William S. Pelletreau - 1886
History of Putnam County, New York : with biographical sketches of its prominent men, Pelletreau, William S., W.W. Preston & Co., Philadelphia, 1886, pgs 66-86
CHAPTER V: THE WAPPINGER INDIANS AND THEIR CONTROVERSY WITH THE HEIRS OF ADOLPH PHILPSE
The Indians who inhabited the shores of the Hudson River were of one race and of one language, with the exception of slight dialectic peculiarities. Under the name of Algonquins, were included the various tribes that inhabited New England, Long Island, the eastern portion of New York and regions to the south. The tribe that claimed the land now embraced in Dutchess and Putnam and extending to the north as far as Roeloff Jansen's Kill, in Columbia county, were known as the Wappingers, a name which appears under several different forms. The affidavit of King Nimham, dated October 13, 1730, states that "the deponent is a River Indian of the tribe of the Wappinoes, which tribe was the ancient inhabitants of the eastern shore of Hudson's river, from the city of New York to about the middle of Beekman's Patent," that "another tribe of Indians called te Mahiccondas were the ancient inhabitants of the remaining eastern shore of the river, and these two tribes constituted one nation." They were in fact one of
the tribal divisions of the Mahicans, whose name is known, not only in the prosaic pages of history, but is embellished with all the charms of romance, by the matchless genius of the greatest American novelists.
The Wappingers were divided into chieftaincies, and of these one was the Nochpeems,1 who were said to occupy the highlands north of Anthony's Nose. Van der Donck, one of the earliest writers of this portion of the country, assigns them three villages on the Hudson; Keskistkonck, Pasquasheck and Nochpeems; but their principal village was Canopus, which was situated in a valley which is one of the most important topographical features of Putnam county, and known as Canopus Hollow. The principal residence of the tribe was north of the Highlands, and on the borders of the Wappingers Creek; but that they were generally included in the name of Highland Indians, is shown by a sentence in a letter from Governor Lovelace to Governor Winthrop, December 29, 1669:
"I believe I can resolve your doubt concerning what is meant by Highland Indians amongst us. The Wappingers and Wickaskect, etc., have always been reckoned so."
Of all their possessions there are but few perfect transfer titles on record and one is a deed by which "Sackereghkigh for himself and in the name of Megrieskin Sachem of the Wappinger Indians," and other Indians sold the land included in the Rubout Patent. The original deed by which the land in Putnam County was conveyed to Dorland and Seabrant, who transferred their title to Adolph Philipse, is still in existence, and our knowledge of the fact connected with it is derived not only from this, but from the statements made in the documents concerning the claim of the Sachem David Nimham. All mention of this tribe seems to indicate that they were of a warlike and savage nature. At the time of the outbreak of war against the Dutch, in 1643, "Pachem a crafty man, ran through all the villages urging the Indians to a general massacre." "The first aggressive act was by the Wappingers, who seized a boat coming from Fort Orange, killed two men and took four hundred beaver skins." It was only after a sanguinary struggle that the various tribes were subdued, and in 1645, a treaty was concluded between the Dutch and the various River Indians, among whom were included the "Wappingers." This continued till the
1. Ruttenber, "Indian Tribes of Hudson's River," page 80.
time of the English conquest, though they were frequently encourage to unite with other tribes in a general revolt. After the conquest of 1664, every effort was made by the English to remove the cause which had led to so much trouble under the Dutch, and one agreement, which was one of the greatest importance, was that no purchase of land of the Indians should be esteemed a good title, without leave first had and obtained from the governor, and that after such leave the purchaser should bring before the governor "the Sachem or right owner," to acknowledge satisfaction and payment, when all proceedings should be entered on record, and constitute a valid title. Their adherence to the English is shown by the fact that, in the war with the French, in 1689, the Wappingers or "Indians of the long reach" as they were called, accepted an invitation to take part in the war, and with their head sachem and all the males of the tribe able to bear arms, went to Albany and thence to the field. Throughout the long struggle between the French and English, the Wappingers bore an important part. Moving their families to Stockbridge, they furnished a corps of about three hundred in the war of 1754, and after the war "they demanded restitution from the Abenaquis for the loss of one of their number, and delayed the consummation of peace with them till 1762." In 1774 Governor Tryon writes:
"The river tribes have become so scattered and so addicted to wandering that no certain account of their number can be obtained. These tribes, the Wappingers of Dutchess county, etc., have generally been denominated River Indians and consist of about three hundred fighting men. Most of these people at present profess Christianity and as far as in their power adopt our customs, the greater part of them attended the army in the late war."
As the name of Wappingers has passed into history, it may be proper here to add a word as to its origin and significance. The name has been greatly corrupted from its original form. It is supposed to be derived from the words Wahum, east; and aoki, land or place; and as applied to the Indians themselves may be rendered Eastlanders, or men of the east.
After the peace a remnant of the tribe returned to the vicinity of its old abiding place, and fund the whole region sparsely settled by tenants of the landed proprietors to whom the lands had been granted by the crown. There was no place in which they could stay in peace. The good lands had of course been
the first to be occupied by the whites, whose advancing settlements elbowed the Indians out of all except the rocks and morasses. Whether, strictly speaking, the Indians were wronged may be a question. But they were destitute, and saw themselves more and more closely hemmed in by those who occupied the lands they had once possessed. And, sometimes aided by sympathizing whites, too often instigated by designing ones, such was the basis of the controversies that long disturbed the frontier. With regard to the Philipse settlements these were of great historic interest. Upon the return of the Wappingers in 1762, they found their lands in possession of the heirs of Adoph Philipse. Some of the papers relating to the controversy are still in existence in the office of the secretary of State and in the papers of the Philipse family, and as they have never appeared in print, no apology is offered for presenting them somewhat in full. In addition to the statement of the claims certain incidental allusions throw great light upon the early settlement of the eastern portion of the county.
