Sunday, August 29, 2010

Van Gelder Relationships

I created this diagram to show my Mohican ancestor John Van Gelder's relationships to the Mohicans and Wappingers around him.  The arrows represent relationships, either biological or social.  In each box I give nationality, any special position the individual may have held and the band or location of where s/he lived.  Afterward I discovered that Nimham was married to Van Gelder's sister.  I haven't been able yet to figure out how to edit the diagram to present the new information.  It's fascinating to ponder, though.

Mohican Reserved Land

Occasionally I see a reference to the Mohican reservation in Berkshire County.  It perplexed me until I began my research.  The reservation was not as we know reservations today, poor land where Native Americans were forced by the United States government to live in poor housing with little food.  This reservation was only land reserved by the Mohican Nation for themselves.  There was a Mohican settlement nearby at one time in the vicinity of Big Springs, but not during the 1700s. 

On 20 October 1740 the Mohican Nation leased the northern half of the reserved land to Andrew Karner, Van Gelder's brother-in-law.  The  Mohicans deeded the southern half of the land to Van Gelder on 19 June 1744 and he deeded part  to his other brother-in-law Lodowick Karner 15 June 1745.    They all lived in the northern half of the land.  It is possible that this was part of a survival strategy by the nation, to make sure they had land they could move to if need be.  This practice was followed by their relatives in northwestern Connecticut.

In this map that I created, the extended family lived on the land between the purple dashed lines.  There was a  Mohican burial ground at the mouth of Guilder Hollow and it was probably used by my family.  It was dug up in the 1950s to be used as roadfill, even though there was a headstone and bones visible in the dirt.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mohican Seminar 3

Mohican Seminar 3: The Journey—An Algonquian Peoples Seminar, New York State Museum Bulletin 511, Shirley W. Dunn, editor. The University of the State of New York, the State Education Department, Albany, N.Y., 2009. ISBN: 1-55557-240-5

Papers Included:

  1. Lake, Tom R., “The Ancestral Lure of the Hudson Estuary.”
  2. Rugenstein, Ernest R., “Evidence for Settlements Along the Kinderhook.”
  3. Ives, Timothy H., “Expressions of Community: Reconstructing Native Identity in Seventeenth Century Central Connecticut Through Land Deed Analysis.”
  4. Smith, J. Michael, “The Seventeenth Century Sachems of the Wapping Country: Corporate Identity and Interaction in the Hudson Valley.”
  5. Horecky, Scott P., “Fort Kitchawanc Archaeological Preserve at Croton Point.”
  6. Dunn, Shirley W., “Indian Ownership in and around the Catskills.”
  7. Lee, Jennifer, “Historic Indian Clothing.”
  8. Keegan, Barry, “Algonquian and Iroquois Uses of Plants and Other Materials to Make Fire.”
  9. MacDougall, Hugh C., “James Fenimore Cooper and the Mohicans.”
  10. Winchell, Debra, “The Impact of John Van Gelder: Mohican, Husbandman, and Historic Figure.”
  11. Niemi, Richard, “The Interconnected Lives of Stockbridge Indians Mary (Peters) Doxtator and Peter Pohquonnoppeet.
  12. Lake, Tom R., “The Divinity of Eagles.”

Signature of John Van Gelder

John Van Gelder's tomahawk, photo by James N. Parrish.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mohican Seminar 2

Mohican Seminar 2: The Challenge—An Algonquian Peoples Seminar, New York State Museum Bulletin 506, Shirley W. Dunn, editor, The University of the State of New York, the State Education Department, Albany, N.Y., 2005. ISBN 1-55557-224-3

Papers included:

