A History of the Town of Queensbury, A. W. Holden, M.D.
This transcription was produced through the use of Readiris Pro 11 OCR software. Contributed by Tim Varney.
Aboriginal Occupation - Archaeological Relics - Mohicans - Schaghticokes - Adirondacks - Algonquins - Iroquois - St. Francis Tribe - Legend of the Blind Rock - Father Paul.
At the time of its almost simultaneous discovery by Samuel Champlain, and Henry Hudson, the territory of Northern New York, was the debatable ground of two powerful savage confederacies, the Adirondack at the north, and the Iroquois at the south. At the same time, on its eastern borders dwelt the Schaghticokes and a few scattered remnants of their affiliated tribes, which once held their council fires at Albany, and ruled this region with undisputed sovereignty from the sources to the mouth of the Hudson.
Comprised within the limits of the great triangle, bounded by Lake Champlain, the St. Lawrence, Hudson, and Mohawk rivers, was a vast reach of table land, amid whose tangle of streams and lakes, majestic mountain peaks and rugged ranges, endless swamps and illimitable forests, thronged and herded the elk, moose and deer; their coverts and recesses afforded range and security for the lurking wolf and the stealthy panther, the prowling bear and the subtle lynx. The pursuit of these was the red man's labor and recreation. The products of the chase furnished his food and raiment; its attainment and success constituted his wealth and distinction. These were the loved and frequented hunting grounds of the aborigines, and, as tradition informs us, the scene of many a sanguinary struggle for supremacy, which thinned the warrior ranks, and opened up a pathway of conquest to the descendants of the hardy Viking, the sturdy Saxon, and the gallant Celt.Page 2
The evidences of these conflicts are found imbedded along the banks of every stream, and beneath the soil of every carrying place from Albany to Montreal. Arrow and spear-heads, knives, hatchets, gouges, chisels, amulets and calumets, are, even to this late day, often found in the furrow of the plowman or the excavation of the laborer. Few localities have furnished a more abundant yield of these relics than the soil of Queensbury. While gun flints and bullets, spear heads and arrow points are found broadcast, and at large through the town, there are places abounding with them. Among the most noteworthy of these may be enumerated "the old Bill Harris's camp ground," in Harrisena, the headlands around Van Wormer's, Harris's, and Dunham's bays on Lake George, the Round pond near the Oneida, the Ridge, the vicinity of the Long pond, the banks of the meadow run and Carman's neck at the opening of the Big bend. This last was long noted as a runway for deer and traditions are handed down of grand hunting frolics at this point, where large quantities of game were hunted and driven within the bend, and while a small detachment of hunters served to prevent their retreat, the imprisoned game, reluctant to take the water down the precipitous bluffs, was captured or killed at their leisure. At this point, and also in the neighborhood of Long pond, fragments of Indian pottery, and culinary utensils of stone, have been found in such profusion, as to give coloring to the conjecture that large numbers of the natives may have resorted to these attractive spots, for a summer residence and camping ground. The old wilderness trails, and military thoroughfares, the neighborhood of block houses, picket posts, garrison grounds, and battle fields, in addition to their Indian antiquities have yielded many evidences of civilized warfare, in their harvests of bullets and bomb shells, buttons, buckles, bayonets, battered muskets and broken swords, axes and tomahawks of steel; chain, and grape shot, coins, cob-money and broken crockery, Such relics are often valuable as the silent witnesses to the truth of tradition, and the verification of history.
The eastern part of New York, at a period long anterior to the Iroquois ascendency, was occupied by a tribe variously known as the Ma-hick-an-ders, Muh-hea-kan-news, Mo-hea-cans, and Wa-ra-na-wan-kongs. The territory subject to their domination and occupancy, extended from the Connecticut to Page 3 the Hudson as far north as the southern extremity of Lake George. According to Schoolcraft, these Indians were among the tribes of the Algonquin stock. At the period of their greatest power, their national council fire was held on the ground now covered by the city of Albany, which was then known to them by the name of Pem-pot-a-wut-hut, signifying the fire place of the nation. The word Muh-ha-a-kun-nuck, from which the word Mohican is derived, means a great water or sea that is constantly in motion, either flowing or ebbing. Their traditions state that they originally came from a country very far to the west, where they lived in towns by the side of a great sea. In consequence of a famine, they were forced to leave their homes, and seek a new dwelling place far away to the east. They, with the cognate tribes of Manhattans, Pequots, Narragansetts and Nipmucks, occupied the whole peninsula of New England from the Penobscot to Long Island sound. The Brotherton community, and the Stockbridge tribe, now constitute the sole remnant of this once numerous people. Previous to the establishment of the Dutch colonies in this state, the Mohicans had been driven eastwardly by the Iroquois, and, at the time of their first intercourse with the whites, were found in a state of tributary alliance with that fierce people. The early attachment which was formed with the first English colonists of Connecticut by the politic Mohicans, no doubt contributed in a great measure to their preservation during the harassing wars which prevailed through the colonial peninsula for the first fifty years of its settlement.