About 1763 a number of the Philipse tenants renounced their leases and, taking others from the Indians, continued to occupy the land but refused to pay rent to those claiming under the patentee, who brought ejectment and succeeded in ousting the occupants. But the defeated tenant was invariably irresponsible, the Indians more so, and, though successful from a legal point of view, the Philipse representatives found themselves put to great and increasing harassment and expense. Suits at law having thus proved an inefficient remedy, under advice of their counsel, William Livingston and James Duane-both soon to become so famous-they decided to appeal to the Chancery jurisdiction. Under the then charter the Governor in Council constituted the High Court of Chancery of the colony. And on the 6th day of February, 1765, was presented to this tribunal the petition, an abstract of which is given in the minutes of the Council, from which the following is taken:
"At a Council held at Fort George in the City of New York on Wednesday
the sixth day of February, 1765.
The Honoble Cadwallader Colden, Esqr Lieut. Governor &ct.
Mr. Horsmanden, Mr. Walton, Mr Smith, Mr. Delancey, Mr. Watts, Mr. Reade.
"The Petition and Memorial of roger Morris, Beverly Robinson, and Philip Philipse, Proprietors and Owners of a Tract of Land granted by the Letter Patent of his late Majesty King William the third, under the Great Seal of this Province, bearing date the 17th day of June 1697, unto Adolph Philipse late of the City of New York deceased, lying I the County of Dutchess, farther bounded, as by the said: Letters Patent may Appear: Was laid before the Board and Read; Setting forth, That one Samuel Monroe, who formerly settled a part of the said Tract of Land, as Tenant under the said Adolph Philipse, combining with several other Persons, and particularly with Stephen Wilcocks and Charles Peck, how to distress the Memorialists, hath lately Spirited up several Indians, to lay claim to the said Tract of Land, as the native and Original Proprietors thereof, under the pretence that the same was never purchased from the Natives, and that the said Indians are the true Owners thereof, and have a Right to Grant and dispose of the same Notwithstanding any Grant or Patent from the Crown. That the said Samuel Munroe and his Confederates, did cause the said Indians to elect him their Attorney and Guardian, to enter upon and take possession of the said premises, and to lease lett and sell the same. Who in pursuance thereof, had by Publick Advertisement notified a Time and place, for persons to be informed as to the Reality of the said Indian Claim; and to take Leases of the said Lands; and that in Consequence thereof sundry persons residing within the Bounds of the said Tract of land and others have appeared and were offered Leases by the said Samuel Munroe for 99Years for any Farms within the same; and that the said Samuel Munro, together with Nimham the principal of the said Indians, threatens to turn every person refuseing such Leases, out of possession. By means whereof several of the Memorialists Tenants have been induced to take and hold under such Leases, and others who settled without Leases, refuse to take Leases from the Memorialists, but claim to hold as tenants to the said Indians, hoping by their Strength and Numbers to dispossess the Memorialists of the said Tract of Land. And that as the proceedings of the said Samuel Munroe and his Confederates, do manifestly tend to the Disinherison of his Majesty; and the Memorialists cannot apply any adequate Remedy in the Common Course of the Law-The Memorialists therefore humbly pray the Interposition of this Board and such Relief in the premises as to his Honour shall seem fit and reasonable.
"On reading whereof It is ordered that the said Petition be referred to the Gentlemen of the Council or any three of them, whereof one of the Judges to be one."
The committee thus appointed made a report to the Governor in Council March 6th, 1765, from which the following is quoted:
"May it please Your Honour.
"In Obedience to your Honour's Order in Council of the sixth of Gebruary Instant, referring to a Committee of the Gentlemen of the Council, or any three of them, whereof one of the Judges to be one, the petition and Memorial of Roger Morris, Beverly Robinson and Philip Philipse * * * * the Committee having maturely weighed and considered the same, humbly beg leave to report to Your Honour
"1st. That it appears to this Committee that the Tract of Land mentioned in the said Petition and Memorial, was duly purchased of the Natives and does now belong to the said Memorialists, who have within the Bounds thereof a considerable Number of tenanted Farms and Improvements.
"2dly. That on the seventeenth Day of November last, five Indians, known by the Names of Stephen Kounhum, Daniel Nimham, One-pound Packtown, Jacob Aaron, and Jacobus Nimham, did chuse and elect one Samuel Monroe of Dutchess County aforesaid, by an Instrument in Writing of that Date, their Attorney, and Guardian of their Persons and Estates, for them to enter upon and take possession of the Messuages Lands, Tenements, Hereditaments and Premises, in the said County of Dutchess and the Profits thereof to take till they shall be better capable of transacting their own Affairs, and that the Messuages Lands, Tenements Hereditaments and Premises, meant and intended by the said Instrument, are contained within the Bounds of the said Patent, and claimed by the said Indians, as the native Owners and proprietors thereof, and without any Grant or patent from the Crown.
