a Mahican warrior
The connection of Schaghticoke with Native Americans is obvious just from the name. Schaghticoke is a Mahican Indian word, thought to mean “mingling of the waters.” The “waters” would be the Tomhannock Creek with the Hoosic River, and the Hoosic River with the Hudson River. The occupation of our area by Native Americans began much before the use of the word, probably at the time of the last great glaciation, some 10,000 years ago. The rivers and valleys here have always been great places for people to live.
The major sites of Indian occupation in the town of Schaghticoke were from the area around the Knickerbocker Mansion on both sides of the Hoosic River to the Hudson River. Around 1990, some boys playing on the banks of the Hoosic River near the Mansion found some human bones washing out. The police were called, but so were the archeologists, and the bones proved to be from an Indian burial, dating 2000-3000 years ago. The bones were reinterred by the State Archeologists nearby, with the exact location kept secret.
Anyone who lives and farms around the Mansion, in what is known as “Old Schaghticoke”, or across the Hoosic from there, is used to finding arrowheads and rocks shaped by humans. Some years ago, the area of the Liberty Ridge Corn Maze on Stillwater Bridge Road was proposed as a site for a trailer park, so an extensive archeological survey was done. The conclusion was that the site of the old house on the property was probably where an Indian village was located, and the flats where the trailers were to be put were the fields of the village. In my office, I have several boxes of the archeological finds from that dig.
the entrance sign for Liberty Ridge Farm on Stillwater Bridge Road in Schaghticoke. The farm was the site of a 17th century Mahican village, overlooking the Hoosic River.
The Indians who lived in the town of Schaghticoke during the period just before the Europeans arrived were Mahicans, who lived very much like the better-known Iroquois. They built houses of wood and bark, hunted in the woods, fished in the rivers, and farmed corn, beans, and squash. Various tribes of the Mahicans lived throughout New England. By 1700, the Hudson River was the western border of their territory, from Schaghticoke almost all the way to New York City.
The first contact the local Indians had with Europeans may have been with Henry Hudson and his crew. According to Shirley Dunn in her fascinating book, “The Mohicans and their Land, 1609-1730,” after Hudson’s ship “the Half Moon” was moored a couple of miles below the current location of Albany in 1609, its crew rowed at least thirty miles up the river, exploring, “surely well above Schaghticoke.”
When European settlement was first made in the area of Albany, in 1614, a covenant or agreement was made with the Indians in the region, to ensure peace and cooperation. The Indians at Schaghticoke were very much a part of that agreement. There were probably 5,000 or fewer “River Indians” living from Saratoga to Kingston and from just west of the Hudson River to the Berkshires and Green Mountains. The Dutch at Albany and the Indians living around them had a mutually beneficial trading relationship, of trade goods in exhange for furs, for many years.
Bibliography: Dunn, Shirley, The Mohicans and their Land, 1609-1730,1994.
Ruttenber, E.M., Indian Tribes of Hudson’s River to 1700,1872, reprinted 1992.