At the time of the settlement of East-Hampton this Tribe resided chiefly
upon the Peninsula of "Montaukett," as their headquarters. Poggatacut,
Sachem of the Manhansetts, and brother of Wyandance, died in 1651. Tradition
(recorded) tells of the funeral train that carried his remains to interment
at the royal burying-ground at Montauk. On the road from Sag-Harbor to
East-Hampton, the bearers rested their burden on the ground. The place
where the head tested was marked by an excavation some 1 1/2 feet in depth
and diameter, and was known to all as "the Sachem's Hole." It was kept
clear of leaves and rubbish as a sacred spot by the Indians in my day,
and was located about two rods south west of the 3 mile stone from East-Hampton.
The building of the Turnpike road obliterated it, realizing the danger
of innovation foreboded by the author of the Chronicles of East-Hampton
sooner than was looked for. Writersspeaking of this as the mark where rested
the feet of the
body contradict the tradition. Furman's Antiquities of Long Island strangely and mistakenly records this place as marking the place where rested the body of the Shinecock Sachem on its way, through Sag-Harbor to East-Hampton, and thence to Montauk for burial. This contradicts the tradition and the account recorded in "the Chronicles of East-Hampton," an authority remarkably full and accurate. The pre-eminence which he maintained over the other tribes of the Island, as their Sachem or Chieftain, seems to have descended to Wyandance, who thenceforth assumed the regal authority as Sachem of "Paumanacke," or Long Island. Under the government of Wyandance, if not previously, this tribe acquired by their martial virtues and the skill of their chieftain, a powerful ascendency over the other tribes of the Island, who by tribute, deference, or otherwise, acknowledged their superiority. At this time they appear to have been numerous.
Among the manuscript memoranda of John Lyon Gardiner, deceased, (a great antiquarian, thoroughly versed in the records and history of the early settlement of the eastern towns of Long Island,) I find the following:
"Eleazar Miller, Esq., formerly member of Assembly, said that when a young man he once enquired of a very old Indian, whether the Indians on the east end of Long Island were numerous. The Indian, placing his hand upon the grass, answered: 'If you can count the spires of grass, you can count the Indians that were living when I was a boy.'"
The same antiquarian, (to whom I confess myself indebted for much of our early history,) has left the following record of their romantic and most unfortunate defeat:
"The Montauk Tribe of Indians were tributary or allied to the Pequots. When this country was first settled a war prevailed between the Pequots on the one part, and the Narraghansetts, who were very numerous, on the other. The Block Island Indians took sides with the latter, the Montauk Indians with the former. In this war the Montaukers received a heavy blow from the Block Island Indians.
"Both parties set out in their war canoes, on the same evening. It was in the summer season, and at the full of the moon. They met half way, but the Block Island Indians being so situated in the glades of the moon, could not be seen, while at the same time, looking westward, they saw at a distance their enemies silently approaching in Indian file. The word was given, and they hurried back to Block Island, laid in ambush for their enemies, and secreted their wives and children. The Montaukers, unsuspicious, arrived at their landing place, hauled up their canoes, and were silently, and as they thought, sure of success, approaching the wigwams of their enemies, while as they supposed asleep. They fell into the ambush that was laid, and while one party was killing them another was destroying their canoes, and slaying such as attempted to return. They were all either taken or killed, except a few who escaped in one canoe. These brought the melancholy news to their friends. The Montaukers then moved on to the parsonage lands, at East-Hampton, and continued there a long time. Their Sachem was taken alive and carried to Narraghansett. A large, flat rock was heated by building fires upon. He was then ordered on it, with his bare feet. He sung his death song, walking several times composedly across it, till his feet were burned to a coal. He fell, and they finished the scene as usual in such cases. This was the last of their wars."
The tribe continued to decrease, and although severe laws were enacted, to prevent intemperance, by the sale of intoxicating drinks among them, yet other causes operated to reduce their number. It is probable that about this period the small pox, (that terror of the Indian,) prevailed among them, and carried off great numbers. The following order upon the town books substantiates the conjecture.