"3dly: That in order to give the greater Weight to the said Instrument, it was taken and acknowledged by the said Indians, before Jacobus Terboss, one of the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas for the said County of Dutchess, and John Akin, one of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the said County, and by them allowed and subscribed, which appears to this Committee such an Abuse of their respective Offices, and so dangerous a precedent for encouraging Indian Claims against the Rights of the Crown, and in Disinherison of his Majesty, that the Committee is humbly of Opinion, that an Order of Your Honour in Council ought to be served on the said Terboss and Akins, for them to shew Cause why they ought not to be displaced for such Misconduct
"4thly: That the said Daneil Nimham, one of the Indians above mentioned, did some time in June or July last give a Lease to one Stephen Wilcocks for the Lands, on which the said Wilcocks then lived, lying within the Bounds of the said Letters Patent, for nine hundred and ninety-nine Years, and that the said Samuel Monroe and Stephen Wilcocks, at the same time entered into an Obligation to the said Daniel Nimham, to defend his Title, as a Native Indian to the said Lands.
"5thly: That Daniel Monroe, Son of the said Samuel Monroe, and one Joseph Craw, have also taken two several Leases, from the said Daniel Nimham for two several Farms, lying within the Bounds of the said Letters Patent, and severally entered into Obligations to him, for the payment of their respective Rents.
"6thly: That it further appears to the Committee, that the said Samuel Monroe, has at a Publick Meeting of many People, on the Subject of the said Indian Claim, read or cause to be read Your Honour's Proclamation grounded on his Majesty's additional Instruction, relative to Lands reserved by Indians, and insisted that the said Proclamation extended to and supported the aforesaid Indian Claim. And that it also appears to us, that the said Samuel Monroe has caused Copies of the said Proclamation to be publicly fixed up, to countenance and give Colour to the said Claim, has openly and repeatedly avowed, that he maintained the said Indians Claim, and declared that the same was well founded, that the Claim to those holding under the said Patent from the Crown to the said Adolph Philipse was without Title, laboured to convince their Tenants, that they would be ruined, and threatened the said Tenants with Ruin, if they continued to hold under their said Landlords.
"7thly: That by reason of the above Practices of the said Samuel Monroe, and the Indians aforesaid, and his Abuse and Perversion of the said Proclamation, great Numbers of persons residing within the Bounds of the said Patent, are deluded into a Belief of the Validity of an Indian Title against the Grants of the Crown, which by stirring up the Indians to similar Claims, may be attended with Dangerous Consequences to the peace and Tranquility of the Province, and greatly discourage the farther Settlement and Improvement of the Country.
"8thly: The Committee humbly conceive that the said Samuel Monroe, in granting Lease for any Lands within the Bounds of the said Patent, as Attorney and Guardian to the said Indians as Native proprietors thereof, And the said Daniel Monroe, Joseph Craw and Stephen Wilcocks by accepting Leases from the said Indians for Lands already patented by the Crown, do in Fact set up the Title of the Natives as paramount to the Rights of the Crown, and to the Disinherison of his Majesty, and have thereby been Guilty of a high Misdemeanor, and that the said Samuel Monroe and Stephen Wilcocks, by their obliging themselves to defend such Indian Titles and Claims, and the said Daniel Monroe, Joseph Craw and Stephen Wilcocks in accepting the said Leases are Guilty of Maintenance and punishable at the Suit of the King.
"That the Committee therefore in Vindication of his Majesty's undoubted Right to all the Lands in his Dominions as Supreme Lord which is presumptuously impeached by such pretended Title advise your Honour to direct his Majesty's Attorney
General to exhibit Informations in the Supreme Court against the said Samuel Monroe, Daniel Monroe, Stephen Wilcox and Joseph Draw for their respective Offences aforesaid
"All which is nevertheless submitted.
"By Order of the Committee
"New York the 6th March, 1765."
The Minutes of the Council proceed:
"Which Report on the Question being put was agreed to, and approved of. And it is ordered by his Honour the Lieutenant Governor with the Advice of the Council, that a Copy of the said Report of this Order be delivered to his Majesty's Attorney General, and that he do forthwith exhibit Informations against Samuel Monroe, Daniel Monroe, Stephen Wilcox and Joseph Craw named in the said Report, for the Matters therein particularly mentioned."
Meanwhile the Indians had not been idle. There was no possible defense to the proceeding instituted by the Philipse heirs. The prerogative of the Crown was held sacred and the production of the royal grant an absolute bar at law and in equity to any proceeding in derogation of the title purporting to be thereby granted, except one-an appeal to the representative of the crown, and, upon suggestion of abuse of the royal confidence, a proceeding to have the patent annulled by a new exercise of the prerogative. Then Indians seem to have been well advised, and such an appeal was made, as the following shows"
(LAND PAPERS XVIII, 127.)
"To the Honorable Cadwallader Colden, Esquire his Majesty Lieutenant Governor and Commander in Chief of the Province of New York, and the Territories depending thereon in America.
"The Petition of David Nimham, Jacobus Nimham, One Pound pocktwo Stephen Cowenham, and the other Native Indians of the Tribe of Wappinger.
"Most Humbly Sheweth
"That they and their Tribe for Time Immemorial, by their Native Right have been in possession of certain Tracts of Land Scituate lying and being in the Southermost part of Dutchess County; adjoining the Northermost part of Westchester County, both within the province of New York; which right your petitioners are come down with their proper Vouchers and Evidence to satisfy your Honor touching the reality thereof.
"That the cause of this application is owing to the Encroachment of several persons, who have for a Series of Time past, Step by Step, very illegally seated themselves upon and do now
occupy and possess the said Tracts of Land, to the Manifest Wrong and Injury of your petitioners and contrary to the especial Orders and directions of the British Crown; complaint whereof hath often been made by the said Tribe without Redress.
