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History of Wyoming, 1845
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History of Wyoming
Charles Miner
1845

 
 
History of Wyoming, by Charles Miner, in a series of letters, this son William Penn Miner, Esq.

Letter 3

Union, pride and policy of the Confederate Nations-subjugated tribes, removed to Wyoming-Grand Council in Philadelphia-Canassatego-Count Zinzendorf visits Wyoming-remarkable incident-Moravians-mission from Wyoming to Gnadenhutten.

Having presented a general view of the Six Nations, we now proceed to speak more particularly of them as connected with the Delawares, Shawanese, and other Indians, the principal inhabitants, not only of Wyoming, but of Pennsylvania.

So many years, perhaps ages, have elapsed since their independence was lost, the time and misfortune have obliterated the record of their greatness, or their fall. Several centuries previous to 1600, had probably seen them in their degraded state. Formally they claim to have been powerful numbers, valiant warriors, and great conquerors; possibly not an idle boast, but every fact in their history, after their acquaintance with the Europeans, shows that once they're subserviency and terror, when they heard the voice of their imperious masters.

On the appearance of the English, the expansion of their settlements, and the development of their power, hope seems to have entered the minds of the Lenape, that from the new people they might derive protection, or what would be dear still, to an Indian heart, the means of revenge. Hence their welcome to the Whites,-hence their lingering around the new settlements,-hence their reluctance to retire when ordered, into the interior.

The Christian Library, detailing the Moravian missions in North America, says, (1750) speaking of the Delawares,-"they had not only a kind of tax imposed upon them, to show their dependence upon the Iroquois; but the following it very singular message was sent them:-The Great Head, that is, the Council in Onondaga, speak the truth, and lie not:-they rejoice that some of the believing Indians are had removed to Wayomick; but now they lift up the remaining Mohicans and Delawares, and sent them down and in Wyomick, for their a fire is kindled for them, and there they may plant and think on God: but if they will not here, the Great Head it will come and clean their eyes with the red hot iron." To this Lordly threat we shall again recur.

The historian adds-"it was soon discovered, that this proposal did not originate in the great Council in Onondaga, but with the Oneida tribe, and the warlike Mohicans and Delawares." Let the reader examine all the authorities, and he will be satisfied-that neither the Six Nations took any important step, without consultation and the consent of the Great Head, or Council, and Onondaga.

Perfect union-and harmonious councils with a foundation of their power; and secrecy in regard to their intentions, and vigor in carrying them into effect, were characteristic of their policy. By leave obtained, the Moravian missionaries passed freely through the settlements of the Six Nations, associating unreservedly with chiefs and people, immediately preceding hostilities that commenced the French war; yet not a word escaped from any lip-not a crisper came to the year of any one of them, not a suspicion even was awakened in the minds of those intelligent, quick discerning white men.

Similar to our own Federal Government, the Six Nations, like the several states, attended each to what ever strictly related to its own local concerns; but every matter affecting war, peace, their external relations, or general interests, the Great Head, or united chiefs, assembled at the Council fire, and Onondaga, was supreme. The government also possessed the most marked characteristics of the feudal system. Lands, for residence, or hunting grounds, were apportioned out by the chief power-taxes and tribute were collected, and military service demanded. Hence the warlike Mohicans, Delawares, Shawanese, and other spoken of, it is evident, were the soldiers of the Iroquois, bound to implicit obedience. If at any time they seem to act independently, it was to affect some sinister political purpose of their profound and most sagacious masters. A Shawanese.-a tributary-a dependent, was sent upon the arrogrant and ungracious errand to the Christian Indians near Bethlehem. Those to whom it was delivered, comprehended it well, for general consternation spread through Gnadenhutten." A Shawanese carried the message. He might become politic, on the part of the Iroquois, to disavow it.

But the Delawares had their kings. Tedeuscung, we are told, was elected king to the Delawares! Most true. It would be a gross error to suppose the Six Nations who had conquered, and held in vassalage so extensive an empire, were a rude rabble of ignorant Indians. Letters and the arts of civilized life they had not; nor had Attila or Ghengis Khan, but they were profoundly versed in all the wiles of diplomacy, the subtlist stratagems of war, and all the arts of Savage Government, which they made subservient to the gratification of an ambition as lofty and insatiable as that of the greatest conquerors, civilized or barbarian, we read of in story. Napoleon was not more proud to be king of kings, Emperor supreme over, nominally, independent kingdoms; but marked the sequel, when we come to speak of Tedeuscung’s fate.

