Seyseychkimus, The Native American "Chief" and Signer of 1649 Indian Deed Encompassing Pelham
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Who was Seyseychkimus?
Seyseychkimus was a Munsee who, specialists believe, first appeared in colonial records in 1637 with his name spelled as "Heyseys." He appeared as "one of two Mareychkewikingh (Marechkawieck) sachems in the July 16, 1637 sale of two islands in the Hell Gate between Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx (Book GG:28-29). The Marechkawieck inhabited the downtown Brooklyn area." Grumet, Robert Steven, "ON THE IDENTITY OF THE RECHGAWAWANCK" in The Bulletin and Journal of Archaeology for New York State, No. 83, p. 4 (Spring 1982).
Seyseychkimus was considered a "lower River Indian leader" who spoke the Munsee dialect, not the Mahican language. Grumet, Robert S., The Munsee Indians: A History, p. 296 - Notes to Page 14, n.16 (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009). According to Grumet, the Marechkawieck sachem who resided on Long Island in the Brooklyn area in about the mid-1630s sold all of his remaining Brooklyn lands to the Dutch in two separate deeds dated September 10, 1645 (a deed that later was canceled) and November 1, 1650. See supra, Grumet, ON THE IDENTITY OF THE RECHGAWAWANCK, p. 4.
Clearly Seyseychkimus was an important Munsee leader in the lower Hudson River area. He appears to have departed Brooklyn at about the time of the sale of his Brooklyn lands and next was located, apparently, in the Wiechquaeskeck region on the mainland northeast of Manhattan -- an area that included today's Town of Pelham. On July 14, 1649, he witnessed the Indian Deed that conveyed lands including today's Pelham and Northeast Bronx to the Dutch. (For a full transcription of a translation of that deed, see below.)
As further evidence of the prominence of Seyseychkimus as a Munsee leader in the region, only five days after witnessing the July 14, 1649 Indian Deed, Seyseychkimus "participated as Seysegeckkimus in the treaty that ended hostilities between the Dutch and unreconciled elements of the Wiechquaeskeck and Raritan groups who did not sign the August 30, 1645 treaty ending the Governor Kieft War." See supra, Grumet, ON THE IDENTITY OF THE RECHGAWAWANCK, p. 4 (citing "NYHM(4):607-609)"). Seyseychkimus was among the only representatives not assigned to a specific group at the time the treaty was executed. Although we will never know why, we can speculate that his recent move from the Marechkawieck section in Brooklyn to the Wiechquaeskeck region on the mainland northeast of Manhattan left his designation -- but not regional prominence -- somewhat in question.
By 1651 (three years before English settler Thomas Pell acquired much of the same lands conveyed to the Dutch on July 14, 1649), Seyseychkimus seems to have moved northward to, or to have asserted his influence as far north as, northwestern Connecticut. He "signed a deed to land in northwestern Connecticut as Sasskum on February 15, 1651 (Bolton 1848(1):392) and was mentioned as Sasse in an incomplete manuscript dated March 25, 1652 (NYCM(5):32)." See supra, Grumet, ON THE IDENTITY OF THE RECHGAWAWANCK, p. 4.
After analyzing the various deeds, the treaty, and the incomplete manuscript mentioning Seyseychkimus, Robert S. Grumet summarizes as follows:
"The collective weight of this documentation supports the identification of this man as a Marechkawieeck chief from Brooklyn who moved to the mainland east of the Hudson River following the sale of his land holdings on Long Island. These data would thus place both Sesekimu and Seyseychkimus in Westchester and Fairfield Counties." See supra, Grumet, ON THE IDENTITY OF THE RECHGAWAWANCK, p. 4.