"That the Rise and Foundation of your Petitioners past and present complaints, are chiefly from a Patent which appears on Record in the Secretary's office in Lib. No. 7, page 119, bearing Date the Sixteenth Day of June One Thousand Six Hundred and Ninety-Seven whereby the Land so claimed by your Petitioners to these Rights and property is granted to Adolph Philipse; the description of which said Land in and by the Abstract hereunto annexed fully appears.
"That your Petitioners utterly deny those lands were ever purchased of their Tribe, for any valuable or other consideration whatever by the said Adolph Philipse; and therefore said Patent must have been by some misrepresentation (with respect to any legal purchase) unfairly obtained, to the great disturbance and annoying your Petitioners in the peaceable and quiet Enjoyment thereof.
"That your petitioners are a Tribe (with humble Submission) well known to have at all Times demeaned themselves in a decent becoming manner, and have on all occasions, to the utmost of their power and ability, at the risque of their dignified King and Governor, who by his Royal proclamations from Time to Time issued both promised protection to the persons and Property of your Petitioners.
"Who Therefore in the most supplicant manner, thus personally present
and lay before Your Honor as His Majesty's representative this their Complaint
and great Grievance, firmly relying on your protection, direction and Assistance
as far as consistent in your Honour's wise Judgment; and agreeable to his Majesty's
Instruction in this Royal proclamation, given at St. James the ninth Day of
December One Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty-one, and in the Second Year of
his Reign, for which your Petitioners as in Humble Duty bound will ever Pray
"New York, March 1st, 1765. his
DANIEL X NIMHAM
"Your Honor will be pleased mark
to observe that there are several his
of your petitioners Evidences at- "ONE POUND X POCKTONE.
tending (with themselves) at a mark
very great Expense therefore his
your petitioners humbly sue for "JACOBUS X NIMHAM.
Your Honours answer. mark
"STEPHEN X KOWNHAM."
Proceedings in Chancery were more summary then than in later days. The Philipse representatives were summoned forthwith and a trial immediately had. The occasion was a dramatic one. The Lieutenant-Governor presided, and about him sat his council, the magnates of the province, including the Earl of Stirling and the Judges of the Supreme Court. Nimham, the Indian King, appeared in person with his principal subjects, and was assisted by Munroe. Roger Morris and Beverly Robinson appeared in person with his principal subjects, and was assisted by Munroe. Roger Morris and Beverly Robinson appeared in person for the representatives of the patentee; and the and there was summarily decided the claim upon which the survivors of the great Wappinger nation had staked their last chance for a foothold in the land their ancestors had ruled. No other description can be so graphic as the Minutes of the Council. We quote:
"At a Council held at Fort George in the City of New York on Wednesday the sixth day of March, 1765.
"The Hon'ble Cadwallader Colden, Esqr. Lieut. Governor, &c.
Mr. Hormanden, Mr. Delancey, Mr. Smith, Earl of Stirling, Mr. Watts, Mr. Reade, Mr. Walton,
"His Honour the Lieutenant Governor laid before the Board a petition of Daniel Nimham, Jacobus Nimham, One Pound Poctone, Stephen Cowenham, and other Native Indians of the Tribe of Wappinger, Setting forth, that they and their Tribe for Time immemorial by their Native Right, have been in possession of certain Tracts of Land in the Southernmost part of Dutchess County, adjoining the Northernmost part of Westchester County. * * * *
"On reading whereof the four Indians named in the Petition were called in, together with Samuel Munroe their Guardian who attended with them. And Roger Morris and Beverly Robinson, who hold lands under the said Patent, being also present the said Indians were asked what they had to say or to produce in Support of their Claim. Whereupon Daniel Nimham who spoke for himself, and interpreted what the rest said, informed the Council they claimed the Lands under their Ancestors who had never sold them. The said Beverly Robinson then produced an Original Deed, signed by Tachquararos, Cowenhahum, Siengham, Shawiss, Sipowerak, Cramatacht, Wassawawogh, and Mecopap Native Indians and proprietors of sundry tracts of Land in Dutchess County, bearing Date the 13th August 1702, sealed and delivered in the presence of J.V. Cortlandt, William Sharpas, Philip Van Cort-
landt, Blandiena Bayard, and of three Indians subscribing Witnesses thereto, whereby the said Indian Grantees convey all their Right and Title to the Lands therein mentioned (being the same Lands, and described in the save Words as those Granted by the Patent aforesaid) to the said Adolph Philipse and to his heirs and Assigns for Ever. And the Names of the said Indian Grantees being repeated to the Petitioners present, the petitioner One Pound poctone, who declared himself to be eighty Years of Age said he knew them all-And the Board knowing the four Witnesses first named to have been principal People at the time of the Transaction, and the Hand Writing of William Sharpas one of the Witnesses, and who appears to have wrote the Deed, being well known, His Honour the Lieutenant Governor informed the Petitioners, that himself and the Gentlemen of the Council were of Opinion, that their Ancestors had fairly sold their Right to the Lands in Question. That as their Descendants had no Claim to the Lands, and that they should give the Proprietors or their Tenants no farther Trouble, but suffer them to remain quiet and unmolested in the Possession of what so clearly appeared to be their Property."
