History of the Town of Schaghticoke

the results of research about the history of the town of Schaghticoke

Tag Archives: native americans

More on Schaghticoke Indians and the Earliest Portrait of a Resident of Schaghticoke!?

            Recently I read The River Indians: Mohicans Making History, a 2009 book by Shirley Dunn, who wrote two earlier books on the topic. The Mahican or Mohican Indians who lived along the Hudson River north of Kingston were called “the River Indians” in colonial documents. The Schaghticoke Indians were part of that group.

Of course I looked for new information (to me) about the Schaghticoke Indians in the book. One item was that  through the first half of the 18th century, the colonial governors of New York attended yearly conferences in Albany with representatives of the Mohicans. This would have included sachems, or chiefs, of the Schaghticokes. They received necessary supplies, including gunpowder, lead, hatchets, blankets, knives, and, unfortunately, rum.  I like to think of the sachems of the Schaghticokes making the yearly trek to Albany.

As a child, I learned that the Iroquois Indians lived west of the Hudson Riverand the Mohicans to the east. Mrs. Dunn proves that until losing battles to the Iroquois Mohawks in 1629, Mohican territory extended at least as far west as Schenectady. This means that the Mohicans owned the Cohoes Falls- indeed just in 2011, ancestral sacred land at the Falls was returned to the Mohicans.

When the Mohawks began selling land to the white settlers, it wasn’t the agonizing event you might suspect- they first sold land that they had won from the Mohicans just a few years before. Some land the Mohawks sold was originally in the territory of the Schaghticokes, including the whole Hoosic River drainage. This had been their hunting grounds. Mrs. Dunn quotes a reminiscence written in the 1800’s, which noted that through the first half of the 1800’s, there were isolated wigwams located throughout Washington County. Indians used them as hunting camps, returning to their permanent villages- probably at Schaghticoke and Stockbridge,Massachusetts.

The Mohawks and Mohicans reconciled their differences in the face of the greater threat to them from numerous  white settlers. As early as 1703, the Mohawks invited the Schaghticokes, to join them along the Susquehanna River. They were also anxious to increase their own population. Some Schaghticokes did move, telling the officials in Albany, who did not want them to move, that they were going to a place where Mohicans used to live. There were Mohican villages along the Susquehanna River until they were destroyed in the Sullivan-Clinton expedition during the Revolutionary War in 1777.

A couple of beliefs I have long held were confirmed in Mrs. Dunn’s book:   One, that while a few Mohicans continued to live in their old territory for many years, the Schaghticokes had all left by 1755.  Two, that there is no connection between the Schaghticoke Indian reservation at Kent,Connecticut and the Schaghticokes here. Mrs. Dunn treats them as two totally different populations. Over the years, I have received many inquiries on both topics- from people who are sure that Indians lived here through the 1900’s, and from others who are sure that when the Schaghticokes left here they went to Connecticut.  I am grateful to Mrs. Dunn for her careful research which makes our local Indian history more complete.

Coincidentally, I recently came across another newish book on the Indians who lived up and down the Hudson River when the Europeans arrived: First Manhattans: a history of the Indians of Greater NY by Robert S Grumet. I always check the index of any book about Indians for Schaghticoke, and to my surprise, this book had many listings. Unfortunately, this is a condensation by the author of a huge book on the same topic, leaving out the footnote citations. I don’t like to relate information to you without knowing exactly where it came from. I will just share a bit of the new-to-me facts that Mr. Grumet included.

First, Mr. Grumet really emphasized the importance of the Mahican settlement at Schaghticoke to colonial history. In 1679, the River Indians reported to the Indian commissioners in Albany that they had divided themselves in two, with one sachem ruling those living south of Albany, and one, based at Schaghticoke, ruling those north of Albany. Through the book, he cites the concern of the Indian commissioners for the settlement at Schaghticoke, the participation of Schaghticoke Indians in English expeditions against the French and Indians, and the central location of Schaghticoke on the smuggling route between Canada and Albany.

Second, Mr. Grumet calls the subject of this only known portrait of a Mohican/Mahican Indian a Schaghticoke. In 1710, Peter Schuyler, Indian Commissioner in Albany, accompanied three Mohawk and one Mahican sachems on a trip to London. The stated purpose of the trip was to ask for Christian missionaries to be sent to the Indians, but the real purpose was to plead for British help in launching an invasion of French Canada. The four Indians were referred to as “the four Indian Kings of America,” and created a sensation inLondon. They were exhibited on stage on several occasions. They had their portraits painted and had an audience with Queen Anne, who gave them the blankets and shirts which they wear in the portraits. She did send a large expeditionary force to attack Canada and Acadia, and had a mission built at Fort Hunter, out the Mohawk River.