"March 2nd, 1663.--It is ordered that noe Indian shall come to town, into the street, after sufficient notice, on penalty of paying 5s., or be whipped; until they be free of the small pox," &c. In language, customs, government, religion and manners, this tribe was similar to the adjoining aboriginal tribes. The lamented author of the Chronicles of East-Hampton, (than whom none was better versed in local antique lore,) says of them:--
"In their religion they were Polytheists and Idolaters. Their government was a monarchial despotism. In person they were tall, of proud and lofty movement, of active bodies and as straight as the arrow. They were warlike in their habits and spent most of their time in the study of military policy. Their chiefs and their braves were distinguished above those of the other tribes of the Island for prowess in the field; for a recklessness of life in battle, and for the bold and daring onset with which, under their war scream, they rushed upon an enemy."
"Their canoes in which they visited the neighboring islands and the continent, as far east as Boston, and as far south as New York, were of the largest class, and in some instances capable of carrying eighty persons. That of Wyandance required the strength of seven or eight men to draw it from the water upon the shore; and on one occasion was damaged at Gardiner's Island for want of a sufficient number of persons to place it beyond the reach of the sea. With New Haven and the Connecticut River their intercourse was frequent. Their habits were social and they visited often and familiarly the families of neighbouring tribes, with whom they delighted to mix in converse and friendly gaiety."
"In the arts they had made but small advancement. The principal articles of manufacture were shell beads, called wampum, and which all accounts agree in stating were made by them in greater abundance than by any other tribe." "They were, as I have before remarked, Polytheists. They had gods in great numbers; many of lesser influence, having particular charges, and two of exalted degree, the good and the evil Deity, having a general superintendence and control, as well over all other gods as over men. There was a god of the four corners of the earth, and the four seasons of the year; another of the productions of the earth; another of the elements; one of the day and night; and a god of the hearth, the family, and domestic relations. The great, good, and supreme Deity they called Caulkluntoowut, which signifies one possessed of supreme power. The great evil spirit was named Mutcheshesumetooh, which signifies evil power. They worshipped and offered sacrifices to these gods at all times. They had small idols or images which they believed knew the will of the gods, and a regular Priesthood by whom these idols were consulted. The priests were called Powawas or Powwas, and declared to the people what the gods required of them; when dances and feasts should be made; when presents should be given to the old people; when sacrifices should be offered to the gods, and of what kind. These Powwas pretended to hold intercourse with the gods, in dreams, and with the evil spirit in particular, who appeared to them under different forms, and by voices in the air. These were the medicine men. They administered to the sick; relieved those afflicted with evil spirits and poison, and by incantations and charms, protected the people from all harm. Subject to the Powwas' influence, neither could fire burn them nor water drown them; nor could they receive any injury whatever. The most savory sacrifice made to the great Deity was the tail or fin of the whale, which they roasted. The leviathan, from which it was taken, was at times found cast upon the sea shore, and then a great and prolonged powaw, or religious festival, was held. At these festivals great efforts were supposed to be necessary to keep the Evil One without the circle of their incantations. His presence, it was believed, would defeat the object of the Powwas in the procurement of the favor and particular regard of the good deity. Violent gesticulations, loud yells, and laborious movements of the limbs and body, with distortion of the features, were continued until the excitement produced approached to madness. When the Evil Spirit was supposed to be subjugated the dance and the feast commenced. It is among the Indian traditions, that the existence of the Evil Spirit was evidenced by his having, when driven from the feast, left the imprint of his foot upon a granite rock on Montauk, and made three holes in the ground, at regular distances, where he alighted in three several leaps from the stone on which he had stood, and then disappeared."
"They believed in a future state of existence; that their souls would go westward a great distance, and many moons journey, to a place where the spirits of all would reside, and where, in the presence of their great Sawwonnuntoh, beyond the setting sun, the brave and the good would exercise themselves in pleasureable singing, in feasting, hunting and dancing forever. The coward, the traitor, the liar, and the thief were also there, but the enjoyments of the favored Sawwonnuntoh only added to the pain of the punishments visited upon the misdeeds of the wicked. Servile labor, so painful to and so much despised by the Indian, was the allotment of the sinful. The making a canoe with a round stone, and the carrying water in a wicker basket, were among the perplexing exercises of those who had sacrificed the happiness of their future existence to the will of Mutcheshesumetooh, or the Evil Power."
Efforts were, at a very early day, made to introduce civilization and Christianity among this tribe, but apparently with little success. The Rev. Thomas James was employed by "The Society for propagating the Gospel in New England," about the year 1660. He commenced the study of the Indian language, and made efforts to spread the knowledge of the Gospel among the Montauk Indians. Little is known however either of the length or success of his exertions.