The Schaghticoke Indians received their name from the locality where they dwelt, derived, according to Spafford, from the Indian term Scaugh-wank, signifying a sand slide. To this, the Dutch added the terminal, cook. The evidences of the early Dutch occupancy, exist to day, in the current names of the tributaries of the Hudson as far up as Fort Edward creek. The settlement of this tribe was seated on the Hoosick river not far from the town now bearing the same name. The hunting grounds of this vicinity, as far north as Lake George, for many years after the first white man had erected his rude habitation within this disputed border, were occupied by the Schaghticokes, under permission of the Mohawks, who owned the lands, and with whom they were upon friendly terms.Page 4
Their numbers, at all times small, were greatly diminished about the year 1745, when a large portion of the tribe abandoned the village, and proceeded to Canada, where they united with the tribes in the French interest. Their subsequent agency in the destruction of the settlements at Hoosick, Saratoga, and Lydius's mills gives a fearful importance to their history in connection with the border annals of Northern New York. By a reference to the proceedings of a council on Indian affairs held at Albany in 1754, it will be seen that the River Indians were usually present at the treaties and councils of the Six nations, and had a voice in their deliberations. (1) On this occasion, the reply of the Schaghticoke Indians, to the address of the governor and council, represents their numbers as small, and their representatives as young and inexperienced.
1. Doc. Hist. N. Y., vol. II, p. 572.
The Algonquin nation, which, at the time of Cartier's first voyage of discovery in 1534, occupied in its affiliations, alliances and dependencies, the whole extent of country, bordering upon the great lakes, from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Red river of the north, according to their traditions once occupied all the valley of the Lakes George and Champlain, as far westward as the St. Lawrence river and Lake Ontario. From these pleasant hunting grounds, after years of struggle and discomfiture, they were finally driven to the north-west by their powerful antagonists, the Iroquois, who in derision conferred upon the tribe the name of Adirondacks, signifying literally, a people who eat the bark of trees. The term Algonquin was one which was subsequently applied by the French to a particular class of that tribe, whose descendants are now settled in the vicinity of the lake of two mountains, Canada West. The earlier, and proper name by which this great family was known, was the Nipercerinians. They were finally amalgamated with the Caughnawagas, and fragments of other tribes, after many vicissitudes and reverses, and united in a civil jurisdiction, under the name of The Seven Nations of Canada. They were superior to the Iroquois in arts and attainments, and, at the culmination of their power had not only assumed in their relations to the neighboring tribes an attitude of commanding power, alike respected for its counsels, and feared for its strength, but had reached a point of civilization and polish scarcely equaled Page 5 by any of the tribes north of the dominions of the ancient Aztecs.
The Lenni-Lenape, Shawanese, Chippewas, Ottowas, Winnebagoes, Illini, nearly all of the New England tribes, including the Wampanoags, Pequots, Narragansetts, and Mohicans, had their origin, according to their common traditions, in this prolific stock. They were a mild, industrious, and brave people, scrupulous in fulfilling their promises, trustworthy, and honorable according to the Indian code; but comparatively effeminate, being neither so skilled in stratagem, fierce and relentless in war, eloquent in debate, nor politic and sagacious in council, as their hardier and more warlike neighbors at the south. Through the instrumentality of the earlier French navigators, who, from the outset of their intercourse with the people, had supplied them with fire-arms, and ammunition, a temporary success attended their warlike efforts; but the Dutch at the south, and the English colonists at the east, soon placed their hereditary enemies on an equal footing, and slowly, yet surely, they were expelled and driven beyond the mighty current of the Hochelaga.
The tradition's of this people state, that they originally came from a foreign country far to the north-west. They represented the Creator under the allegory of a large bird, and the order of the Creation in their legends, nearly corresponds with the Mosaic cosmogony. Like the majority of the Alleghanian tribes, they retain an account of the deluge, the waters of which covered the whole earth, except the summits of the highest mountains, whither their ancestors retreated, and remained in safety. They all believe in a Supreme Being, a future state of existence, a sensual paradise, and a state of punishment or retribution resembling that of Tantalus in the Grecian mythology. They also believe that in the beginning, the Great Spirit created an antagonistic power of evil, with which he is ever contending for the mastery. The sun stands to them as the representative and symbol of the Great Spirit, and is said by their medicine men to have been worshipped as such by their ancestors. They hold, also, the belief in the existence of minor spirits and powers both of darkness and light, such as furies, gnomes, and sylphs, watersprites, genii and personal angels which attend every individual in the character of guardians and defenders. Their customs and worship are based upon supernatural observances; and Page 6 though their traditions speak of sacrificial offerings, their religious rites, since the days of the discovery, are but a little more than a series of superstitious mummeries, which scarcely impose on the credulity of the uneducated savage.
Though, beyond a doubt, the warriors and hunters of this tribe once ranged the forests and hill sides of this township, in pursuit of foe and game, yet they have left no monuments of their occupancy, and the story of Adirondack greatness and renown, can only be surmised from the chant of the crooning squaw, or the relation of the half-blood borderer amid the dark firs and icy air of the far northern wilderness.
We now come to the consideration of the Six Nations, which, in point of prowess, power, and the extent of domain, may be considered as the first, and most important nationality among the red men of North America, unless we make a single exception in favor of the Nahuatlac tribes of the Mexican peninsula.