The Mahican on the journey was Etowaukaum, a sachem, also known as Nicholas. He was about forty years old in 1710, and had had considerable experience fighting against the French and their Indian allies and leading his people. Just that he was chosen for the journey abroad indicates his importance to his people.  Shirley Dunn states that the thunderbird tattoos which appear on his face in the portrait indicate that he was a shaman or healer; and he signed with a turtle on a document in England, indicating that was his clan. She states that he was certainly the most important man of his tribe, and speculates that his inclusion in this trip might mean he had been baptized, and that he had many contacts with the Mohawks, the other “Kings.” He lived until about 1734, when he signed a deed near Nassau in RensselaerCounty.  While Mrs. Dunn writes in detail about Etowaukaum, it was Mr. Grumet who added that he was a Schaghticoke.

While we will probably never know the truth, I find it wonderful to think about this flexible and resilient man, who was able to survive epidemics of small pox; chaos of several wars, both Indian and colonial; military expeditions to Canada; numerous conferences with Europeans; and an arduous journey to London. He probably lived in several locations during a long life, but I like to think about him having seen the same view of the falls of the Hoosic River as  us!

Dunn, Shirley, The River Indians, 2009.

Grumet, Robert, First Manhattans, U. of Oklahoma Press, 2011.

Native Americans Abandon Schaghticoke


           I wrote about this topic in August- but somehow missed adding the final chapter. At last, here it is. It is one of the most controversial parts, in a way. Every once in a while, someone writes to tell me of Native Americans who continued to live in town, or who returned periodically to conduct ceremonies in one part of town or another. This is difficult to document, though certainly not impossible. But here is what is known.               

           The Schaghticoke Indians  were content, as the 18th century began.  The colony of New York had built them a fort for their protection. But the city of Albany purchased two tracts of land at Schaghticoke: in 1699, a six-mile square parcel from Hendrick VanRensselaer and in 1707, from the Indians, a two-mile wide area adjacent to the first. They paid the Schaghticokes “ 2 blankets, 12 duffel coats, 20 shirts, 2 guns, 12 pounds powder, 36 pounds lead, 8 gallons rum, 2 casks beer, 2 rolls tobacco, 10 gallons medera (sic) wine, and some pipes, plus yearly for the next ten years, 1 blanket, 1 shirt, 1 pair stockings, 1 lapp?, 1 keg of rum, 3 pounds powder, 6 pounds lead, 12 pounds tobacco.”  The Indians were given twelve acres of lowland to cultivate, which was to be fenced off at the expense of the city. It is ironic that while one of the major problems the Indians had was abuse of alcohol, so much was included in the payment for the land.

                The first eight Dutch families arrived in 1710. I wrote about them in other posts. The number of Schaghticokes living in the village at this time is not certain, but what is certain is that their lives were not improved by the arrival of their new  neighbors. With the addition of Dutch settlers, the Indians  were not as needed as warriors and protectors from the incursions of the French and Indians. Sometimes their loyalty to the English was questioned. The Indian commissioners still did not want the Schaghticokes to communicate with their relatives in Canada, but they continued to do so.

                At a conference with the Indian commissioners in 1714, the Schaghticokes complained that the “whites” were not content with the land they had, but were trying to get all of the land away from the Indians. At first the city of Albany complied with the deed and kept the twelve acres fenced, and even plowed it for the Schaghticokes. But that land was supposed to support perhaps several hundred people.  The local hunting became increasingly difficult as the area became more settled. The Indians became more and more impoverished. In 1714, the Indians asked for more land, next to what they already had on the north side of the Hoosic River.  Not only did they not get more land, but Albany began adding some of the land they already had to new leases to Europeans, “if the Indians have no occasion for the said land.”  (Apparently no one consulted the Indians about their need for the land.) Schaghticokes began to leave their village and join their relatives in Canada. In 1723 the Commissioner of Indian Affairs sent for some of the Indians who had left to ask them to explain why they left. They replied that “the Christians who are settled near them have encroached upon their land and confined them to a barren spot which will not maintain them.” In 1728 they complained that what corn they had planted was stolen from them.  Other Schaghticokes may have joined relatives on Lake Champlain, or gone to the Schoharie Valley Mohawks, or the Christian Indian settlement in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