Beaten, but no discourage, the Indians attempted to secure the assistance of Sir William Johnson who had so successfully intermediated in controversies between the Indian tribes and the English. But he declined to interfere. Nimham then went to England and presented his claims to the Lords of Trade Governor Moore wrote that the proceedings lately had in regard to the Wappinger Indians had been "thoroughly examined in the presence of a great concourse of people." In this examination they had been given every opportunity and no advantage was taken of technical points or their ignorance of legal matters. He also reports that in 1766, riots had occurred in Dutchess County, and great disturbance, the Indians being at the bottom of it. It was reported, and he believed with truth, that the Indians were in the habit of selling their lands over and over again, to any who were willing to purchase. The Lords of Trade also reported in regard to the petition of the Indians. The substance of the report was a relation of the claims as narrated in preceding pages. It also stated that the Indians had previously chosen a guardian, and brought their case before the courts, and were defeated in the trial; that they had then appealed to the Governor and Council, who reported that the claim was groundless and that
the lands were fairly sold. It seems that at the time of this report, 1766, there were "four Indian men and three women" in England and that others had been there the previous year.
On the 22d of December, 1766, Governor Moore reported that the Indians had be "forcibly putting some poor people out of possession of their houses," and had a second time been committing disorders. This probably refers to some difficulties with tenants who held land under the title of the Philipse family. When he inquired of the Indians why they had gone to England, they replied that "they were persuaded by some people to take the voyage, it was no project of their own." The governor also reported that "Munroe, their guardian had been guilty of man misdemeanors, and had broke out of Gaol, and is, by all accounts I can obtain, as infamous a person as can be found in this Colony." It is evident that in his opinion it was time a check was put upon affairs of this kind, "to which the Indians were incited by white people living near."
There are still extant the briefs of both parties to these proceedings and many miscellaneous papers incidentally furnishing data upon the settlement of the county. For example, among the witness whom Nimham stated could testify in regards to his claims were John Van Tassel "of Philipse Upper Patent;" Elijah Tompkins, "East end and opposite of Philipse Patent;" Samuel Field, "on the Oblong"; John Tomkins, "on Philipse Patent;" David Paddock, "ditto;" Henry Gernander, "upper part of gore joining Fishkill;" Peter Angevin, "about middle of Philipse Patent;" Richard Curry, William Hill, Jacobus Terbush, "commonly styled Judge Bush, at the Fishkill;" James Dickenson, Esq., "East end of Patent;" James Philipse, "living about the middle of Cortlandts Manor." On the Philipse side there was filed the affidavit, which we quote:
"City of New York, ss."
"Timothy Shaw of Dutchess County being duly sworn deposeth and saith that he formerly was a Tenant under Adolph Philipse, deceased within the Patent commonly called the Upper Patent in the County aforesaid being the Lands now claimed by Roger Morris Philip Philipse and Beverly Robinson Under the said Adolph Philipse and Beverly Robinson Under the said Adolph Philipse as this Deponent has understood. That he this Deponent has now no Interest in any Lands in the said Upper Patent having disposed of all his Interest therein upwards of seven Years ago. That he this Deponent is very
well acquainted with all the Settlements that have been made within the Bounds of the said Upper Patent and has been acquainted with all the Settlements within the Same about or near twenty-five Years last past. That at the Time this Deponent first became acquainted with the said Upper Patent the following Persons were either settled thereon or held as he understood from them as Tenants under Adolph Philipse to wit: Philip Minthorne Elisha Tomkins John Tomkins William Hunt Daniel Townsend John Dickenson James Dickenson John Sprague William Sturdivant One Hill Moses Northrop Senior Thomas Philipse George Hughson James McCready Samuel Fields Amos Dickenson Hezekiah Wright, Jeremiah Calkins John Calkins Joseph Porter Ichabod Vickerey Ebenezer King Samuel Jones James Paddock Peter Paddock David Paddock John Barley Caleb Brundige William Brandekey John Eagleston Two Brothers of the name of Bircham One Kire William Kabelay Thomas Kirkam Nathaniel Robinson One Cole William Smith John Smith Nathaniel Underhill Edward Stevens One Bartwo John Reynolds and as this Deponent verily believes several others whose names he does not now recollect. That since the time of his Settlement on the said Upper Patent a great Number of other Persons many of whose names this Deponent could repeat were it necessary have also settled themselves as Tenants of the Philipse Family within the said Upper Patent and this Deponent verily believes that of such Tenants there were upwards of three hundred settled on the said Patent beyond the distance of three miles from Hudson's River before the Year one thousand seven hundred and fifty six. That either two or three years ago in the Winter Season the said Philip Philipse was at the House of Uriah Lawrance one of the Tenants of the said Upper Patent where Daniel Nimham the Indian together with at least three hundred Persons chiefly Tenants of the said Patent under the Philipse Family were assembled. That the said Philip Philpse then and there in the Hearing of this Deponent and as many of the said Persons there assembled as could conveniently crowd near enough to hear what passed asked the said Nimham where the Lands were which He claimed whereupon the said Nimham said that he had no lands upon which the said Philip Philipse asked the said Nimham why he made such a Rout among the Tenants to which the said Nimham answered that he was told to do so by Stephen Cowenham and one Pound two other Indians. That the said Nimham never to this Deponent's Knowledge lived within the Bounds of the said Patent and that all the Indians who formerly lived in the said Patent had abandoned it long before the Year one thousand seven hundred and fifty six and went and settled themselves as this Deponent has been informed beyond Minisink near Delaware and further this Deponent saith not.
