Friday, October 12, 2012

Mohican Influence on Great Barrington

As I research my family I find more and more evidence of Mohican people who remained in the homeland, married, had families and became an important part of the community.  My great-grandfather Henry Winchell, his father John L. Winchell, his brothers Daniel and Robert Winchell and his cousin Nathaniel Warner were all carpenters.  In addition, Henry’s uncles Isaac Strong and Uriah Surriner were also Native and also carpenters.  They all lived in the town of Great Barrington, Berkshire County, Massachusetts.  Although the central fire of the Mohican Nation had moved and for the most part the ways of the ancestors had been forgotten, the Mohicans still continued to literally shape Berkshire County society through its descendants.  Did the residents know their homes and businesses were built by them?

Henry F. Winchell
 Here is a photo taken from A History of Searles Castle in Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Great Wigwam written by the late Lila S. Parrish:


 Here is a photo of the constructed building, Searles Castle,from CNBC no less.  The Castle was an ostentatious anachronism in the New England village of Great Barrington.  As I have always approached it from the west, its location seemed to dominate the entry into downtown.  In a way, it dominated my perception of it, too, and now I know why.

Searles Castle, Great Barrington, Mass.

 Below is another photo showing one view of the marvelous woodwork inside, supporting my theory that multiple carpenters would've been needed during the construction.

I've never been able to see the interior myself.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Indian in the Family

