Little Positive Data about Early History of Cairo

By Grace Story Webber, Cairo Township Historian
Published in the Catskill Daily Mail February 26, 1952


Newspaper article courtesy of Linda Larsen. Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin


(Editorís Note: This is the second in a series of articles on the history of Cairo Township prepared by Mrs. Webber, Others will follow.)

* * *

One of the first inquires that suggest itself when we consider the history of a locality is in regard to its primitive occupancy. Who were the people who lived in Cairo before our forefathers gained a home on the soil, and what became of them when the white settlers took possession of this land?

In the early history of Cairo we find but little positive data, but we may construct a few conclusions from what has been left. When the first Europeans came to Cairo, the land was occupied by a group of Mohawk Indians, the local group being called the Catskillís.

Indications of their existence are not wanting. We see them in the burial grounds, their stone arrow-points and instruments of various kinds. On Indian Ridge, in the southern part of the town, Willard Story owned a farm where Fred Ludwig now lives, and when he plowed the fields on the side of the ridge, he found great quantities of arrow-points and implements. Rowland Simpkins, living where Mr. Curcio now lives, told of the burial ground on his farm on top of this same ridge.

E Plains Recorded

In Beerís history it records, in the Barkerís Patent;--"Two plains, called by the Indians Togohphight and Magquamsasick,ÖThe track contained 400 acres, and lay above Potick, in the present town of Cairo. "

Then again at the Round Top, the Indians living nearby captured Frederick Schermerhorn, who was at the home of his brother, Jacob, when he was taken prisoner by Indians. Jacob had married a daughter of the Stropes, and their house was about 20 rods east of the Round Top cemetery, and about 25 rods south and directly in front of Charles Johnsonís residence, in 1884 and near where the parsonage is now. Not only the Schermerhornís boy but also the Abeels were captured by the Indians and tories of this locality and taken to Canada.

In "Catskill Mountains and the Region Around" by Rev. Charles Rockwell, it relates that the prisoners, that is David and his son, Anthony; were taken by the Indians to "the remains of a small fort, on the southwest slope of Round Top; midway between Round Top and High Peak, where they spent the night. The remains of this fort were visible as late as 1848" and some say that even to this day there still remains the mound.

"A Loving People"

The Catskill Indians were spoken of by Hendrick Hudson as a "loving People." In 1663, their Chief was known as Long Jacob and their totem was the wolf.

Their forts were usually enclosures, containing about an acre, surrounded by palisades 12 to 15 feet high, and within were filled with wigwams. To quote from Hudson River Landings by Paul Wilstach; "One of the tribes consisted of 40 men and 17 teen woman; there I saw in a house well constructed of oak-bark, and circular in shape, with the appearance of having a vaulted ceiling. It contained a great quantity of maize and beans of the last yearís growth, and there lay near the house for the purpose of drying enough to load three ships, besides what was growing in the fields." Beside corn and beans they also raised squash, tobacco, sunflowers, grapes, and berries. The fish in the creeks and the game in the forests added to their supply of food.


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