The colonial documentation seems to provide a partial glimpse of the life of the Munsee leader of the lower Hudson River region known as Seyseychkimus. Seyseychkimus, a Marechkawieck sachem who resided on Long Island in the Brooklyn area in about the mid-1630s, apparently exercised influence over or served as a Munsee sachem representative in connection with lands extending from Brooklyn through today's Westchester and Fairfield Counties. For about a sixteen-year period from 1637 until 1652, Seyseychkimus participated in successive sales of lands located successively northeastward as local Native Americans slowly deeded their lands to Dutch and, later, English settlers. In at least one such instance he was designated as "chief" and also participated in an important treaty with the Dutch by which "unreconciled elements of the Wiechquaeskeck and Raritan groups who did not sign the August 30, 1645 treaty ending the Governor Kieft War" ended their hostilities with the Dutch.
Below are transcriptions of a wide variety of research items relating to the identity of, and the life of, Seyseychkimus. Each is followed by a citation to its source. Given that some materials are available only in print format, links are provided only when available. Research so far has revealed a variety of spellings of the name "Seyseychkimus." Those are listed immediately below, followed by some of the research on which this brief article is based.
ALTERNATIVE NAMES / SPELLINGS
* * * * *
Seyseychkimus was considered a "lower River Indian leader" who spoke the Munsee dialect, not the Mahican language. Grumet, Robert S., The Munsee Indians: A History, p. 296 - Notes to Page 14, n.16 (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009).
"Originally from Long Island, Seyseychkimus moved to Wiecquaesgeck and later farther upriver to Wappinger country after selling his lands in Brooklyn." Id.
"This brings us to the primary Haverstraw sachem and the problem of the identification of the Rechgawawanck sachem Sesekemu. A man named Sessikout was identified as the sachem of Haverstroo and the brother of an Esopus leader in a document dated March 15, 1664 (NYCD (13):363-364). If saccis was Sessikout, then he signed the January 30, 1658 sale of the Bayonne Peninsula as Saghkaw (Liber 1:34) and the May 19, 1671 conveyance of the Palisades to the south of Haverstraw, New York as Saghtow (Liber 1:115-116). He was far more recognizable as Sessikout when he appeared as the signatory Seskiguoy in the June 8, 1677 sale of land to the west of the Palisades (Liber 1:254(85-253)86). Next listed as Sakaghkemeck, 'Sachem of Averstraw' in the July 13, ,1683 conveyance of land directly south of the Hudson Highlands and the Catskill Mountains as Sackewagzein, 'Sachem of Heardstroo' (Liber N: folio 86-88:23). These documents strongly support the assertion that Sessikout was the most important Haverstraw sachem of the period. They themselves do not, however, establish that Sesekemu was Sessikout.
The most likely candidate for that role is a man name[d] Seyseychkimus. He first appeared as Heyseys, one of two Mareychkewikingh (Marechkawieck) sachems in the July 16, 1637 sale of two islands in the Hell Gate between Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx (Book GG:28-29). The Marechkawieck inhabited the downtown Brooklyn area. He was next mentioned as Sassian in a document dated September 11, 1642 (NYHM(3):325-326). He subsequently sold his remaining land holdings in Brooklyn as the chief Seysey on September 10, 1645 (Book GG:60) and as Sasham on November 1, 1650 (MacLeod 1941). He evidently moved to the mainland to the east of the Hudson River sometime before 1649. On July 14th of that year he appeared as Seyseychkimus, a chief who witnessed the sale of land identified as Wiequaes Keck on the east bank of the Hudson River between the Byram and Mianus Rivers along Long Island Sound (Book GG:323-324). Five days later, on July 19, 1649, he participated as Seysegeckkimus in the treaty that ended hostilities between the Dutch and unreconciled elements of the Wiechquaeskeck and Raritan groups who did not sign the August 30, 1645 treaty ending the Governor Kieft War (NYHM(4):607-609). Although not listed as such, it can be inferred that he represented the Remahenonck at these proceedings, as both he and the latter group were the only individuals or groups not assigned leaders or corporate identities in the document. He subsequently signed a deed to land in northwestern Connecticut as Sasskum on February 15, 1651 (Bolton 1848(1):392) and was mentioned as Sasse in an incomplete manuscript dated March 25, 1652 (NYCM(5):32). The collective weight of this documentation supports the identification of this man as a Marechkawieeck chief from Brooklyn who moved to the mainland east of the Hudson River following the sale of his land holdings on Long Island. These data would thus place both Sesekimu and Seyseychkimus in Westchester and Fairfield Counties. They would also support the possible location of the Remahenonck in the same area. Together by themselves they would seem to validate Ruttenber's assertion that the Rechgawawanck lived along the east banks of the Hudson River. Data contained within the May 15, 1664 treaty ending the Esopus Wars seriously challenges this assertion."
