In their notices and transactions they gave their own peculiar names to the months. January they called the month of beavers, February the month of snows, May the month of flowers, June the month of heats, October the month of travels, etc. and dated from the year of discovery (A.D. 1609)
This society was a fraternity, bound together by a written constitution, the members of which pledged themselves, under the solemnities of an oath, to keep the proceedings of the society a profound secret. At their business meetings, which were usually held at night in their wigwam, illuminated by a council fire, they deliberated on the weighty affairs of the country, and decided what was to be done, dictated politics, interfered with elections, and decided who should be elected to office; which decision every member of the fraternity was bound to support, denouncing every other person who did not belong to their society as federalists and enemies to their country. They kept a regular system of espionage, issued circulars, and employed runners to carry them and learn what was doing in every part of the country, thus enabling them to spring upon their opponents like savages from an ambuscade.
During the short time they flourished at Hamilton they furnished abundant evidence that self-interest was their ruling, if not their only, motive. They exerted an influence which was extensively felt, and in the short period of their existence did considerable mischief. Through the efforts of the Tammany Society the civil institutions of our State were nearly reduced to a state of anarchy, from which a recovery was effected with difficulty. The society created considerable excitement and opposition in the community at large during its existence; but about the year 1816, four years after its organization, it dwindled away, and was no longer publicly known.
The following is a copy of one of their notices of a meeting, published in the newspapers of the time:
"NOTICE.--The members of the Tammany Society No. 9 will meet at their
wigwam at the house of brother William MURRAY, in Hamilton, on Thursday,
the first of the month of heats, precisely at the going down of the sun.
Punctual attendance is requested.
"By order of the Great Sachem.
"The ninth of the month of flowers, year of discovery 323. William C. KEEN, Secretary."
Tammany was an Indian chief of the Delaware nation. Mr. KECKEWELDER, in his historical account of the Indian nations, devoted part of a chapter to this chief. He spells the name Tamaned. All we know of him is that he was an ancient Delaware chief who never had his equal. we infer from Gabriel THOMAS, who published "An Historical and Geographical Account of Pennsylvania and West Jersey." at London in 1698, that Tammany might have been alive as late as 1680 or 1690.
"The fame of this great chief extended even amongst the whites, who fabricated numerous legends respecting him, which, however, HECKWELDER says he never heard from the mouth of an Indian, and therefore believes them all fabulous. In the Revolutionary War, Tammany's enthusiastic admirers dubbed him a saint, and he was established under the name of 'St. Tammany,' the patron saint of America. His name was inserted in some calendar, and his festival celebrated on the first day of May in every year. On that day a numerous society of his votaries walked together in procession. through the streets of Philadelphia, their hats decorated with bucks' tails, and proceeded to a handsome rural place, out of town, which they called the 'Wigwam;' where, after a long talk or Indian speech had been delivered and the calumet of peace and friendship had been duly smoked, they spent the day in activity and mirth. After dinner, Indian dances were performed on the green in front of the wigwam, the calumet was again smoked, & the company separated."
It was not until some years after the peace that these yearly meetings were discontinued. In New York, however, they worshiped Tammany as an Indian saint, and a benevolent society was named after him. In a few years it became a political society, but until the diffusion of universal suffrage, in 1846, had not acquired the unsavory odor it now has. Since the close of the Revolutionary struggle, Philadelphia, and perhaps other places, have had their Tammany societies, Tammany balls, etc. Among the multitude of poems and odes to Tammany, the following is selected to give the reader an idea of the acts said to have been achieved by him.
"Immortal Tammany of Indian race,
Great in the field, and foremost in the chase!
no puny saint was he with fasting pale;
He climbed the mountain, and he swept the vale,
Rushed through the torrent with unequaled might;
Caught the swift boar, and swifter deer with ease,
And worked a thousand miracles like these,
To public views he added private ends,
And loved his country most, and next his friends,
With courage long he strove to ward the blow
(Courage, we all respect, even in a foe),
And when each effort he in vain had tried,
Kindled the flame in which he bravely died,
To Tammany, let the full born go round,
His fame let every honest tongue resound,
with him let every gen'rous patriot vie,
To live in freedom, or with honor die."*
* Carey's Museum, p. 104
The first sheriff was chosen only to fill the place pro tem., and the same year another person was elected to occupy the office. He is chosen every two years, and is not eligible as sheriff for a longer term than four years in any term of six years. The names are as follows:
James BLACKBURN, special election, June, 1803; William McCLELLAN, 1803 to 1807; John WINGATE, 1807 to 1809; William McCLELLAN, 1809-1813; James McBRIDE, 1813-1817; Pierson SAYRE, 1817-1821; Samuel MILIKIN, 1821 to 1825; John HALL, 1825-1829; Pierson SAYRE, 1829 to 1831; William SHELLY, 1831 to 1835; Israel GREGG, 1835 to 1839; John K. WILSON, 1839 to 1843; William J. ELLIOTT, 1843 to 1847; F. Van DERVEER, 1847 to 1849; Aaron L. SCHENCK, 1849 to 1851; Peter MURPHY, 1851 to 1856; Joseph GARRISON, 1856 to 1860; A.A. PHILLIPS, 1860 to 1864; A.J. REES, 1864 to 1868; R.N. ANDREWS, 1868 to 1872; William H. ALLEN, 1872 to 1876; M. THOMAS, 1876 to 1880; F.D. BLACK, 1880 to 1884.