The Iroquois head, too, like Rome, their proconsuls, to preside over distant provinces. Thus we find Skilellimus whom Loskiel designates "first magistrate and head chief of all the Iroquois Indians living on the banks of the Susquehanna," had his residence at Conestoga. In 1742, with other chiefs, and warriors of the Six Nations, he attended a great Council in Philadelphia. Any subsequent period he was stationed at Shamokin:-"to transact," says Heckewelder, "in the capacity of agent, the business between the Six Nations, and the government of Pennsylvania."

After the removal to the lakes of the Oneida and Seneca Indians, who occupied Wyoming at the commencement of the last century, the valley was appropriated to the residence of such tribes, or parts of tribes, as claimed protection of the Six Nations, or portions of their refractory subjects, whom they desired to place more immediately under their inspection. A tribe of Nanticokes, formerly inhabitants of Maryland, was divided, part placed at Chenango,-Choconut, and Owego-and a portion was settled on the east side of the river, in the lower part of the Wyoming Valley. The Shawanese tribe was also divided, a portion having their residents on the Sioto, and a large number were permitted, or directed, to erect their wigwams on the expensive and luxuriant flats on the west side of the Susquehanna, now Plymouth, but more popularly designated Shawney. The Delawares at this time occupied the country below the Blue Mountains, between the Susquehanna and Delaware, from whom purchases of land had been made by the Governors of Pennsylvania, but which the occupants refused to remove. Learning that the Six Nations claimed to be the owners of the country, they were conciliated by proper means, and a grand Council was held in the summer of 1742, in the city of Philadelphia, to adjust all matters in dispute. More than 200 chiefs and warriors of the Six Nations attended, who were met by all the chief Sachems of the Delaware tribe. A general counsel was opened in presence of the officers of the Colonial Government, in a large concourse of citizens, in the great hall of the Council house.

The governor, by means of an interpreter, opened the conference of the part of the proprietaries in a long talk, which set forth, that the proprietaries of Pennsylvania had purchased delay and in the forks of Delaware several years before, of the Delaware tribes who then possessed them. That they had afterwards received information that the same lands were claimed by the Six Nations, and a purchase was also made of them-that in both these purchases the proprietaries had paid the stipulated price; but the Delaware Indians had nevertheless refused to give up possession; and as the Six Nations claimed authority over their country, it had been thought proper to hold a Council of all parties, that justice might be done. The chiefs of the Six Nations were then informed, that as they had on all occasions required the government of Pennsylvania to remove any Whites that settled upon their lands, so now the government of Pennsylvania expected the Six Nations would cause these Indians to remove from the lands which it had purchased. The deeds from the Indians, and drafts of the disputed lands were then produced, and the whole submitted to the consideration of the Council. After some deliberation among the different tribes, Canassatego, a venerable chieftain, were rose in the name of all the deputies, and informed the governor, "that they saw the Delawares had been an unruly people, and were altogether in the wrong, and that they had concluded to remove them." And addressing himself to the Delawares, in a violent manner, he said:-"you deserve to be taken by the hair of your heads, and shaken until you recover your senses, and become sober. We have seen a deed signed by nine of your chiefs above 50 years ago for this very land. But how came you to take upon yourselves to sell lands at all? We conquered you-we made women of you; you know you are women, and 10 Delmar sell lands at than women. Nor is it fit you should have the power of selling lands, since you would abuse it. You have been furnished with clothes, meat, and drink, by the goods paid you for it, and now you want it again like children as you are. But what makes you sell lands in the dark? Did you ever tell us that you had sold this land? Did we ever receive any part, even the value of a pipe shank for it? You told us a blind story that you sent a stranger to us, to inform us of the sale, but he never came amongst us, nor have we ever heard anything about it. But we find you are none of our blood, you act a dishonest part, then only in this, but in other matters. Your ears are ever opened to slanderous reports about your brethren. For all these reasons, we charge you to remove instantly; we don't give you liberty to think about it. You are women; take the advice of a wise man, and remove instantly. You may return to the other side of the Delaware where you came from, but we do not know whether, considering how you have demeaned yourselves, you will be permitted to live there, or whether you have not swallowed the lands down your throats as well as the lands on this side. We therefore assign you two places to go to, either to Wyoming, or Shamokin. You may go either of these places, and then we shall have you more under our eye, and shall see how you behave. Don't deliberate, but remove away, and take this belt of wampum."