  1. Binzen, Timothy. “The River Beyond the Mountains: Native American Settlements of the Upper Housatonic during the Woodland Period.”
  2. Joseph, Stanley. “A Dutchman at Indiantown: A Perspective on the Stockbridge Mission.”
  3. Folts, James D. “The Westward Migration of the Munsee Indians in the Eighteenth Century.”
  4. Dunn, Shirley W. “The Mohican Presence on the Susquehanna River in New York.”
  5. Dixon, Heriberto. “Oral Historical Insights into Rogers’ Raid on the St. Francis Abenaki Village in 1759.”
  6. Oberly, James W. “When Congress Acted: The Mohican Reservation and the Act of 1871.
  7. McAllester, David P. “Mohican Music, Past and Present.” [A condescending, poorly researched and biased opinion piece.]
  8. Broderick ,Warren F. “New York State’s Mohicans in Literature."
The church at Odanak, where Rogers' Rangers attacked.  The Abenaki had been warned in advance by a  Mohican in-law.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mohican Seminar 1

The Native American Institute of the Hudson Valley, the New York State Museum and the State Education Department sponsored a series of seminars beginning in 1997.  The proceedings have been published in a series of three bulletins.  Unfortunately the State Museum's web site and Amazon do not list the individual papers.  Here I will.

Mohican Seminar 1: The Continuance–Al Algonquian Peoples Seminar, Selected Research Papers–2000, Shirley W. Dunn, editor. New York State Museum Bulletin 501, University of the State of New York, the State Education Department, Albany, N.Y., 2004. ISBN: 1-55557-145-X

Papers included:

  1. Curtin, Edward V., “The Ancient Mohicans in Time, Space and Prehistory.”
  2. Lavin, Lucianne, “Mohican/Algonquian Settlement Patterns.”
  3. Jacobs, Jaap. “Dutch Sources on Native American History.”
  4. Smith, J. Michael. “The Highland King Nimhammaw and the Native Indian Proprietors of Land in Dutchess County, N.Y.: 1712-1765.”
  5. Binzen, Timothy L. “Weataug and Wechquadnach: Native American Settlements of the Upper Housatonic.”
  6. Dunn, Shirley W. “Adapting a Culture: The Mohican Experience at Shekomeko.”
  7. Walling, Richard S. “Nimham’s Indian Company of 1778: The Events Leading Up to the Stockbridge Massacre of August 31, 1778.
  8. Broderick, Warren F. “Analysis of ‘Ben Pie:” A Native American Tale.
  9. Foley, Denis, “The Mohicans: Alcohol and the Fur Trade.”
Down this road is the site of the Moravian mission village of Shekomkeo.  I wish it could have been preserved as it was instead of turned into expensive country homes.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mohican References

Below is an updated list of published references on the Mohican Nation and its people.

Mohican Bibliography

Bradley, James W. (June 28, 2007). Before Albany: An Archaeology of Native-Dutch Relations in the Capital Region 1600-1664, New York State Museum, Albany, N.Y.

Brasser, Ted, "Mahican," Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 15: Northeast, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Calloway, Colin G. (1995). The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities. Cambridge Studies in North American Indian History. Cambridge University Press, New York, N.Y.

Calloway, Colin (1990). The Western Abenakis of Vermont, 1600-1800: War, Migration and the Survival of an Indian People. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Okla.

Carlson, Richard G., editor. (1987). Rooted Like the Ash Trees: New England Indians and the Land. Eagle Wing Press, Inc., Naugatuck, Conn.

Day, Gordon (1981). “The Identity of the St. Francis Indians,” Canadian Ethnology Service Paper No. 71. Ottawa, Ont., Canada.

Shirley W. Dunn (October 30, 2009). The River Indians: Mohicans Making History. Purple Mountain Press, Fleischmans, NY.

Shirley W. Dunn, editor (September 30, 2005) Mohican Seminar 2: The Challege An Algonquian Peoples Seminar, New York State Museum, Albany, N.Y.

Dunn, Shirley, editor (2004). Mohican Seminar 1, The Continuance-An Algonquian Peoples Seminar, Selected Research Papers - 2000. New York State Museum Bulletin 501 2004. University of the State of New York, The State Education Department, Albany, N.Y.

Dunn, Shirley (2002). The Mohican World. Purple Mountain Press, Fleischmans, NY.

Dunn, Shirley (1994). The Mohicans and Their Land. Purple Mountain Press, Fleischmans, NY.