Source: Grumet, Robert Steven, "ON THE IDENTITY OF THE RECHGAWAWANCK" in The Bulletin and Journal of Archaeology for New York State, No. 83, p. 4 (Spring 1982).
Seyseychkimus was consanguineal or blood kin of Mamanuchqua, the prominent female Esopus leader who appeared among sachems representing the Mahicans, Catskills, and Esopus in July 1682 in Albany to hear complaints against them, to renew the famed "Covenant Chain bonds," and to present a beaver pelt "in token of a promise to travel farther westward beyond Maryland and Virginia when again 'going out a hunting beaver.'"
Source: Grumet, Robert S., First Manhattans: A History of the Indians of Greater New York, pp. 128-30 & p. 130 Figure 4 (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2011).
"Mattano tried to manipulate suspicions that divided rival Dutch and English claimants to Indian lands in Brooklyn. His first efforts to exploit this rivalry in Brooklyn met with limited success. The Dutch claimed what amounted to nearly all his people's lands on Long Island under the terms of both Tackapousha's broad conveyance of November 13, 1643, and Seyseychkimus's later cancelled September 10, 1645, deed to the most westerly portion of lands within the bounds covered by the 1643 deed. A small patch in this latter area was also claimed by yet another group of New England exiles led by Lady Deborarh Moody, who settled at Gravesend with Dutch permission during Kieft's War. After the war, English settlers there secured their claim in a sale, again arranged with Dutch approval, concluded with Seyseychkimus and Mattano's father, Emerus, on November 1, 1650. 31 [Footnote "31" states in part as follows: "Emerus signed the first state of the November 1, 1650, deed in the GTR Patent Book 1:15 as Arremathanus, perhaps the fullest transcription of his name; later states of the same deed (in GTR Patent Book 1:43, 45, and 47) spell the name as Arremackanus; Seyseychkimus's name is the last in the list of sachems, appearing in the form of Sasham, a variant of Sassian, Seiseis, and other forms documented in transactions concluded on Long Island."].
Source: Grumet, Robert S., The Munsee Indians: A History, p. 100 & p. 338 n.31 (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009).
"Two deeds came out of these get-togethers. The first, bearing a date of April 13, 1671, gave Bedloe and De Harte title to all land between the Hudson River and Overpeck Creek 'on the north side of the Sir Governor Philip Carteret's' from Hespatingh in present-day Jersey City to Tappan. The second, finalized on May 19, 1671, gave De Harte a still larger tract taking in all lands north of the April purchase line from Tappan to Haverstraw between the Hudson and Hackensack Rivers. Together, these deeds turned the whole of the Palisades into the property of buyers from New York, who promptly registered their new purchases, written in Dutch, in Manhattan. [Footnote omitted]
As they had in Staten Island a year earlier, New Yorkers had purchased land coyly referred to in both deeds as 'under the jurisdiction of the province of New Jersey,' but not necessarily within its charter borders. With patience and perhaps some well-placed payoffs, De Harte and Bedloe might use these deeds to help Lovelace extend New York's sovereignty over the desired land. They certainly seemed to have the support of the Indians. The list of sachems who signed the deeds for the New Yorkers included leaders from every major Indian community between the lower Hudson and upper Delaware rivers below the Highlands. The primary signatory was Aroohikan, who identified himself in both documents as a Tappan sachem. Like Seyseychkimus, whose interest in land at Haverstraw was represented in the May 19, 1671, deed, Aroorhikan was another expatriate from Brooklyn. New York's faithful ally Pierwim also signed both deeds. Tomachkapay put his mark on the April 13 conveyance as sachem of Minisink. Among other signatories were Memshe, Waerhinnis Couwee, and a man new to colonial records, who had a talent for languages named Towakhachi (Munsee for 'Mudpuppy'). [Footnote omitted]"
Source: Grumet, Robert S., The Munsee Indians: A History, p. 126 (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009).
