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’
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 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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