                The Schaghticokes protested for the last time to the Indian Commissioners in 1754, stating that they felt the white people were living all over their lands, even that which they had never purchased. The Commissioners were not sympathetic. The last of the Schaghticokes departed for the St. Lawrence Valley, merging with the St. Francis and Abenaki groups that August. They were assisted by a French officer at Crown Point, who gave them a boat to cross Lake champlain.  There are a couple of reports from 1756 and 1762 that Schaghticoke Indians were in the groups of French Indian allies fighting in the French and Indian War against their former allies. Who can blame them?  It’s possible that a few Schaghticokes remained here into the 1760’s.

                I must note that there is a Schaghticoke Indian reservation in Kent, Connecticut, not far from here. I have never been able to find any connection between the Indians here and those in Connecticut, except that they were all  in the large language group of  Algonquian Indians.


Bibliography: This includes the books used for all of the posts on Native Americans.


Church, Benjamin, Diary of King Philip’s War, 1675-1676, reprinted 1975.

Dunn, Shirley, The Mohicans and their Land, and The Mohican World, 1994.

Kloppott, Beth, The History of the Town of Schaghticoke, 1981.

Niles, Grace Greylock, The Hoosac Valley, its Legends and its History,1912.

Richter, Daniel K. and James H. Merrell, Beyond the Covenant Chain, 1987.

Ruttenber, E.M. Indian Tribes of Hudson’s River to 1700 and 1700-1850, reprinted 1992.

Schaghticoke’s Indian Massacre

Schaghticoke’s Indian Massacre


                By 1710, eight intrepid Dutch families had settled along the Hoosic River near what is now the Knickerbocker Mansion in the town of Schaghticoke.  They lived on the relatively isolated fifty-acre farms they leased from the city of Albany. At this early point they would have cleared just a few of their fifty acres  for cultivation, and probably lived in rough log homes. Their immediate neighbors were a couple hundred Schaghticoke Indians (the numbers are very uncertain), also farmers, living in similar but probably poorer  circumstances.  A few Indians had grouped together near the protection provided by a roughly built  fort garrisoned by a few soldiers.

 One of the original leaseholders was Daniel Kittle or Ketelhuyn. He was born in Albany in 1674, and married Deborah Viele in 1695. They eventually had twelve children. Daniel had been a constable, tax collector and assistant alderman in Albany, as well as a lieutenant in the colonial militia. Though he had lived in the city, he was familiar with the wilderness and spoke at least one Indian language. Among his neighbors in Schaghticoke were his brother David with his wife Johanna Bradt, and his sister Maria with her husband Johannes Bradt, and their families. They got along well with their Indian neighbors.

                On October 20, 1711, David Kittle and Johannes Bradt were on their way  by horse to the village of the Schaghticoke Indians when they encountered a stranger, a French Indian. After some conversation  the Indian shot and killed Johannes Bradt.  The Indianescaped, after he struggled with and wounded David Kittle with his ax, telling David that there were “twenty French Indians on each side of the Hudson River.” Daniel Kittle set off for Albany to get help, leaving his brother and three local soldiers barricaded in his house.

                In the middle of the night, there was a knock at the door. After some conversation in “the Indian Language,” David Kittle opened the door to a band of hostile Indians. “The Indians fired six shots at him.” Those in the house managed to keep the Indians at bay until they set the house on fire. Then there was a battle, which ended with deaths on both sides. Interesting details of the battle include that the defenders of the house included both an Indian; Mr. Kittle’s slave, a“Negro” boy; and three soldiers of the garrison.  The letter in the NYS Archives describing the attack states, “A Lame Indian who was hid behind a fence hath seen all this barbarous threatening, who says there were about 100 Indians.” Two of the soldiers and David Kittle died at the house. David’s wife was at first taken captive, but killed and scalped just a short distance away, probably because “she was so big with child that she could scarcely walk.” Daniel’s infant child was also killed, its “brains dashed out against an oak tree,” but his wife, sister, and nephew were kidnapped, and taken to Canada. Daniel got permission from Governor Robert Hunter of New York to travel by way of Lakes George and Champlain to Montreal, where he ransomed the captives, returning to Albany in January.  Undeterred, Daniel Kittle later built a home on a different site in Schaghticoke where he lived for the rest of his life.