Frazier, Patrick (1992). The Mohicans of Stockbridge. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Haefeli, Evan and Kevin Sweeney (1997). “Revisiting The Redeemed Captive: New Perspectives on the 1704 Attack on Deerfield,” in Colin Calloway, After King Philip’s War: Presence and Persistence in Indian New England. University Press of New England, Hanover, N.H.

Haviland, William A. and Marjory W. Power (1994). The Original Vermonters: Native Inhabitants, Past and Present. University Press of New England, Hanover, N.H.

Miles, Lion G. (2009). A Life of John Konkapot. New Marlborough, MA, Historical Society.

Miles, Lion G. (2008). "The Stockbridge Indians in New York, 1784-1829," Proceedings of the Northeastern Native Peoples & the American Revolutionary Era: 1760-1810 Symposium,  Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center, , Mashantucket, CT, pp. 32-48.

Miles, Lion G. (March 1994). "The Red Man Dispossessed: The Williams Family and the Alienation of Indian Land in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1736-1818." The New England Quarterly, Vol. LXVII, No. 1, pp. 46-76. Also anthologized in Alden T. Vaughan, ed. (1999), New England Encounters, Northeastern University Press, Boston, Mass., pp. 276-302.

James W. Oberly (February 1, 2008). A Nation Of Statemen: The Political Culture of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohicans, 1815-1972 (Civilization of the American Indian). University of Oklahoma Press.

Smith, J. Michael (Spring 2010). "Wappinger Kinship Associations: Daniel Nimham's Family Tree," The Hudson River Valley Review, Vol. 26, No. 2, pp. 69-98.

Rachel Wheeler (June 2008). To Live Upon Hope: Mohicans and Missionaries in the Eighteenth-century Northeast. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, N.Y.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Mohican Nation

Some of my ancestors were Mohican, an Algonkin nation that was once located in the upper Hudson River Valley and western Massachusetts.  I grew up in the original homeland of the Mohican Nation and feel a strong attachment to the land here.  Because the council fire of the Nation moved away, first to western New York, and then on through Indiana to Wisconsin, some people fail to recognize the Mohicans' connection to the area.  The Mohicans are also confused with the Mohawks, who were from a different language and cultural group.  They can also be referred to as Mahicans.  "Mahican" comes from the Dutch term "Mahikander."  I use the term the nation uses.  Mohican has also been confused with Mohegan, even by the Library of Congress.  The Mohegan Nation is centered in southern Connecticut and the two have been separate nations since at least the 1600s. 

I have collected some interesting links for the history and culture of the Mohican Nation and its people.

Mohican Links


Homepage of the Mohican Nation, Stockbridge-Munsee Band in Wisconsin
A Mahican history from
Mohican history from the Mohican Press
The Gnadenhutten Massacre
Native American Facts For Kids: Mohican Nation
Algonkin Church History
Contemporary history of the Mohicans in Wisconsin
Leeds Flat Victory
Native American Languages of the Americas: Mohican
Moravian Origins of J.F. Cooper's Mohicans
Stockbridge Students at Carlisle Indian School
National Portrait Gallery Portrait of Etow Oh Koam
Portrait of Austin Quinney

Mohican men fought with the British in the French & Indian War.

Rogers Island
Fort William Henry

The Mohicans were one of the few Native nations that fought on the Patriot side of the American Revolution.  The shrunken nation was dealt a terrible blow when they lost 17 warriors in an ambush on August 31, 1778.

Nimham's Indian Company Of 1778: the Events Leading Up To The Stockbridge Massacre
Death in the Bronx
Indian Field Today

Experience Mohican History and Culture

Mohican Nation Cultural Tour in Wisconsin
Mohican Nation Pow Wow
Muhheconneew Press
Mohican Trail Historial Driving Tour in New York (a partial tour only of the northern portion of the Mohican homeland)
The Stockbridge Mission House
Gnadenhutten Historical Park and Museum

