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Article Number 7 - The Catskill Patent No. 1 -
Early Native Population
Originally published in the Catskill Examiner by Henry Brace between the years 1876 and 1879. Article 7 was published on April 8, 1876. Extracted from the microfilm copies of the Catskill Examiner located at the Vedder Research Library. Transcribed by Barbara Bartley.

Local Sketches.--No. 7. An Outline Of The History of the Town of Catskill, To The Year 1783. By Henry Brace 

Beyond Leeds, on the right bank of the Catskill, lies an alluvial plain of irregular shape, about two miles long with an average breadth of a quarter of a mile. It is raised a few feet above the level of the water, by which, however, it is covered and also fertilized in times of flood. Low Hills encompass this noble tract, and beyond these hills are the Potick mountain and the precipitous range of Hamilton shales, which the Dutch called the Hooge-Berg. There is no lovelier landscape in the town than the view of this plain and the surrounding region from the road which passes along the side of Potick to the Indian Ridge.

This noble plain was divided into five parts, which bore the harsh names of Wachachkeek, Wichquanachtekak, Pachquiack, Assiskowachkeek and Potick. These divisions, even so late as 1762, were separated from each other by gullies, water courses or clumps of trees.

The first name, as Gysbert Oosterhoudt testified in 1786, means house-land, or, more accurately, the place of wigwams. This flat lay between Marten Van Bergen’s house and Johannes Schuneman’s, and now lies on the south side of the road between Leeds and Catskill. The second flat is on the north side of this road, between it and the Kolk, a small pond in the field on the southwestern side of the Windham turnpike-road. The third flat extended from the Kolk to the Island; the fourth is on the east side of the ancient house of the Van Duzens; the fifth is on both sides of the Catskill, and was included in the farm of William Salisbury. The name of the fifth flat, I have said, is Potick, that is to say, a water-fall, and the flat was probably thus called from the rapids in the Catskill, which are hard by. In later days, after the Salisburys and the Van Bergens had begun to occupy the plain, it was called, as an entirety, by the Indians, by the name of Quajack, or the Christians’ Corn-Land.

In the records of New Netherland, and in the early records of New York, the native owners of this plain and of the region round about, from the mountains to the Hudson and from the Caterskill nearly to Coxsackie, are always called Catskill Indians. They were probably of Mohican blood, for they seem to have spoken the language of the Indians who were gathered about Albany, and whose council-fire was at Schodac. Wassenaar, moreover, declares that, in 1609, the Mohicans were in possession of the west bank of the Hudson from the Mohawk to the Esopus. But, during the last half of the seventeenth century, the Indians of Old Catskill, as I shall hereafter call them, became a mixed race of Mohicans, Delawares, Penacooks, from the Connecticut, and Nanticokes, from the eastern shore of Maryland.

Between the years 1663 and 1678, the chief men of the tribe were Manneentee, Tamonquas, Mamartekeek and Sichano. The sachems were two in number. One was Keesie Wey, or Aapje (Little Ape,) who claimed the ownership of Caniskek, as the plain now occupied by the farms of Griffin, Rushmore, Clow, and others, was called. The other was Mahak-Niminaw, who ruled over the Indians of Old Catskill. He chiefly spent his time in hunting, and was very fond of the rum of the Dutch, but hated their religion.

In 1786, Philip Bronk testified that he had heard his father say, that “there used to be sixty fighting Indians, besides women and children, at Old Catskill.” This estimate would make the number of the native inhabitants of the plain about three hundred.

These Indians, by the slow process of burning down the trees, had cleared a large portion of the flat, and upon it, in the fertile and mellow soil, they grew ample crops of maize, beans and pumpkins. Their wigwams stood on the bank on the southern and southwestern rim of the plain, from the site of the stone-house, which is still called the Parsonage, to the site of the stone house which Garret Van Bergen built and which Henry Vedder now dwells in. There was also an Indian village, and perhaps also an Indian kasteel or fort at Potick, near the house once occupied by William Salisbury. The burying-places of these savages were near the site of Old Catskill Church, a few rods north of the spot where the tile-roofed house of Marten Van Bergen once stood, near William Van Bergen’s, now Henry Vedder’s barn, and at Potick, and at Tagpohkigt or Tabigicht, as the Sandy Plain was once called.

From these hamlets, there led a foot path to Coxsackie, near or upon which the road leading from Leeds past Greene’s Lake was afterward made. Another footpath followed the Catskill to its source in the Vly, and thence continued down one of the branches of the Schoharie Kill and the Schoharie Kill itself to the Mohawk.  

The tribe, of which I am writing, like their Mohican kindred, buried their dead in a sitting posture, with the knees drawn up to the body. In each grave were put the occupant’s bows and arrows, his beads, and the trophies of his prowess. This mode of interment, so far as I know, was practiced so long as the Indians of Old Catskill kept possession of their domain. But, during the last year of their occupancy, their mode of life became greatly changed.

Log cabins, at least in part, took the place of wigwams. Bows were laid aside for muskets, and arrows for lead bullets. The men and women no longer clothed themselves in the skins of wild beasts, but wore shirts, stockings, woolen blankets, breeches of fustian and gowns of duffels. The coarse meal of maize was boiled in kettles instead of being made into a cake and baked in the hot ashes. The trees were felled by axes and not by fire. The ground was no longer tilled by the women with a sharp stone, but with a hoe. The canoes, when they were not made of elm or birch bark, were hollowed out of a single log by an adze, and not by burning and by scraping the charred surface by a large flint. All these implements were, of course, obtained from the Dutch, who gave them in barter for the skins of the beavers and of the otters which the Indians trapped or shot on the branches of the Catskill and the Caterskill.

The Dutch traders, always eager to buy furs, had often visited the Indians of Old Catskill, slept in their foul and smoky wigwams, ate their coarse food, and engaged with them in many a secret debauch. But the first man who made his home among these idle and drunken savages was Jan Bronck.

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