"Sworn this 6th day his
of March, 1767, "TIMOTHY X SHAW
"Before me mark
And, keeping in mind the object and naturally one-sided character of the documents, the briefs are scarcely less valuable. From that filed on behalf of Nimham the following extracts are taken:
"A Brief Statement of a Controversy subsisting between Daniel Nimham a native Indian and an acknowledged Sachem or King of a Certain Tribe of Indians known and called by the name of the Wappinger Tribe of Indians and others of the same Tribe Petitioners in behalf of themselves and the rest of the said Tribe and the heirs and legal Representatives of Mr. Adoph Philipse, late of the City and Province of New York, deceased, * * *
"This Tribe formerly were numerous, at present consists of about Two Hundred and Twenty seven Persons; they have always had a Sachem or Indian King, whom they have acknowledged to be the head of said Tribe and to whose Government they have submitted; and by a Line of Succession the said Government descended to the said present Sachem, they have for more than a Century been distinguished for their steady friendship and firm alliance with the English, and their subjection to the Crown of Great Britain; * * *
"Their Claim to that part of the above described premises hath been uninterrupted and a Considerable part thereof for many Years been under actual improvement and occupation by them and their Tenants; and they the said Tribe actually did inhabit and improve said Land by leases on rents and for their hunting Ground &ca agreeable to their manner of Life until the Commencement of the late War; at which time they entered in the Service of the British Crown, were conducted forth into the wars by their present Sachem, who then being in the Prime and Vigor of Life went in Capacity of Captain in defence of the British Crown taking under his Command all the Males of said Tribe, that were then able and any suitable for said service they first having removed their Wives, Children and aged Persons to a Place
called Stockbridge, that they might the more easily be provided for & better accommodated during their absence, and the said Captain with his Company aforesaid, continued in the service aforesaid during the whole Term of the late War and behaved valiantly and was eminently serviceable in the Reduction of Canady to the British Crown. * * *
"The late war being Ended the said Tribe returned home, when to their great surprise they found such Encroachments on their Improvements, and such destruction on their hunting Grounds, that they were obliged to seek Refuge elsewhere. The said Sachem sometime afterwards having received some Intelligence of his Majesty's proclamation respecting Indian Claims again however took Courage and having first upon advice and by and with the approbation of the Chief Judge of the Court of Common Pleas and one other Justice of the Peace for said County of Dutchess Chosen Mr. Samuel Munroe for his Guardian; he with said Guardian again Leased out sundry farms on said Land in Controversy, not in the least doubting his right to do so. Whereupon (the said Frederick Philipse being dead) Mr. Beverly Robinson of sd. New York having married one of the Daughters of Frederick Philipse deceased & pretending to be interested in the Lands in Controversy after having in a forcible manner attempted to oust the said Tenants who held under said Tribe and after much of his disrespectful Conduct both toward his King and Country, as appears by the exhibits M. N. O. brought cases of Ejectment against fifteen of the said Indian Tenants and they being chiefly poor people, unitedly agreed to stand Trial in only one of them, and having raised a sum of Money for that purpose, the Defendant in that particular suit made application for Council to assist him therein but upon Enquiry (to his great surprise) found that every Attorney at Law in that whole Province was previously retained on the other side; whereupon (being destitute of assistance) at the time of trial he motioned the Court for Liberty to speak for himself; which being Granted he began to offer something in Vindication of his Cause but had scarcely uttered one single sentence, when one of the lawyers rose up and (interrupting him) with an air of Confidence declared he was liable to be committed for pretending to offer a word in Vindication of a claim to those Lands in opposition to a Grant of the Crown, which struck such a sudden Damp upon the spirits of the poor Man that he was unable further to Conduct his Cause with any manner of propriety, or so much as to tell his plain honest story, which might have shew perhaps the Justice of his cause and prevented a Recovery. But without further delay or any further Enquiry into the Matter, Judgment was forthwith rendered in said Cause and in the rest of said cases against all the said fifteen Defendants without any opportunity of a fair Trial, and thereupon writs of possession Granted out against them all, and the whole
number of fifteen Tenants aforesaid, some of which had been on said Lands Thirty and some Forty Years, holding under said Tribe turned off therefrom and their Buildings and other Improvements together with the Crops of Grain &c they had been growing on said Lands and all the fruits of their Labour & Industry taken from them without any manner of allowance therefore. Whereupon the said now Sachem together with some other principle men of said Tribe finding, that said Robinson and the rest of the heirs and legal representatives of the said Mr. Frederick Philipse deceased were determined to continue their molestations and to use all possible endeavors surreptitiously to defraud them of their native right to said Lands preferred their petition to the Honorable Cadwallader Colden Esquire Lieutenant Governour and the Commander in Chief of said Province of New York and his Council dated the first day of March Anno Domini one thousand seven hundred and sixty-five, as per Exhibit No. F. and on the sixth of the same March aforesaid, the Petitioners aforesaid together with said Guardian, were permitted to appear and did personally appear before aid Lieut. Governour & Council, in order to be heard in the Matters prayed for in their said Petition respecting said Lands and the Encroachments thereon made as aforesaid and (not able to get any assistance of any attorney at Law in the whole province aforesaid) then and there laid in their Claim to said Land in Controversy themselves and then and there stood ready to offer sufficient Evidence in support of their said Claim and then and there expected to have had opportunity therefore: But instead thereof no more was then and there done in the premises, than as follows, viz.:
