In the last post, I discussed the unique Indian history of Schaghticoke, as a home for refugees of King Philip’s War of 1675-1676, and the site of an oak tree planted to symbolize the welcome of the colony of New York to these refugees. They were from a number of New England tribes: Sokokis, Pocumtuks, Nonotucks, Woronokes, Agawams, Pennacooks, Narragansetts, Nipmucks, and Wampanoags. But the total numbers were quite small. We know this because another group of New England Indians moved to Schaghticoke in 1685, consisting of 56 men and 100 women and children, and they became the majority and dominant group. These later Indians had originally moved from New England to Canada, with a sachem or leader named Sadochiquis. The government of New York continually tried to lure more Indians to Schaghticoke, and Abenaki relatives of the Schaghticokes in Canada kept trying to get them to move north.
For some years, at least until about 1700, things went well at the new settlement. It seems to have stretched for several miles on both sides of the Hoosic River from the Hudson inland, with the Indians living in buildings of bark, log, and/or wood frame. But Northern Indians from Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Canada found that Schaghticoke was a good way-stop on the way to Albany. Apparently the Schaghticokes either participated in or facilitated smuggling of furs from Quebec, to be traded for gunpowder, lead for shot, cloth, and ironware with the merchants of Albany.
The Indians from elsewhere who passed through Schaghticoke were not used to dealing with the Dutch and English and got in trouble with the courts, committing crimes from leaving farm gates open to murder. In one incident in 1682, some guests that the Schaghticokes had taken in got drunk and got in an altercation with a farmer and his workers in Menands. The Schaghticokes apologized profusely to the court. They said they would be more careful with their guests in the future. The guests were very important to them as they were friends and relatives who had taken refuge in the areas of the St. Lawrence River, and were probably the smugglers and a source of some income to the Schaghticokes.
In 1690 the English went to war with the French in Canada. Now the government of New York called upon the refugees to fulfill their part of the bargain- a safe place to live in exchange for help against enemies. Indians from Schaghticoke joined with other local Indians and journeyed to near Montreal, where they successfully attacked the enemy and returned home. The next year, some of the Schaghticokes were forced to move to Half Moon, to act as a buffer between Canada and Albany on another route of attack. They remained until 1696. Governor Benjamin Fletcher called them to a conference to thank them for their service and gave each warior six pounds. Apparently despite the compensation they had been unhappy living there. Certainly they were away from home, and they didn’t like being closer to the temptations in Albany. They got in debt and were more often drunk. Alcohol, of course, was a persistent problem in European-Indian relations. By 1697 there were only 90 River Indian warriors- which includes the area from Catskill to Schaghticoke- some had been killed, some had died in a big smallpox epidemic, and some had moved away to safer places.
This sounds like the end of Indian occupation at Schaghticoke, but it wasn’t….quite. In upcoming posts, I’ll draw the Indian occupation of the town to a close, introduce the first European settlers, and discuss another very unique event in our history.
Bibliography: Dunn, Shirley, The Mohicans and Their Land, 1609-1730, 1994.