On the authority of Schoolcraft, who has probably made more thorough investigations in relation to the archaeology of this people, than any other writer, the term Iroquois, by which they are commonly designated, is of French origin, and is derived from an affirmative ejaculation or response, usually made by their warriors and sachems, on the reception of an address or speech. They were known to the Dutch as the Maquas, to the early English settlers, as the Mingoes, to the Mohicans as the Mengwe, and to the Algonquins as the Nodowas. Although, from time to time in the progress of their history, we hear of various tribes joining this confederacy, yet the order of their nationality soon became lost in the ascendancy of the original tribes. Thus, the Necariages who joined them in 1723, the Messasauges who were admitted as a seventh nation in 1746, as also the remnant of the Stockbridge tribe, which was annexed to them at a later day, soon lost their individuality, and the United People, as the Iroquois called themselves, continued to be designated by friend and foe as the Six nations.
According to their own traditions, they originally consisted of seven nations, which, at a later period, were merged in six. This number they clung to as a distinguishing feature of their nationality up to the period when its existence was obliterated, and the brave descendants of many generations of warriors, became pensioners upon the stinted and parsimonious charity of the whites.Page 7
The territory over which the Iroquois held sway, extended at different times, and more especially at the epoch of the establishment of the Dutch rule in this state, from the Connecticut to the Mississippi rivers; but their settlements proper, including their castles, villages, and cultivated grounds, were limited to the interior and south-western portion of New York, stretching westwardly from the valley of the Mohawk to the lake of the Eries. This section they figuratively called their long-house, the eastern door of which at Albany, was guarded by the Mohawks, and the western entrance, was secured with equal vigilance by the Senecas. Prior to the occupation of Canada by the French, the Six nations had no villages or permanent settlements north of the valley of the Mohawk; although they claim to have had villages upon the banks of the St. Lawrence at a very early period in their history.
Respecting their origin, their traditions are various and conflicting. One of their own writers claims that their ancestors were called forth from the bowels of a mountain by Tar-en-ya-wag-on, or the Holder of the Heavens. Their relations generally agree in the statement that they originally migrated from a country far to the south-west, and had continued their progress to the sea, from whence they retraced their steps, and settled by tribes in the order in which they were discovered by the whites as follows, viz: commencing with the Mohawks on the east, next came the Oneidas, the Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas. The Tuscaroras, who became members of the confederacy at a later day, had their seat between the Oneidas and Onondagas. It is conjectured that of these groups, the Mohawk was the parent stock, from which the other clans were derived. This tribe was known as the elder brother among them, and it always commanded a prominent place and consideration in the councils of the league. Its territorial jurisdiction included that portion of Eastern New York which extends from the sources of the Delaware and Susquehanna to Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence.
The Oneidas were an offshoot from the Onondagas. According to their own myth, they were the offspring of the once celebrated Oneida stone in the town of Stockbridge, Madison county. The name signifies, the people who sprang from the stone. They were called younger brothers by the rest of the confederacy.Page 8
The Onondagas, or people of the swamp, asserted that their lands were the first settled, and their chief village as the long established capital of the federation. They claimed their origin from an eminence near the falls on the Oswego river.
The Cayugas, who were settled around the fertile and pleasant borders of the Cayuga lake, occupied a distinguished place in the history of the Iroquois. They also are conjectured to have sprung from the Onondagas, migrating at an early period, and planting themselves in the lovely region, over which they held undisputed sway for upwards of two centuries.
The Senecas, or, as they termed themselves, Nundowaga, the people of the hills, were the most numerous of the six cantons. They have a legend, that they descended from a couple who dwelt on a hill, at 'the head of Canandaigua lake. Their name, though coincident with that of the great Roman poet and philosopher, is believed to be of Mohawk derivation, and its use has been traced to within five years of Hudson's first discovery. They contributed more than either of the tribes to the extension of the Iroquois dominions, and their war parties were the scourge and terror of all the tribes from the great lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.
It is impossible, at this late day, to determine with any accuracy the date at which the Iroquois federation was adopted. That it took place as early as the discovery of this continent may be justly inferred from the few gleams of truth to be derived from their wampum belts and picture annals. According to tradition, their compact was formed on the banks of the Onondaga lake, a powerful and influential chief by the name Thannowaga having not only originated the idea, but pushed it forward to a successful accomplishment. Whatever speculations may be hazarded in relation to this vague point, it is certain, from their prowess and achievements, that they had long been banded together for purposes of mutual aid and cooperation long before the whites mingled in their dusky councils, or added the weapons of civilized life to the fierce passions, and untamed energy of the savage state. From their legends we learn of the total extinction of a tribe called the Alleghanians at a period indefinitely remote in their history. At a later date, the Eries, a powerful nation, dwelling on the shores of the lake which bears their name, were overwhelmed, and their national existence blotted out. The Kahkwas were obliterated Page 9 from the catalogue of forest nations. The Susquehannocks were annihilated.