"GG 222 INDIAN DEED TO THE DIRECTORS OF THE WEST INDIA COMPANY FOR LAND IN WESTCHESTER COUNTY
On this day, the date underwritten, appeared before us, the Honorable Lords, the Director-General and Council, Megtegichkama, Oteyochque, and Wegtakochken, the rightful owners of the land located on the east bank of the North River of New Netherland called Wiequaes Keck; extending in breadth through the woods until a stream called Seweyruc [Byram River], with a boundary line running north and south from Greenwich on the East River to a stream called Kechkawes [Mianus River]. This same land is located between the two streams, dissecting the woods between the North and East River, so that the western half remains with the aforesaid owners; while the other eastern half, which is divided by a north-south line through the woods, the aforesaid owners acknowledge in the presence of the chief Seyseykimus and all the remaining friends and blood relatives to have sold the aforesaid parcel of land to the honorable Petrus Stuyvesant, Director-General of New Netherland, for a certain amount of merchandise, which they acknowledge to have received and accepted before approval of this document, namely 6 fathoms of duffels, 6 fathoms of seawant; 6 kettles, 6 axes; 6 adzes, 10 knives, 10 awls, 10 corals, 10 bells, 1 gun, 2 staves of lead, 2 lbs. of powder; 2 cloth coats.
Therefore, the aforesaid owners transfer, cede and convey the aforesaid land to the Lord-General or his successors in true and lawful ownership, renouncing for themselves and their descendants now and forever all claims thereon, and resigning herewith all rights and jurisdiction, transferring it to the aforesaid Lord-General and his successors, to do with as they please, without being molested by them, the conveyors, or anyone of them, whether it be person or property. It is further agreed that the western most half may be purchased for the same amount as above whenever the Director-General desires to pay for it; and they, the grantors, promise to sell the part still in their possession on the North River for that price and not to sell it to anyone without informing the Director-General. They further promise to maintain and uphold this conveyance firmly and inviolably under the penalty prescribed by law. Thus was this signed in the presence of the witnesses below on 14 July 1649 at New Amsterdam in New Netherland.
This is the mark
of Pomipahan, made himself.
This is the mark
This is the mark
This is the mark made by
the chief, Seyseychkimus, as witness."
Source: Gehring, Charles T., ed. & trans., New York Historical Manuscripts: Dutch Volumes GG, HH & II Land Papers, pp. 62-63 (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1980) (Published under the direction of The Holland Society of New York).
For another earlier translation of the same record, see:
O'Callaghan, E. B., ed., History of New Netherland; Or, New York Under the Dutch, Vol. II, pp. 96-97, n. 1 (NY, NY: D. Appleton and Company, 1848) (citing "Book of Patents, G. G. 507.").
"What with its hills and dales, once covered with dense woodlands, time was when Ward's Island, on the hither side of Hell Gate, was one of the loveliest spots in America, and it is yet so beautiful as to compel the praise of all visitors. It was called Tenkenas when Wouter Van Twiller bought it from the Indian chiefs Heyseys and Numers, and giving it the name of Great Barent's Island, convereted its two hundred and forty acres into a pasturage for his cattle."
Source: Wilson, Rufus Rockwell, New York: Old & New - Its Story, Streets, and Landmarks, Vol. II, pp. 354-55 (2d Edition - Philadelphia & London: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1903).
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