In 1741 the New-York Committee of the same society employed Mr. Azariah Horton, (a native of Southold,) as a missionary, to be exclusively employed in the instruction of the Long Island Indians; and in that year he was ordained by the Presbytery of New-York to the work of the Gospel ministry. In this service Mr. Horton remained 11 years. From his journal, still extant, it would appear that he often preached to and labored with the Montauk Indians, and that some of them received the Gospel. These were probably the first religious impressions which to any extent affected the tribe.
In 1798 the Rev. Paul Cuffee, a native Shinecock Indian, received a commission from the "New-York Missionary Society," to labor with the remnants of the Long Island Indians. In their employ he remained till his death, which occurred March 7th, 1812. The principal field of his labor was Canoe Place and Montauk.
The tribe of Montauk Indians, within the memory of some of the oldest inhabitants, numbered some two hundred. Fifty or sixty years since, under the tuition of one Brown, an Englishman, who resided among them, they made some little advances in education. At that day they were eagerly sought for as whalemen, on account of their aptness and skill in seamanship, and their rare merits in the perilous conflicts with the giants of the deep. They manifested an equal readiness for the whaling voyage, and not a ship in that day sailed upon a whaling cruise without the necessary cemplement of Indians. The same passion has, to some extent, descended to the few survivors of the present day.
History has meagerly, romance bountifully sketched the peculiarities of the Indian. My learned friend William W. Tooker, with antiquarian perseverance and matchless skill, has traced the history of "Cockenoe de Long Island," from his capture in the Pequot war, (where the Montauks as tributary to the Pequots were involved in their destruction,) to his slavery in Massachusetts, his service as first interpreter to John Elliott in his translation of the Indian Bible, his return to his native tribe at Montauk, his marriage with the sister of Wyandance, and of the other three great Sachems of Eastern Long Island, his career as chief counsellor in the Montauk tribe, his office of interpreter and agency in the large sales of Indian lands on Long Island. His intellectual eminence must have been an elevating power to his tribe, and contributed to prolong their existence and supremacy over the other neighboring tribes. The seclusion of the Montauks was unusually favorable to their survival, as a people. The doom of destruction, that swept away the Indian race as a whirlwind, was delayed but not averted from the Montauks. The example and teaching of this high counselor and of Sampson Occum, Azariah Horton and others, was evanescent. Some brief account of Gospel work among them remains. After the death of Wyandance, in 1659, by poison secretly administered, the tribe under the leadership of Weoncombone, his son, came to reside on the calf pasture south of the main street, as a refuge from the persecution of the Narragansetts. While there in 1662, the small pox raged so fatally as to threaten their extinction, and Weoncombone then died at the age of twenty-two. In my boyhood many graves remained there, reputed to be of Indians. In excavating for the foundation of the dwelling house and outbuildings of Mr. Satterthwaite, years ago the bones of Indian bodies, bottles, an idol image and other articles identifying the site of their burial place were found. The idol may have beent he one worshipped by the young Sachem. Writers have erred in stating that with the decease of the son of Wyandance his descendants perished. His grandson Moushu, alias Poniute, signed the deed of Dec. 1, 1670, for a portion of Montauk.
The record of impress of the intellectual and moral power of the white race on the Indian is not lacking. But who has written of
THE INFLUENCE OF THE INDIAN ON THE ANGLO SAXON?
The Trustees of the Town, as a corporation, were twelve in number. By
the patent of Gov. Dongan they took title in trust by its terms "only"
in trust as a medium of conveyance, to confirm the allotted lands to the
individual owners thereof, the unallotted lands to their owners and with
a pre-emption right to acquire the yet unpurchased part of Montauk. The
date of the patent was December 9th, 1686. The date of the deed of the
unpurchased part of Montauk was August 3d, 1687. The nearly cotemporaneous
dates would seem to imply some connection between them, and imply that
the patent was a procuring cause of the deed. The trustees, and they alone,
could purchase. They could do so for the benefit of the town, or of individuals.