Contemporary Mohican Artists

Bill Miller:  winner of 9 Native American Music Awards and 3 Grammy Awards
Brent Michael Davids, composer.  He has garnered awards from Ascap, Nea, Rockefeller Foundation, In-Vision,  Meet-The-Composer, Bush Foundation, McKnight Foundation, and Jerome Foundation, among others.
Sheila Tousey, Actor and Producer

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Keepers of the Circle Pow Wow 2010

Last weekend the Keepers of the Circle held their fourth pow wow at their house in Rotterdam Junction, New York. The Keepers is a Native American educational and cultural association begun 20 years ago whose first meetings were held in the Friends’ Meeting House in Albany. I first became a member in 1995 and met several lifelong friends there. The Keepers is an intertribal group and acts with the next seven generations in mind. The host drums were White Buffalo and the Nimham Mountain Singers. Head dancers were Timberwolf Lamia and Kathy Johnston (Walks Not Alone).

I don't think the location could be much more lovely.

Me with the head dancers

Some lovely female dancers

At pow wows I have always met people anxious to find out who their Native ancestors were. I have always wanted to find relatives and other people like me. I volunteered to have a genealogy table at the pow wow. Thankfully a friend let me borrow his canopy for protection from the sun. I created a display of documents to look for in researching Native family. Another friend was supposed to be there representing Mohican history, but that didn’t happen. It was left to me and my Mohican elder when she was there Sunday afternoon.

Two photos of my double-sided display.

I do have one issue that I think won’t ever be settled peacefully. I believe the house is on Mohican land. The Mohawks believe the house is on their land because through a treaty that the Dutch insisted on they were awarded land west of Albany. How is this different than the Europeans settlers being given Mohican land? When you come down to it, it isn’t. It is Mohican land. My name is Loving Dove and I have spoken.  Aho.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Notes on a Nature Walk : May 20

One of my favorite walks is along the Mohawk River in Niskayuna on the Mohawk Hudson Bike Hike Trail, created out of an old railway line. It’s a popular park and it was busy today, with many people walking, running and biking. People older than me were roller-skating and roller-skiing. Two men were on the shore fishing. Another woman walking wore a black and white print blouse, a black skirt and bright red socks. I didn’t feel as though the place were crowded, though.

People in this area have to loosen up, smile and say hello more. Only about 25% of the people I encountered in the park and later in the supermarket greeted me. It’s very sad to experience. According to an U. S. Army veteran friend, it was expected of him to greet the other person in the foreign countries where he was stationed. Friendliness to me is a virtue. Why can’t people here be friendly?

I think of the place more as a park than a trail. I like to go there because of the natural landscaping on both sides of the trail. I’m in contact with Mother Earth and the Animal People. There is always something to pay attention to and learn from. I don’t need to take an MP3 player with me.

I love listening to the many varieties of bird calls and songs and trying to figure out what birds are there and what they’re doing. I saw two birds that were orange variants of scarlet tanagers scraping. I surprised two chipmunks on the grass shoulder alongside the path. They both scurried back into the bush. Since moving back into an urban environment in 1996, I rarely see chipmunks anymore. I always found them very appealing little creatures.

On my return back to the car a bullfrog began calling. I don’t recall hearing one since I left my hometown of Philmont in 1985. There I lived next to the reservoir and one hallmark of spring was the loud chorus of bullfrogs that I grew up loving. I’ve been looking for the Abenaki story about Gluskabe and the magical frog Oglubemu, but haven’t found it. Joseph Bruchac includes it on a storytelling tape.

My last trip to the trail was in late March when plant life was just beginning to wake up. It was nice to see the changes. My very first impression walking to the trail was that it smelled so nice there. The pendulous clusters of creamy blossoms draping the black locust trees were no doubt responsible. Blooming wild honeysuckle bushes were scattered alongside the trail, as well as deciduous trees with tiny pine cones. They’re a type of alder. There was a couple clumps of bright white bloodroot and Dame’s Rockets, or wild phlox. They are so pretty and fragrant. If you looked carefully there were beautiful yellow iris filling the mud flats along the river banks. The flowers were shaped like Siberian or Japanese iris, not bearded. They’re naturalized invasives from Eurasia.