He then commanded them to leave the Council, as he had business to do with the English.

This, it will be admitted, is the language, not of equals, but of masters, to the most abject of slaves. A Roman General would have hardly dared to address the falling Jews, after the destruction of their city by Titus. The imperious command was obeyed; part removed to Shamokin, and he still larger portion to Wyoming, who established themselves on the east side of the river, occupying the flats below the present town of Wilkes-Barre.

New and interesting personages now appear upon the scene. Zeal for the propagation of the Gospel cause the foot of the first white man to tread the soil of Wyoming. Longer residence of Kings, it may not be improper to relate, that the first white visitor, should have been of noble birth,-and of kingly extraction. So admirably is the event related by Mr. Chapman, that I copy his original and well authenticated narrative entire.

"Such was the origin of the Indian town of Wyoming. Soon after the arrival of the Delawares, and during the same season, the (summer of the year 1742,) a distinguished foreigner, Count Zinzendorf, of Saxony, arrived in the valley on a religious mission to the Indians. This nobleman is believed to have been the first white person that ever visited Wyoming. He was the revivor of the ancient church of the United Brethren, and had given protection to his dominions to the persecuted Protestants who had emigrated from Moravia, thence taking the name of Moravians, and who, two years before had made their first settlement in Pennsylvania.

"Upon his arrival and America, Count Zinzendorf manifested a great anxiety to have the Gospel preached to the Indians; and although he had heard much of the ferocity of the Shawanese, formed a resolution to visit them.-with this view he repaired to Tulpehocken, the residence of Conrad Weiser, a celebrated interpreter and Indian agent for the government, whom he wished to engage in the cause, and to accompany him to the Shawanese town. Weiser was too much occupied in business to go immediately to Wyoming, but he furnished the Count with letters to a missionary of the name of Mack, and the latter, accompanied by his wife, who could speak the Indian language, proceded immediately with Zinzendorf on the projected mission.

"The Shawanese appeared to be alarmed on the arrival of the strangers, who pitched their tents on the banks of the river a little below the town, and the Council of the chiefs having assembled, the declared purpose of Zinzendorf was deliberately considered. To these unlettered children of the wilderness it appeared together improbable that a stranger should have braved the dangers of a boisterous ocean 3000 miles broad, for the sole purpose of instructing them in the means of obtaining happiness after death, and that to without requiring any compensation for his trouble and expense; and as they had observed the anxiety of the white people to purchase land of the Indians, the naturally concluded that the real object of Zinzendorf was either to pick your from them the lands at Wyoming for his own use, to search for hidden treasures, or to examine the country with a view to future conquest. It was accordingly resolved to assassinate him, and to do a privately, leased the knowledge of the transaction should produce a war with the English, who are settling the country below the mountains.

"Zinzendorf was alone in his tent, seated upon a bundle dry weeds which composed his bed, and engaged in writing, when the assassins approached to execute their bloody commission. It was night, and the cool air of September had rendered a small fire necessary to his comfort and convenience. A curtain, formed of a blanket, and hung upon pins, was the only guard to the entrance of his tent.