The Satanas were whirled before them like the thistle down before the tempest, and their identity forever lost. The Hurons, Wyandots and Quatoghies, were driven from their hunting grounds, and scattered in isolated hamlets among the islands and peninsulas of the far lakes, where they alone found safety in their insignificance. The Andastes were bunted out and extirpated from the wide spreading forests of Ohio. The Delawares, Nanticokes and Manhattans were subjugated, and by annual tribute and humiliating submission, averted the merciless brand of destruction. They carried terror, and desolation along the Appalachian mountains; their fierce war whoop rang along the valley of the Housatonic and resounded from the palisades on the Hudson; the cries of their victims ascended with the mists of St. Anthony's falls; their paeans of victory were echoed from the crags and cliffs of Lake Superior; and far or near the aboriginal nomads quailed and retreated from their wild battle cry, and for upwards of two centuries, they swept the continent, from the eternal barriers of ice at the north to the very verge of the tropics, with the brand of conquest, or the besom of destruction.
The government, and social polity of the Iroquois, united some of the better features of the feudal aristocracies, and monarchical rules with some of the approved forms of a republican government, the general tenor of their polity assuming a patriarchal type. Their presiding ruler or civil head of the confederacy was distinguished by the name of the Atotarho. This position was hereditary, belonging to a family of the Onondaga tribe, the line of succession following down through the female branches of the royal kin. Instances have not been wanting in their history, in which this venerated official has led their tribal hosts to battle and victory. He was supposed to be at all times employed, in serving the welfare, and guarding the interests of the league.
The command of their armies devolved upon the principal warrior of the Mohawk tribe. This military leader bore the name of the Tekarihogea. The two kings Hendrick, Little Abraham and Brant, during the colonial period of our history, were examples of this chieftainship. This office, like the former Page 10 was hereditary, except in extraordinary instances, when it was conferred upon superior valor or merit.
Under these officers, presided six sachems, selected equally for their bravery, skill, and wisdom, from each of the several tribes. It has been stated, that at the organization of the confederacy, fifty of these rulers were created, with as many alternates to act as assistants or proxies as circumstances required, and these were apportioned throughout the six cantons, where ever personal distinction and merit formed a fitting subject for preferment. These chiefs affected great poverty, and although largely called upon to exercise the rights of hospitality to their tribesmen, and all visitors, they generally distributed among their needy followers and parasites, their entire quota of tribute and share of plunder accruing from forays into neighboring territories.
Each canton was sub-divided into three or more distinct clans or families, designated by what they denominated totems, which, in forest heraldry, served as a badge of brotherhood, and hereditary distinction, and a certification of personal bravery and worth. The more distinguished of these totems, were the tortoise, the bear, and the wolf. These insignia were conspicuously tattooed upon their persons, and were regarded by them with the pride and satisfaction which accompany the possession of armorial bearings, and knightly honors.
The six sachems before mentioned, constituted the grand federative council of the league. The Atotarho presided at its deliberations, and on all state occasions the principal warriors, orators, and chiefs of the several tribes were summoned to participate in the counsels. This august body levied war, contracted alliances, sanctioned treaties, and prescribed their internecine regulations, and foreign policy.
The council fires of the league were constantly kept burning, at the castle of the Onondagas, and from it the people were yearly supplied with the sacred fire by the priests, or medicine men, with the most impressive rites and ceremonies. Here, also, during each year, was held the feast of the union, to keep bright the chain of their covenant, at which deputies from each tribe participated, and met to smoke in the great calumet of the confederacy.
Each tribe had also eight sub-officials called Ra-ko-wa-nas, who were probably the head men of the several families represented.Page 11
These discharged the duties of magistrates in their respective villages in times of peace, and in war marshaled the braves to battle. Each of these had his subordinate, who acted as his substitute, or aid as occasion demanded. They were called Mishinawas. Still below these were a host of minor officials, petty sachems, .and brevet chieftains, whose duties and functions were various and fluctuating. The rights, prerogatives, and powers of their rulers, seem to have been founded mainly upon the terms of respect due to capacity, ability, and past services.
All males above the age of puberty, were supposed to be capable of taking the war path, and from that period, were, according to their usages, required to bear arms and render military service. The admission to the portals of manhood, was to them a solemn event, ushered in by protracted fastings, arduous trials, and imposing ceremonials, well calculated to inure the neophyte to the fatigue of the chase, and exalt his mind above the hazards of the battle-field. These preparations had their commencement in the wild peculiarities of their religious belief, and all their customs from the medicine dance to the great annual feast at their national altar were but parts of their pagan ceremonial and worship.
In their councils and treaties, their war chiefs were held in secondary estimation, and all encroachments upon the prerogatives of their sachems were carefully guarded against, with a watchful discrimination and jealous vigilance. On the other hand, whenever the interests of the commonalty and women were involved, as in the sale, or partition of lands, they had an equal, and sometimes controlling voice in the determination of the question. Their cultivated lands in particular were considered the peculiar heritage of the women who tilled, and of the warriors who defended them.
They exhibited a sagacious policy in regard to their prisoners of war. These were rarely exchanged, but with the remnants of conquered tribes were termed Wa-hait-wat-sha, literally, a body divided into pieces and scattered around. These were adopted according to their ability to care for, or look after them, among different families, and were thus incorporated into the several tribes of the confederacy.
As public speakers, the Iroquois have no equals in the annals of the red race. The reported speeches of Garangula, Logan, Page 12 and Red Jacket equal in force and fervor, in imagery, eloquence and pathos the best efforts of the most gifted orators of the world.