                How do we know such detail of this event? At the time, testimony was given by the “old lame Indian that lived near the Ketlins (sic) house” to the Indian Commissioners, who wrote a letter to the Governor. They told him in great detail of the attack, and requested that the frontier be better protected, and that fines be levied against inhabitants who were supposed to be guarding at night. The letter is in the records of the Colony of New York in the New York State Archives in Albany. Where were the Kittle homes? That remains a mystery, though they were certainly in the area of the Albany Corporation Lands, near the Knickerbocker Mansion.

                In the next post, I will discuss the amazing follow-up to the Indian massacre.


Bibliography: Broderick, Warren, “Fiction Based on ‘Well Authenticated Facts’ ”, Hudson Valley Regional  

                        Review, September 1987.

Native Americans, problems as Europeans move in



                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.

Native Americans in Schaghticoke, refugees from King Philip’s War invited

Mahican Indians lived all along the Hudson River at the time of Henry Hudson’s exploration and the settlement of Albany in 1614.  Relatives of the local Indians lived throughout New England.  They spoke a common language, but lived in separate tribes. As the 1600’s went on, the population of Europeans in New England increased, and the Mahicans realized that peaceful coexistence was not going to be possible much longer. The pressure was not the same in the Dutch colony of New Netherlands because not many settlers had arrived. The Dutch focus was on trade, not settlement. But the Indians in New England saw that their way of life would be destroyed by the invasive Europeans, and decided to push back.

In 1675-1676, the Indians tried to force the Europeans out of New England in what has come to be called King Philip’s War. “King Philip” was the anglicized name of the leader of the Wampanoag tribe, Metacomet.  At first, the Indians had great success, attacking numerous small European settlements, and killing many settlers. But as the Europeans got organized, their numerical and technological superiority defeated the Indians. If you are interested in finding out more about the Mahican Indians and King Philip’s War, I suggest a visit to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, which is located across the street from the Foxwoods Casino near Mystic, Connecticut. The museum, funded with profits from the Casino, is fantastic, and gives a great view of Mahican life and history. They  also have a movie about King Philip’s War.

In the winter of 1675-1676, King Philip and a few followers made a journey to Schaghticoke. The war was not going well, and they came here to try to recruit some warriors to return with him to fight in the spring.  Most sources suggest that the new Governor of the Colony of New York, Edmund Andros, organized  the Mohawks to attack Philip, somewhere in Old Schaghticoke (near the current Knickerbocker Mansion), and he returned home with no new recruits. One book indicates that there was quite a battle, with the population of Schaghticoke swelled by “hundreds” of Algonquian Indians who were allied with the French.  In any case, by August of 1676, Philip was dead, defeated near his home in Rhode Island.  The end had come for Indian rebellion, and even Indian life in New England. Most Indians were forced from their villages, and wandered in groups of refugees from mixed tribes.

That same New York Governor, Edmund Andros, invited those refugees to come and settle at Schaghticoke, where some of their relatives by language already lived. He promised them protection from their enemies, the Mohawks. They were to occupy land on both sides of the Hoosic River from the Hudson River inland for twelve to fourteen miles. Other European settlements in New England had emphatically rejected the impoverished Indian refugees. Why did New York seek them out? Andros hoped that the Mahican Indians would help protect the city of Albany from invasion from Canada by the French and their Indian allies. He wanted them to work for the colony as fighters, translators, and messengers.

Governor Andros came to Schaghticoke to seal the covenant with the refugees in 1676. They planted an oak tree to symbolize the agreement.  Later, the tree was called the “Witenagemot Oak.”  Witenagemot is not an Indian word at all, but an old English word, meaning “Council of the Wise.”  Indeed, on the 1877 Beers Atlas map of Schaghticoke, the tree is labelled, “Indian Council Tree.”  Perhaps a well-meaning historian thought the name added a little more cachet to the tree.  The oak stood until a hurricane in 1948. Its trunk, mostly cement due to various efforts to save it before it fell, is in the back yard of the Knickerbocker Mansion.

If you are interested in reading more about the Pilgrims, Puritans, and King Philip’s War, I suggest the book Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick.

Bibliography:  Dunn, Shirley, The Mohicans and their Land, 1609-1730,1994.

Richter, Daniel, Beyond the Covenant Chain, 1987.

Church, Col. Benjamin, Diary of King Philip’s War, 1675-1676,reprinted 1975.

Native Americans in Schaghticoke, early settlement

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.