"The Petitioners being asked by one of the Gentlemen of the Council then and there present, what they had to offer in support of the Claim aforesaid? The said now Sachem who spoke for himself and Interpreted what the rest said, informed the said Lieut. Governour & Council, that they the said petitioners in behalf of themselves and the rest of the said Wappinger Tribe claimed the Lands in Controversy under their ancestors, in whom was the native right and that neither they nor their ancestors nor any of said Tribe had ever sold, nor made any legal Conveyance of said Land in Controversy. The said Mr. Robinson then produced an Instrument said to be an Indian Deed, bearing date the thirteenth day of August one thousand seven hundred and two, which (if authentic) covered all the Lands in Controversy. But as this was the first Time that such Instrument was ever heard of the Petitioners and said Guardian desired to look at said Instrument and having got the same into his hand was about to point out some marks of fraud attending it, but before he had time to make one single remark about it, it was by a Gentleman of the Council taken out of his hands. And thereupon the said Gentleman of the Council told the Petitioners
they had better go home about their business and quiet themselves and the rest of said Tribe and give them no further Trouble for (said he) Mr. Robinson has a Deed of all the Lands in Controversy, to which the said Sachem replyed, that he chose to hear those words from the Lieutenant Governours's own mouth first: whereupon the said Lieut. Governour after a short Pause said that the said Mr. Robinson had a Deed of the Land in Controversy and that the Petitioners must therefore go home and make themselves and the rest of their Tribe easy and quiet and not give the said Governour and Council any further Trouble in the premises, (having first asked an old Indian, one of the Petitioners, whether he ever knew any of those Indians whose names were subscribed to said pretended Deed, who replyed that he did, but that he never knew nor heard of their selling or making any Conveyance of said Lands, neither did he believe that they or either of them ever signed or executed said Instrument whereupon the Petitioners (tho' very much dissatisfied on account of the rough Treatment they met with, as well as on account of their not being permitted a fair Chance or opportunity to Vindicate their Cause) returned home. * * * *
"Finally it seems that such a notable Transaction could not have been performed in the Dark nor have been so soon forgotten by the Indians, especially considering that they depend wholly upon Tradition for the Record (if it may be so called) of all their proceedings, and are therein so extremely careful, as that they do thereby retain among them for many Centuries together, the knowledge or remembrance of matters of much less Importance. From all of which Circumstances the said Tribe of Wappingers do firmly believe the said Instrument of one thousand seven hundred & two to be spurious and not by any means Genuine and humbly imagine said Lands (if at all included in said Patent) were Granted to said Mr. Adolph Philipse by the letters patent aforesaid thro' mistake or by means of some misrepresentation; and therefore hope with great Humility, that their Honest Cause will gain the Royal Attention and powerful Interposition and Protection; and that they may be again restored to their said Lands, whereupon they are unjustly expelled.
"The foregoing Brief or State of the Case of the Wappinger Tribe of Indians was made on the 30th day of October Anno Domini one thousand seven hundred and sixty five."
From the brief submitted by the Philipse representatives is taken the following:
"A Summary of the Reasons humbly offered to his Excellency Sir Henry Moore Baronet Captain General & Governour in Chief in & over the province of New York & the Territories thereon depending in America, &c., &c., &c., and to the Honourable his Majesty's Council for the said province by Roger Morris Beverly Robinson & Philip Philipse * * * in answer
to a certain Memorial or complaint of Daniel Nimham, and Indian, * * *
"The said Roger Morris, Beverly Robinson and Philip Philipse, tho' they firmly rely on their indisputable title to the sd. Lands as derived by them Under the said Letters Patent Think it nevertheless their Duty however repeatedly called upon to satisfy the Governm't of the Integrity not only of their own Conduct but also of the Conduct of those under whom they Claim, as well as in obtaining the said Letters Patent for the said Tract of Land as in possessing the same by Virtue of such Letters patent. * * *
"The patent appears to be grounded on a petition of Adolph Philipse wherein the Fraud (if any had been perpetrated in obtaining the patent) would naturally be found. But this petition which is still lodged in the Secretary's office speaks in plain Terms and sets forth a purchase made by him of Jan Seabringh and Lambert Dorlandt of part of the Lands within the Bounds of the afsd Patent (a part of which the said Memorial & Complaint admits to have been granted by the Indians to the said Seabringh & Dorlandt) to wit for an Extant from the River Eastward as far as the Land of Coll Cortlandt Patent) which was known to the Govt. to extend only sixteen Miles from the River And the Colony Line was also known to the Governm't to be at the Distance of 20 Miles from the River. So that the petitioner having set forth nothing more than the purchase aforesaid and so framed his petition as clearly to Shew a Vacancy between that purchase & the Colony Line for which he did not pretend to have made an Indian purchase the Crown could not be deceived in the Grant of the said Letters Patent & therefore no Reason can be assigned why they should be at this late day impeached or Questioned: And that the more especially because:
"2dly. The Letters Patent themselves contain no recitals or suggestions of matters of fact as urged on the part of the petitioner to the Govt. to induce the Crown to grant them; But appear to have issued simply on the petition of Patentee praying a Grant of the Lands without any matters of fact urged by him to induce such Grant. Wherefore * * * the Letters Patent above mentioned issued in favor of the said Adolph Philipse without the least Colour or Ground for supposing a Deceit on the Crown in the obtaining the same* the title in the sd Roger Morris Beverly Robinson and Philip Philipse must be conclusive. * * * and if anything in Equity is now due the Indians the Crown stands bound to satisfy them*
"3dly. The said Adolph Philipse tho he might have relied on his patent,* made a purchase of all the Lands included within the Bounds of this patent of them on the 13th Augt. 1702
and to prevent Every suspicion that Fraud, or Art was used to obtain this Deed, It will be sufficient to observe that Besides three Indians who were Witnesses to it this Transaction was attested by Jacobus Van Cortlandt a Man of Rank and Character, William Sharpas the Then Town Clerk of the City of New York-a person of known probity, Philip Van Cortlandt then one of his Majesty's Council of this Province & Blandina Bayard an Indian Interpretress. Some of these witnesses are personally known & the handwriting of one of them subscribed to this Deed was familiar to several Members of this Board * * * the Rank & Characters of the witnesses are sufficient to remove all suspicion that it was illegally Fraudulently & surreptitiously obtained. * * * *
"4thly. * * Those who were acquainted with the Indians their practices know that tho' they will very rarely suffer themselves to be defrauded of their Lands; yet in most instances they compel bona fide purchasers by Repetition of their Claims to make repeated payments to them; beyond the original Consideration Money.
