueing whale=Season according to theire honest contract with them, And alsoe bee pleased to voutsafe your Supplicants an Order from you to that effect:  And your Most humbly devoted Supplicants as Duty bindes them shall ever pray for your honors happines etc.

[ENDORSED:]  1676
                             A peticon
                             From Easthmapton.

[IN PENCIL:]      Granted 18 Nov. 1675*  *It is not known when this note was added.

[NOTE:]              Granted
                            EAS *   *Note and initials are in the governor's hand."

Source:  Christoph, Peter R. & Christoph, Florence A., eds., The Andros Papers 1674-1676 - Files of the Provincial Secretary of New York During the Administration of Governor Sir Edmund Andros 1674-1680, pp. 278-80 (Syracuse, NY:  Syracuse University Press, 1989) (The New York Historical Manuscript Series Volumes XXIV-XXV; with translations from the Dutch by Charles T. Gehring).

*     *     *     *    *

I have written before of the many steps that were taken by New York authorities against local Native Americans at the time of King Philip's War.  For a few such examples, see:  

Thu., Apr. 26, 2007:  John Pell Obtains Permission to Allow Native Americans On His Land to Use Canoes in 1676.

Wed., Apr. 25, 2007:  1675 Order by Court of Assizes and Consequent Proclamation Ordering Native Americans to Remove from the Manor of Pelham.

Tue., Apr. 24, 2007:  John Pell Ordered Not To Sell Powder and Shot to Native Americans For a Time in 1675.

Mon., Apr. 23, 2007:  An Armed English Sloop Patrolled the Sound Near Native Americans Settled in the Manor of Pelham in 1675.

Fri., Apr. 20, 2007:  1675 Order by Governor's Council Directing John Pell to Take Daily Account of Indians on His Land.

Fri., Dec. 29, 2006:  Native Americans Ordered to Remove from the Manor of Pelham in 1675.

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