For the past week I’ve had trouble getting to sleep. The day before I didn’t fall asleep until 6 a.m. I only had 5 hours of sleep. It was a beautiful late spring day. I made myself go out to the park. I started walking with more energy than I’ve had for ages and walked farther than I ever had. I thought I was staying awake because of my antihistamine. After enjoying this walk so much I think it’s safe to believe that I’m finally getting the help I’ve craved from my allergy shots.

I was distressed to see that there was a new roadbed cutting across the trail. It seems that the powers that be decided it was cheaper to build this than replace the bridge that crossed the trail. However, I don’t like seeing the environment further disrupted by the roadbed cutting across the river channel, the ugly riprap and knowing that pollutants will flow off the surface into the water. It was bad enough that the railroad was built along the river shore to forever alter the ecosystem in the first place. At least nature was allowed to refresh the area and it’s open to the public to enjoy, unlike the New York state parks that have recently been closed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Alexander M. Thatcher of Massachusetts

I have been pursuing information on my great-great-grandfather Alexander M. Thatcher for a long time with few results.  His birth date has been given as 18 July 1818.  The information on his death certificate doesn’t seem to be true.  I haven’t found a Thomas Thatcher in Pennsylvania who could have been his father.  He first appeared in documents when he married Huldah BISHOP, 14 Aug 1844, in Tyringham, Berkshire Co., Mass.  The marriage record said he was a resident of Northampton, Mass., at the time.  The family lived in Lee and Housatonic in Berkshire Co., Mass.  There is another Thatcher family in the Lee area that I haven’t found a connection to.  Alexander died from typhoid fever on 13 Jan 1880 in Great Barrington, MA.  The death notice in the paper was two lines long and gave no helpful information.  Although I don’t have census information entered into my computer program, I know I have the existing census records for him and there was no information that was helpful.

Children of Alexander Thatcher and Huldah Bishop:

Julia Maria Thatcher, b. 7 July 1845, MA, d. 11 June 1855.
Eugene Stephen Thatcher, b. 19 Aug 1848, d. 23 Nov 1899, m. Alice Cordelia Rewey 6 Sep 1879
Agnes Jane Thatcher, b. July 1850.
Susan Evaline Thatcher, b. ca 1852, died 31 Aug 1875
Albert L. Thatcher, b. ca 1854, d. 12 Oct 1857
Spencer W. Thatcher, b. ca 1856, d. 8 Oct 1857
Cora Leona Thatcher, b. 30 Sep 1858, d. 18 Jul 1892, m. Henry Franklin Winchell 11 Aug 1857
Arthur L. Thatcher, b. 1861, d. 1944
Caroline Thatcher, b. 1 Sep 1863, d. 28 Dec 1943

I think of the state as unknown because three different states have been given. Although his father's name was listed as Joseph Thatcher on his death certificate, he doesn't fit with the family of any known Joseph Thatcher. I have marriage, death and census records, as well as a deed and an obituary.  They give very little information.  There are few photos of family members.

I have developed four hypotheses about his family background.
  1. Alexander came from somewhere along the Atlantic seacoast in Massachusetts.  So far I haven't found him in any available Massachusetts records.
  2. Immigrants to Northampton also came from along the Connecticut River Valley. I learned that some Thatchers in New Hampshire and Vermont originally came from southern Connecticut.  I need to go to the library of the Connecticut Valley Historical Society in Springfield, Mass., to search through its records.
  3. Alexander's real last name was something else.  In upstate New York and New England it's common for French-speaking people to move down from Canada and change their name to something English. This was especially common if the individual also had Native ancestry.  My great-great-grandfather's real last name could have been LeChaume, Chaume or Chaumet.  For this I also have to go to the Connecticut Valley Historical Society since they have border crossing and other French Canadian records.
  4. I'd almost forgotten the era that Alexander was born in.  Slavery was still an institution in the South.  It is possible that he was a light-skinned black who escaped on the Underground Railroad going along the Mid-Atlantic and took the last name of a conductor who helped him.  The Thatchers in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey were Quaker, who were early abolitionists.  DNA testing of a male relative may help here.