"5thly. (Here follows references to papers, including the affidavit of Timothy Shaw.)
"From All which Considerations * * * it must clearly appear That the patent to Adolph Philipse was not unfairly obtained nor the Said Deeds executed to him by the Indians, procured illegally, fraudulently & surreptitiously, nor the Lands possessed by the Indians until 1756. Nor the possession of them then wrongfully gained by the said Beverly Robinson Philip Philipse and Roger Morris while the Indians were gone into his Majesty's Service * * * But on the contrary the said Patent was fairly obtained without any Imposition on the Govt. That the Indian Deed was procured by the said Adolph Philipse lawfully, honestly * openly before Witnesses of the first Character * * * & that the said Adolph Philipse & his family so far from suffering their Title to Lands in Question to become Stale and suspicious by Non occupancy proceeded in due time to the settlement & Cultivation of these Lands, which were populously inhabited by Tenants under them many Years since & and which were long ago abandoned by the Indians who were conscious that they had not the least Right or Title to them"
In the Revolution Nimham and his warriors took an active part. Some sixty of them, expert marksmen and skilled in war, joined the American forces and fought with a bravery and valor worthy of their ancient race, in the days of their glory. Active in the campaigns of 1777, they joined Washington again in the spring of the following year, and were detached with the forces under La Fayette, to check the depredations of the British army on its retreat from Philadelphia, and they were afterward trans-
ferred to Westchester county, the scene of some of the most hotly contested struggles of the war.
It was on the 30th of August, 1778, that Nimham and his warrior band went forth to the "field of their last battle. On that day they met with a scouting party of British under Colonel Emerick, and after a fierce engagement compelled them to retreat. On the following morning the whole of the British force at Kings Bridge was ordered out and the larger part was placed in ambuscade, while Emerick was sent forward to decoy his assailants of the previous day. In the extreme northern part of the annexed portion of the city of New York, is a high elevation of land, known as Cortlandt's Ridge. Winding through the valleys and emptying into the Harlem River, near Kings Bridge, is a stream that has borne from the earliest times the name of Tippets Brook. The wooded heights and the banks of the stream were the scenes of a most sanguinary conflict. The attempt to draw the Indians into the ambuscade failed, and upon their advance the British trops had scarcely time to fall into rank. The Indians lined the fences and commenced firing upon the forces under Colonel Emerick. The Queen's Rangers moved rapidly to gain the heights, and Tarleton advanced with the Hussars and his famous Legion of Cavalry. This being reported to Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe, he directed Major Ross to conduct his Corps on the heights, and advancing to the road arrived within ten yards of Nimham and his men. Up to this time they had been intent on the attack upon Colonel Emerick. They now gave a yell and fired on the advancing enemy and wounded five including Colonel Simcoe.
They were driven from the fence, and Tarleton rushed upon them with his cavalry and pursued them down Cortlandt's Ridge. Here Tarleton himself had a narrow escape. Striking at one of the fugitives, he lost his balance and fell from his horse. Fortunately for him the Indian had no bayonet and his musket was discharged. A captain of a company of American soldiers was taken prisoner with some of his men, and a company under Major Stewart, who afterwards distinguished himself at the storming of Stony Point, left the Indians and fled. The engagement was renewed with the fiercest vigor. The cavalry charged the ridge with overwhelming numbers, but were bravely resisted. As the cavalry rode them down, the Indians seizing their foes, dragged them from their horses, to join them in death.
In a swamp, not far from the brook, Nimham made his last stand. When he saw the Grenadiers closing upon him and all hope of successful resistance gone, he called out to his people to flee, but as for himself, "I am an aged tree, I will die here."
Being attacked by Simcoe he wounded that officer, but was shot and killed by Wright, his orderly Hussar. In this fearful fray the power of the tribe was forever broken. More than forty of the Indians were killed or desperately wounded in the fight, and when the next morning dawned, there, still and cold in death, on the field he had defended so bravely, lay the last sachem of the Wappingers.
The place where they crossed Tippets Brook is still known as Indian Bridge, and an opening in the Cortlandt woods yet bears the name of Indian Field, and there the dead were buried. It is said that the spirit of the sachem still haunts the field of his last battle, and that the sound of his war cry still rises on the midnight air, and greets the ear of the belated traveler as he treads on his lonely way.
From that time the Wappingers ceased to have a name in history. A few scattered remnants still remained, and as late as 1811, a small band had their dwelling place on a low tract of land by the side of a brook, under a high hill, in the northern part of the town of Kent1, but all that remained of them have long since passed away, and the place that knew them once will know them no more forever.
A person who stands on the high land in Carmel, south of Lake Gleneida, sees far to the northwest, three lofty mountains that tower above all the country round. To the middle peak, which is the highest, we have given the name of the last Sachem of the tribe that once ruled all the lands that can be seen from its highest summit: and we trust that in honor of his valor, and of the faith sealed with his blood on the field where he fought for the liberty of America, it will bear to all future time the name of Mount Nimham.
1The site of this village is on the farm of Isaiah Booth, about half a mile
south of the Putnam county road, near the west line of Lot 5.
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