The Iroquois lacked the great welding and cohesive power of a common language, all of the tribes having a distinct dialect, bearing a striking resemblance to each other, and evidently derived from a common root. Of these, the Mohawk was the most harsh and guttural, and the language of the Senecas the most euphonious. In their ordinary conversation there was a great range of modulation in the inflections of the voice, while expressive pantomime and vehement gestures helped to eke out the meagerness of their vernacular on the commonest occasions. Their proper names were invariably the embodiments of ideas, and their literature, as contained in their oft repeated legends, and the well remembered eloquence of their gifted orators, abounded with the most sublime -imagery, and striking antitheses, which were drawn at will by these apt observers of nature, from the wild scenes, and picturesque solitudes with which they were most familiar.
After the Revolution, the Mohawks, and such portions of the other tribes as espoused the cause of Great Britain in the struggle for independence, withdrew to Canada, and were seated upon a section of territory granted by the crown, in the vicinity of Brantford, at the head of Lake Ontario, where their descendants are residing in a prosperous and flourishing condition at the present day.
The remainder of this people, after disposing by piece and parcel of the rich heritage left them by their forefathers, have been gathered finally upon their various reservations, around which the waves of emigration and civilization have surged for more than half a century. Here, in their villages and hamlets, with their schools, workshops and churches, this once warlike people are now peacefully and contentedly employed in the pursuits of agriculture and industry and the cultivation of the useful arts, presenting a singular, and in some respects, a refreshing contrast, to the bustle and whirl, the greed, selfishness and rapacity of the world around them.
The St. Francis Indians are descended from the once powerful Androscoggins, a branch of the great Abenakies, or Tarrateens, which at one time held sway over the entire territory embraced in the peninsula of Nova Scotia, Maine and Eastern Canada.Page 13
Through the indefatigable labors of Father Rasles, who dwelt among these tribes for more than twenty years, a flourishing mission was established in the early part of the eighteenth century at Nar-rant-souak on the River Kennebeck. This settlement speedily became the rallying point for the French and Indians in their descents upon the frontier settlements of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The danger from this quarter at length became so eminent and pressing, that an expedition was finally planned for its destruction. A force of two hundred men, with a detachment of Indian allies, was fitted out in the summer of 1724, under the leadership of Captains Moulton and Harman of York. The village was invested. The attack was a surprise. Father Rasles, and about thirty of the Abenaki warriors killed, and the remainder dispersed. The survivors of this relentless massacre, with the remainder of the tribe, fled to the Mission village of St. Francis, situated upon the lake of that name at the head of the St. Francis river. The frequent accessions of fugitives to their ranks, due to the active, aggressive policy of the English, so increased their numbers, that they soon became known as the St. Francis tribe. Under the training of their priests they speedily became a powerful ally of the French, cooperating with the predaceous bands of half savage habitans, kept the English border settlements in terror and trepidation for a space of twenty-five years. In the notable campaign of 1757, a large party of them accompanied Montcalm in his expedition against Fort William Henry, at the southern extremity of Lake George, and were participants in the fearful and fiendish massacre which followed the surrender of that fort. They were doomed however to a reprisal, and vengeance, swift, thorough and effective. Immediately subsequent to the successes of General Amherst in 1759, the distinguished partisan Major Robert Rogers, was dispatched with a force of two hundred picked men from his corps of rangers, to demolish the settlement, and chastise the tribe for its complicity in the frightful massacres of the three preceding campaigns. Proceeding with caution and celerity, the village was surrounded before an alarm was given, and after a brief, sharp contest; the place was reduced, and the inhabitants, without respect to age or sex, were ruthlessly put to the sword. The dwellings and fortifications, together with a valuable church, fitted up with costly decorations and embellishments, were committed to the flames, and Page 14 destroyed. A large silver image, two hundred guineas in money, and a large amount of booty and spoils were carried off by the victors. Although their village and church were rebuilt, from that time forward the tribe rapidly decreased, until the settlement became almost depopulated. But a small remnant now remains of that once powerful race which hailed with wild enthusiasm the preaching of the border crusade, ere its fiery devotees rushed forth with bow and brand to desolate the smiling fields, and lay waste the hamlets of the early settlers of Northern New York.
The few straggling representatives of the red race who haunt the watering places of this vicinity, during the season of travel, selling bead and basket work, are mostly descendants of the St. Francis tribe, who linger around the old hunting ground, like ghosts whose unfulfilled mission still holds them reluctant wanderers on the shores of time.
Among the many localities of traditionary interest, within the town of Queensbury the Blind rock is associated in the memories of the oldest inhabitants with scenes and tales of torture, cruelty, and suffering, the horrible details of which are as varied as the diabolical inventions of savage ingenuity could execute upon its unresisting victims. By a reference to the old town record, it will be seen that the commissioners of highways have, in several instances, referred to this as a common, and well known point in their surveys for private roads, and occasioned changes in the public thoroughfares. Dr. Fitch, in the Historical Survey of Washington County, refers to it in the following language:
"Almost every step between the present village of Sandy Hill and the lake thus became tracked with blood; and Halfway brook, and Blind rock, and the Five-mile run became noted as places of ambuscade, and were always approached with fear and apprehension."