They chose to do so for individuals. The twenty-nine proprietors who took
title in the deed to "North Neck" and all the remainder of Montauk lying
east of and including Great Pond, advanced to the Trustees the purchase
money wherewith they paid the Montauk tribe of Indians for the land. Thenceforth
the Trustees held the nominal legal title for the benefit of the purchasers,
who held the equitable title. By contributing the money to purchase, a
trust resulted in the land for the benefit of those contributors, in the
proportion of their contributions. If the Trustees were unfaithful to their
duty as Trustees for the equitable owners, the latter could invoke the
aid of a court of equity and compel a conveyance to them of the legal title
by the Trustees. On this theory, in 1851, at the Suffolk County Circuit,
judgment was rendered against the Trustees in favor of the committee of
the proprietors, prosecuting in behalf of themselves and their numerous
co-owners in their own names. As required by the terms of the Judgment,
the Trustees conveyed all their corporate rights or claim to the land and
waters of Montauk, to the proprietors, who thenceforth, as a corporation,
governed the same, substantially as it had been governed by the Town Trustees,
before they set up claims of ownership adverse to the rights of the equitable
owners. In 1879, by sale in a partition suit, Arthur W. Benson became the
purchaser and sole owner of the land called Montauk. Since he became the
owner the Indians left their home at Montauk. Their dwellings were removed
or demolished. For some years they have been disbanded as a tribe. They
and their descendants are dispersed and widely scattered, without organization;
with little aboriginal blood, the few tragic survivors of a once great
With a short interval from the time of Dongan's Patent, for 160 years, the Town Trustees controlled, managed and governed the territory of Montauk. The three purchases of Montauk, comprising "the Hither End," which extended to and included Fort Pond; the nine score acre purchase, which comprised the land from Fort Pond to Great Pond, and bounded north nearly by the line of stone wall between those ponds, (called the nine score acre purchase because the three men purchasing were reimbursed on conveying to proprietors, by an allottment of nine score acres at Amagansett, and sometimes called the "land between the Ponds"); and the final purchase of 1687, constituted three sets of purchasers owning different interests. In 1748, by consent of all these proprietors, their complicated interests were simplified and consolidated so as to run throughout the whole territory of Montauk,(*) estimated at nine thousand acres. In this equalization a share in the "Hither End" was estimated at œœ8, 0s, 0d, a share in the land "between the ponds" at œœ8, 0s, 0d, and a share in the land east of Fort Pond at œœ24, 0s, 0d. The sum of these three amounts is œœ40, 0s, 0d. Thereafter a share throughout Montauk was measured by forty pounds, and an eighth part of a share by five pounds, and all ownership or interest therein was measured by pounds, shillings and pence. The Town Trustees took the charge and practical management of this large territory, improved mainly as a pasturage for cattle from the early days of the town to modern times. They regulated the pasturage; they fixed the stint or proportion of cattle allowed on an undivided interest; they kept a record of all the owners and their rights; they hired and fixed the compensation of the shepherds or keepers, who resided on Montauk; they negotiated with the tribe of Indians there residing; they provided for fencing the land in several tracts; they took measures to prevent trespass; they sold the wood as it became ripe for cutting; the construction and repairing of the dwellings thereon (*)See copy document equalizing in Appendix.
they managed. All these and many other duties connected with this large domain enhanced the importance of the office of Trustee and made a position on that Board an educational force. Thereby they acquired business habits, legislative and practical knowledge, self reliance and an experience impelling thought towards popular government. Thus twelve citizens were constantly training to represent the Town by this large trust and by thinking, speaking, and acting for the town. When Gov. Dongan sanctioned and legalized such a Board of Trustees in the old towns of Long Island, he chartered a power that could move and did move with an augmenting velocity ever more in the direction of popular rights. The inborn devotion to freedom that never slumbered in the old towns of Suffolk County was nurtured and grew deep rooted in their representative boards of Trustees. They were the Tribunes of the people. What shall be the value of products of the earth as currency? How shall the meeting house be finished? Shall the money of the town in Jere Mulford's hands go to pay the minister? Shall the negroes sit in the 2d gallery? Shall a school house or town poor house be built? Shall the bell be rung at nine o'clock? Shall Eleazar Miller and his partners be allowed to take timber to build a vessel? Shall the Montauk Indians have powder and shot to resist invasion? Shall innoculation to prevent the ravages of the small pox be permitted or prohibited? Shall the cattle that were taken from Montauk in 1775 to prevent their seizure by the British fleet go back or stay at home? In 1781 the British government demanded of the farmers of East-Hampton 40 tons of hay. What men and in what proportions should they furinsh it? All these and hundreds of other momentous propositions are decided by a vote of the Town Trustees, and their vote sounds as a judgment irreversible.
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