"That he is fire had aroused a larger rattlesnake which lay in the weeds, not far from it; and the reptile to enjoy it more effectually crawled slowly into the tent, and passed over one of the legs undiscovered. Without, all was still and quiet, except the general murmur of the river at the rapids about a mile below. At this moment the Indians softly approached the door of his tent, and slightly removing the curtain, contemplated the venerable man, too deeply engaged in the subject of his thoughts to note is either their approach, or the snake which lay extended before him. At a sight like this, even the heart of the savage shrunk from the idea of committing so horrid an act, and quitting spot, they hastily returned to the town, and formed their companions that the Great Spirit protected the white man, for they had found him with no door but a blanket, and had seen a large rattlesnake crawl over his legs without attempting to injure him. This circumstance, together with the arrival soon after words of Conrad Weiser, procured Zinzendorf the friendship and confidence of the Indians, and probably contributed essentially towards inducing many of them, a subsequent period, to embrace the Christian Religion. The Count having spent 20 days at Wyoming, returned to Bethlehem, a town then building by his Christian brother on the north bank of the Lehigh, about 11 miles from its junction with a Delaware."

Count Zinzendorf, learning the supremacy claimed and exercised by the Six Nations, applied to their chiefs for leave to visit the Indian villages, and instruct the natives in the doctrines of repentance and salvation, through the merits of the Savior.

He could not have been received and replied to with more politeness, at the most refined court in Europe. The answer is so beautiful in its simple, yet dignified eloquence, that I take pleasure in transcribing it.

"Brother, you have made a long journey over the seas to preach the gospel to the white people into the Indians. You did not know that we were here, and we knew nothing of you. This proceeds from above., therefore to us, for you and your Brethren. We bid you welcome among us. Take this fathom of wampum, in confirmation of the truth of our words."

The Moravians who had established themselves at Bethlehem, were indefatigable in their labor of love to Christianize the Indians. Neither the heats of summer, winter’s storms, the dangers of entangled forests, nor the toil in ascending precipitous mountains, could check the holy enthusiasm of the missionaries. Eight or 10 made them masters of the Indian languages, with their kindred dialects, that they might be understood. To bishops, Cammerhoff and DeWatteville traversed the wilderness on foot, visited the various tribes and settlements along the Susquehanna, preaching the Savior and exhorting to repentance; the former sacrificing his life, by exposure, to the behests of duty. So that in Wyoming, the earliest European accents that were heard, were accents of peace and love, breeding of grace, and redolent of mercy. It is now about 100 years since these pious missionaries penetrated to this, then remote Valley, and for 30 years afterwards uncultivated wilderness.

There is pleasure in casting the eye of imagination back, and beholding the learned bishops, with the zeal and eloquence of Paul, at Athens, (how different to scene!) proclaiming to the children of nature, "the unknown God, whom ye ignorantly worship. Him, declare I unto you."

A large number of converts, whom persecution had compelled to fly from their homes, removed from the eastern borders of New York to be near the brethren, who had purchase land, and made an establishment for them, above the water gap of the Lehigh, at the confluence of the Mahoney and that stream, opposite to Fort Allen. The name given the place, was Gnadenhutten, or Huts of Mercy. Except the erection of the Fort, this was the first settlement on a north direction, in Pennsylvania, above the Kittatinny Ridge or Blue Mountain. The village was eighteen miles above Bethlehem, and on the warrior’s path, about 40 miles, southerly, through a most inhospitable wilderness, from Wyoming. For several years the settlement flourished. Agriculture opened to them the stores of plenty; while moral culture and religious hope imparted cheerfulness; and the whole seened to be pervaded by the "sunshine of the breast." In 1752, the Huts of Mercy numbered 500 souls. In the midst of these pleasing scenes of President peace and anticipated enjoyment, they were visited by deputation of Nanticokes and other Indians, from Wyoming, consisting of more than 100 persons, ostensibly on a mission of peace, with whom a solemn league of mutual friendship was entered into, after which their numerous, perhaps not very welcome visitors, returned to the valley. Doubtless, they were spies, set by the Iroquois; their large number, with exquisite art, concealing the purpose of the journey. The way traveled, being the warrior’s path, 30 or 40 young savages, before ignorant of the route, might unsuspectedly attended such an embassy, apparently of friendship, and on the passage receive the instruction of the old braves, who must have led the party, preparatory to being sent themselves, on expeditions against the inhabitants below.

In consequence of this mission, (and probable message) about 80 of the Christian Indians, under Teduecung, a Delaware chief, already of some note, and destined to appear more conspicuously on another page, accompanied the party back to Susquehanna, and established their lodges at Wyoming.

This step was taken as a preparatory measure to the old French war. The sequel is full of stirring and painful events.

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