This rock is one of the numerous boulders that lie in the path of the diluvial drift trending from the lofty Adirondack range to the valley of the Hudson. Its composition is gneiss.
It is deeply imbedded beneath the drift and soil, the slow accumulation of untold ages, and, although legend states that within the period of a human life, over four feet of the rock bas been exposed to view, yet the gradual wash from the hill above, and the frequent passage of the plow at its sides, has so filled Page 15 up the inequalities of the surface, that but a very small portion of the crown of the rock is now visible. It is situated a yard or two from the route of the old military highway leading from Fort Edward to Fort William Henry, and about twenty-five rods to the east of the present plank road to Caldwell, on the farm owned by Mr. William Miller, and about two and one-half miles north of Glen's Falls village. It is stated by some of the older inhabitants, that the rock has a large cleft or crevice through the centre, caused by the repeated and heavy fires to which it has evidently been subjected at some long distant period.
According to various legends, this locality was a favorite place of encampment for the Indians, and a frequent point of resort for the torture and immolation of the numerous prisoners captured by them in their excursions against the settlements at the south, or taken upon the line of march between the two great places of rendezvous at Fort Edward and Lake George.
One account states that the name of Blind rock was given to this scene of savage cruelty, in consequence of a blind man being brought here, put to the torture, and finally burnt to death upon its summit. Another version is that a captive's eyes were torn out, and thrown into the burning embers gathered in the crevice of the rock. All the stories agree in representing it as a place where prisoners were habitually tortured, their finger and toe nails torn out, their flesh gashed and hacked, their persons maimed, mutilated and mangled with knives, spears and tomahawks; blazing splinters of fat pine thrust into the shrinking, quivering flesh; and after every resource of savage craft and skill was exhausted, and their fainting victims were ready to drop in unconsciousness to the ground, their writhing bodies were tossed into the fierce flames, kept burning on the sacrificial stone, and were there relentlessly held among the seething brands, until life and the semblance of humanity had become extinct in their blackened and shriveled forms.
Tradition has handed down to us the details of one affair when two English prisoners were captured while on their way from Lake George to Fort Edward. The Blind rock being nearly equidistant from these two points, comparatively safe from attack or molestation; abounding in material for building their torture fires, contiguous to a rivulet of the purest water; and furnishing a cleared, dry, commodious site for a camping Page 16 ground, caused this vicinity to be more resorted to than any other on the whole route from Lake St. Francis to Albany. On this particular occasion, the captives were divested of their clothing, and one of them firmly lashed with thongs of bark to one of the neighboring trees. The numerous pines in the vicinity soon furnished material for the fierce, glowing fire. The usual council was in the meantime assembled, and its deliberations resulted in the determination that the prisoners should first run the gauntlet; after which the usual tortures were to be resorted to, crowning their exercises with the customary cremation.
In execution of this plan, the savages formed an extended circle around the fire, within which the captor was placed, and to avoid the fierce blaze of the crackling fire, he was obliged to shrink to the verge of the armed circle of painted demons who surrounded him, who, as often as he came within their reach, struck at him with their keen edged tomahawks and glittering knives, and impelled him onward in his weary death race, by thrusting at him with their spears, or with the blows of their formidable war clubs. At length, when nearly exhausted, he caught sight of a papoose, or Indian child, that unheeded, had worked its way among the feet of the warriors. With the impulse of desperation, the prisoner dashed forward, seized the child, and flung it on the fire. For an instant the savages were appalled and paralyzed; and then, regardless of their victims, with loud clamors and shouts rushed forward to rescue the little scion of their tribe. In this moment of confusion, the captive snatched a hatchet, and liberated his companion from his bonds. They immediately took to the woods, and making a long detour, succeeded in escaping from their enemies, and finally reached Fort Edward, their flesh lacerated with the briers and underbrush, through which they forced their way, on their frightful and perilous journey. These, and many other incidents of a kindred nature, if is natural to suppose should have perpetuated the memories of this spot with an unfailing interest through all time, and yet, save to a few of the older residents, who in childhood, by the old fashioned blazing hickory fire, or the flickering flare of the pine knot, have listened shuddering to these recitals of horror, the place is unknown to the people as possessing any historic interest, and the events connected with it, until now, an unrecorded myth. I have Page 17 consulted old people who were born here in the town, who had never heard of such a place as "the blind rock," and, but for the accidental occurrence of the name on the town records, the whole affair would doubtless have soon passed into oblivion.
Something more than a half a century ago, a laborer named Robert Cranney while ploughing in a field south of, and adjacent to this rock, heard a metallic sound like the jingling of coin in the furrow. His search was rewarded by finding nearly twenty-five dollars of an ancient coinage, which had been liberated from their long concealment by the edge of the ploughshare, which had doubtless torn asunder the decayed purse in which they were originally contained. Animated by this discovery, all of the ground in the neighborhood of this rock, was subsequently thoroughly explored for treasure supposed to be concealed there. An eye witness states that he has seen the woods in the adjoining fields, thronged with horses tied to the trees, while their owners or riders were-busily engaged in throwing up the earth, and sinking deep pits in search for money and valuables. (1) It is to be presumed that these efforts were attended with but little success, as no important results have been heard of as the consequence of this industry.
1. In the olden time specimens similar to those in the illustration were frequently found in the neighborhood of the picket posts and block houses. These fragments were denominated cob-money from the resemblance of the stamp to the section of a corn cob, and were fragments of the old style cross pistareen.
The annals of the town, and the history of the Presbyterian church within its borders, would be incomplete without some account of the Rev. Anthony Paul, who, in the primitive days of the settlement, furnished religious instruction and consolation to a sparsely settled and not over devout pastorate, embracing all that region bordering upon the western shores, and southern extremity of Lake George; and occasionally extending Page 18 his ministrations, as emergency demanded, among the wilder forests, and rocky declivities of Dresden and Putnam on the eastern borders of the lake.
When he came here, and where from, where educated and admitted to the ministry, is, in great part, a matter of doubtful tradition, or questionable conjecture.
According to the best information at hand, it is believed that he was a Mohican by birth, and quite probably a son of Moses Paul who was executed for murder at New Haven, Conn., on the 22d of September, 1772. His children claimed to be descended from the Stockbridge tribe, which of course is only another name for a branch of the same people. Anthony Paul's wife was a daughter of the celebrated Indian preacher Sampson Occum, in regard to whom I find the following in Drake's Book of the Indians.
"Sampson Occum or Occom, was a Mohegan, of the family of Benoni Occum, who resided near New London, in Connecticut. He was the first of that tribe who was conspicuous in religion, if not the only one. He was born in 1723, and becoming attached to the Rev. Eleazer Wheelock, the minister of Lebanon in Connecticut, in 1741, he became a Christian. Possessing talents and great piety Mr. Wheelock entertained sanguine hopes that he would be able to effect much among his countrymen as a preacher of the gospel. He went to England in 1765, to procure aid for the keeping up of a school for the instruction of Indian children, which was begun by Mr. Wheelock, and furthered by a Mr. Moore by a donation of a school house and land, about 1763. While in England he was introduced to Lord Dartmouth, and other eminent persons. He preached there to crowds of people, and returned to America in 1768, having landed at Boston on his return. It is said he was the first Indian that preached in England. He was ordained, in 1759, a preacher to the Montauks on Long Island. (1) About this time be visited the Cherokees. He finally settled among the Oneida Indians, with many of his Mohegan brethren about 1768; they having been invited by the Oneidas. He died in July, 1792, at North Stockbridge, New York, aged 69."
1. For an extended account of his ministrations and services, see Dwight's Travels. vol. II, p. 99.
Stone, in his Life of Brant, states that the school at Dartmouth was not opened until 1770, previous to which time, Dr. Page 19 Wheelock had charge of the Moore Charity School, at Lebanon, Connecticut, at which Sampson Occum, the first Indian pupil, had been received about the year 1743. It is supposed that Anthony Paul was one of Dr. Wheelock's pupils at Lebanon, and possibly pursued his divinity studies under the personal supervision of Occum himself. It is conjectured that he removed to this region soon after the close of the revolutionary war, making his residence at first in the north part of Queensbury, afterwards, at Caldwell, and later on in Bolton, which latter place was the principal theatre of his ministerial labors.
In a conversation, which the compiler of this work had some years ago with Mrs. Emma Goss, the daughter of Stephen Stevenson, she stated that her father moved to this town, when she was but three years old, which would make the time of removal in 1785. He settled, cut out a clearing, and erected a log house on the farm recently owned and occupied by Stephen Vaughn, on the Dunham's bay road, near which "old John Paul, an Indian, built his hut, and made it his home." At this time, following her statement, there were only eighteen families residing in the whole town, and the extensive flats east and south of her father's house were covered with a dense wilderness of majestic pines where the wolf and panther lurked in undisturbed security. Whether this John Paul was a member of Anthony Paul's family or not is uncertain. I have supposed him to be either a brother or son. Stevenson's name first appears in the town records for 1795.
Anthony Paul had children as follows, their names being presented in the supposed order of birth: Sampson, James, Phebe, Benoni, Jonathan called Daunt, and Henry. The identity of two of the names with the Occum family is inferentially in favor of the claim of relationship. The children are represented as being an idle dissipated lot, and though harmless and inoffensive, "prone to do evil," and caring little for religious observances or social restraints. Sampson's name appears in Judge Robards' docket for the year 1802, as defendant in a law suit; and on the same docket, Anthony Paul is recorded as defendant in an action 18th March, 1805, David Osborne jr., a merchant at the Ridge, being the plaintiff.
Sampson, a few years later (about the year 1814), obtained a local notoriety for killing a panther with a fishing spear, off Grassy point in the town of Bolton. It was at the time of the Page 20 breaking up of the ice in the spring. The animal, in a half starved, half frozen condition, had floated near to the point, on a cake of ice, and in endeavoring to escape to the land, became entangled in the branches of an old tree top that had fallen partly in the lake. Sampson caught sight of the chilled and struggling brute, and seizing his fishing spear, the first weapon at hand, he ran down to the shore, and making his way out on the trunk of the tree, succeeded in thrusting the animal's head under water, and keeping it there, until it was drowned. The skin was carefully removed, stuffed, and for years afterwards graced the show rooms of the Albany Museum.
I am indebted to the Rev. Courtney Smith, formerly of Warrensburgh, for the following reminiscence of Father Paul. "I remember Paul, but my memory goes back to its extremest limit to authenticate his image. I must have been a wee bit of a boy, but on some public occasion, I have no idea what, which drew the public together, at the public house kept where the Mohican House is now kept, I seem to have been permitted to be there with my father or older brothers. While there, as I remember distinctly, a canoe came in from the lake, with a single man in it of medium height, somewhat stoutly built, and with the black hair and copper complexion of an Indian. He landed and walked up the bank with much deliberation and gravity of manner. It was the Indian preacher Paul, so I heard it remarked, and I deemed myself most fortunate in having seen him. * * * * * * He had acquired a respectable education in some New England institution, I am much inclined to think it was in Connecticut, and was regularly licensed to preach. How, or when he found his way into the Bolton settlement I cannot say, but at a very early period he came among those few families in the wilderness. They were many of them from New England, with all the New England appreciation of the gospel, and its institutions. As yet they were without a minister, and Paul coming with the requisite credentials, was invited to address them on the Sabbath, on the theme of religion. He did so, and they were edified. He assisted them in burying their dead, and consoled them in their afflictions, and became much respected. But alas! The appetite which characterizes his race ruined him. By an occasional indulgence in drink his appetite became fatally masterful. The fire-water burnt out his self respect, and he went down to the degradation Page 21 of the drunkard. Of course the people discarded him as a public teacher, and poor Paul disappeared from the scene." In a memorial commemorating a funeral among the early settlers, the Rev. Reuben Smith wrote concerning him. "The dreadful habit increased, and at length our good deacons were obliged to tell him that it would not be for edification that he should officiate in public any longer. He wept, tried reformation several times, fell again and again, and at length seemed to give up the attempt. He still clove to religion, however, in some sort, and even tried to preach in another connection." This was the Baptist Society, which, through the ministrations of Elder Bates, elsewhere alluded to, had attained a substantial and prosperous footing in the north part of this town. Father Paul officiated in a desultory sort of way, for several years, sinning and repenting, attempting reform and falling again, as many an one has done before him. On one occasion (my informant is Mr. Ralph S. Stebbins of Caldwell); "he made one of the most humble confessions ever beard out of the mouth of any human being. It was before his church brethren, and to use his own words, 'his bosom was literally drenched with tears.' A vote of forgiveness was unanimously given." At length, besotted with this vice, he abandoned his sacred calling, and gave himself up to the thraldom of his appetite. After dragging along a miserable existence for some years in his hut on Frenchman's point on the shore of the lake, about the year 1816 he revisited with his wife, the scenes of his childhood and youth in Connecticut. On his return, be coasted leisurely along in his canoe, through Long Island sound, and up the Hudson as far as Kingston point, near Rondout, where he was taken sick and after a brief illness, died and was buried. It is supposed that his wife returned to her friends in Connecticut. It is estimated that he was about seventy years old at the time of his death.
Sampson was married to a young and very pretty white girl of Whitehall. As the story goes, she was crossed in her affections in some way, and in a paroxysm of anger, declared that she" would marry the first man that asked her even if he was a negro." The speech came to Sampson's hearing, and before her temper had opportunity to take counsel of her judgment, he proposed, and she took the irrevocable step, which alienated her for life from her kindred and race. Two sons and one Page 22 daughter named Christiana, were the fruit of this union. The latter was married to an Indian named Jaqua (called Jakeway); and is believed to be now living among the wilds of Putnam or Dresden on the east side of Lake George, opposite Sabbath Day point.
Sampson died of inflammation of the lungs, at his cabin on the north bank of Smith brook in the north part of Caldwell, and was buried in a ground on the Harris farm, now belonging to Judge Edmonds in Bolton.
Phebe married a man by the name of Wales, and, as their daughter and only child was taken care of, and brought up by the grandparents, it is assumed that the child's mother must have died during its infancy.
James, while in a state of semi-intoxication was brutally drowned by a gang of rustic ruffians in McDonald's, since Garfield's bay, Lake George. It was on a town meeting day, and the waters of the lake were chill; under some pretext he was inveigled into the lake, or pushed in, and as he endeavored to grasp the only boat at hand, these human brutes would push it beyond his reach, until he was exhausted, and with Indian stoicism, he folded his arms and sunk to rise no more. The question of homicide was investigated by a grand jury, but no indictment was presented. - Hon. William Hay.
Benoni was a soldier in the regular army, in the war of 1812-15, and died while in the service. Jonathan or Daunt as he was called, and Henry died at our county poor house.
This completes the family record, so far as I have been able to trace it. This brief narrative, being chiefly a compilation from conflicting accounts, preserved in family traditions, or the memory of the oldest inhabitant, is doubtless faulty in many particulars. Faulty and imperfect as it may be, it is probably all that will be gathered concerning the last resident Indian family of this town. For a principal portion of the facts herein recorded I am indebted to the late Judge Hay of Saratoga Springs, and Mr. Ralph Stebbins of Caldwell.