Several years ago I was shown a letter that had been written to my great-aunt Jeanette Winchell Schwab in July 1970.  My Aunt Kate had it in her possession and I finally learned of it 36 years later.  I don’t know why it took so long for me to read it because the letter was written in response to a visit my parents and I made to my aunt a long time ago.  
Jeanette Winchell
Aunt Jeanette had asked the author what tribe the Indian in the family came from.  She had no idea but gave some valuable information on the Daniel Hoyt family from which she and Jeanette was descended.  This is what the author wrote about her family:
“…Daniels wife Nancy died Aug 4 1808 [in Hudson, Columbia County, NY] leving him with 6 children 7 mos to 12 yrs.  It is supposed that he took in the Indian maiden to help him with the children.  There is no entry in the Bible for his marriage but there is the birth of 2 more children recorded.  Edward born Mar 1 1810 and William Henry born Nov 10- 1812.  It is William Henry from whom the Snyders are descended….”
Hudson was in the ancestral land of the Mohicans.  It was quite likely “the Indian maiden” was Mohican, although members of others tribes have been known to travel up and down the river.  I grew up in Columbia County and I have not heard of members of other nations settling here in the 1800s, only in the recent past.
 The Snyders the letter writer refers to are  the descendants of John Martin Snyder and Jane Frances Hoyt.  John was born 8 April 1836 in Athens, Greene County, NY, the son of Jacob Snyder and Hannah Marquart.  Jane was born 24 April 1845 in Columbia County, NY, possibly in Claverack.  I believe they met at Moffat’s Store in the Town of Ghent, Columbia County.  Their first son was born in Latham, Albany County.  By 1870 the family had moved to West Stockbridge, Berkshire County, Massachusetts.  Eventually they settled on North Plain Road outside of Housatonic in the same county.  Jane also had a sister Loretta who had married Joseph Donsbough and settled in Sheffield, Berkshire County, but there is no mention of that family.
This passage puzzled me and I’ve pursued the mystery for a while: 
 “Frederic & Lena looked up records in South Egremont and found that a member of the Winchell family was recorded legally married to an indian girl.  The daughter of this marriage became the mother of Frederick’s grandfather and father of Lillian Warner who married G. Franklin Snyder.
I think when he told me of this he mentioned the tribe name but if he did I don’t remember.  I did not have any of this writen at all.  I asked him Do you mean this Winchell family up here on Hart St.  He said yes.  I don’t know how near a relative it was who married the indian I think he mentioned the first name but I don’t remember. Any way it gives Frederic Indian on both sides of his family through his great grandmother Warner.  I remember seeing her when I was a girl.  She lived in the extra apartment on the back of Warners house with daughter Grace Warner. None of this may affect you.  I doubt that it does but thought I should at least mention it.
 Do you remember Guy Warner at all Aunt Lils brother?  He used to tell Frederick when he was a boy that his wife Cora used to twit him about having indian blood.  That is what started them looking up records in South Egremont.”
 It posed a few questions and now I have some of the answers.  I finally had the time and the ability to trace back Lillie Warner’s family.  She was born Lillie M. Warner, not Lillian, 31 Jul 1872 in the Town of Great Barrington, Berkshire County, Massachusetts.  Her parents were Nathaniel Warner and Paulina Lewis.  Nathaniel’s parents were Asahel Warner and Julia Winchell.  I didn’t find this information until I found Frederick’s application to the Sons of the American Revolution where he listed her name.  Using I located Julia’s death record in which her parents George Winchell and Sarah Livingston were listed.  She was a daughter to my great-great-grandparents who I never knew existed until last week!  She is the “Indian girl” the letter writer referred to.  This seems to be more evidence for my opinion that George’s father Eliakim married an Indian girl himself.   George was only 1/8 Indian.  Since at least two of his sons were marked as part Indian on the census, it seemed likely that George’s mother was Native too.
Within my family there is now a unique relationship among some of its members.  G. Franklin Snyder’s sister Alice B. Snyder married Henry F. Winchell in 1895.  They had ten children and five lived to adulthood.  Not only were G. Franklin Snyder and Lillie Warner’s children Carl, Frederick, Donald, Clifford and Rolland related to their aunt Alice, they were also related to their uncle Henry Winchell.  His family is also one of my research interests.  
Frederick M. Snyder, the previous family historian
 You may ask that now we know Frederick Snyder was probably Mohican on his father’s side, what about his mother’s?  Julia Winchell is a descendant of John Van Gilder, who was Mohican and Wappinger.  It is likely that her grandfather Eliakim’s wife was a Mohican woman, although she could have been a member of another tribe from Connecticut or Massachusetts.  Some of the Native groups in western New England today have ancestors who were refugees from eastern New England.  
 The author gave more information on the immediate family, which has been troublesome to document.  Cousin Frederick M. Snyder had the Daniel Hoyt bible. He had no children, so I hope one of his nieces or nephews has it.  I have been looking into this family and they all disappeared down into New York City!  I haven’t been able to locate a marriage record for son William Henry and Elizabeth Clapper.  I haven’t been able to document their daughter Christine or her husband. 
The last question this letter poses is who wrote it.  The author had to meet these conditions:  female, niece to G. Franklin Snyder and Lillie Warner, had a grandmother Snyder, be alive in 1970 and have a female relative Beth married 15 April 1970 in the Episcopal Church at Stockbridge.  I’ve been able to narrow the choices to two women:  Maud Snyder, daughter of William H. Snyder and Elizabeth Goodhind and wife of Atwood Gallup and Edith Evelyn Snyder, daughter of Frederick G. Snyder and Sarah Kerrigan and wife of Arthur Flavey or Falvey from New York State.  I need to look into Beth’s marriage to determine which woman it was.  With the price of gas these days I don’t hop over into Berkshire County as much as I used to.
Maud Snyder Gallup
This investigation makes me wonder how much Frederick M. Snyder discovered of his family, did he answer all of his questions and how much did I have to repeat.  I won’t know, but I’m publishing this to make it easier for the next relative who gets curious.  In addition, because of the information on Daniel Hoyt’s second partner, my effort to research the ancestors of Alice B. Snyder in honor of her children has grown into a further effort to document the descendants of Mohican people in the original homeland.  


I have since learned that the author of the letter was Maud Snyder Gallup.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Recently I came across the very interesting and stimulating web site of Nancy Lanni.  It's the type of site that I wish I could write, had I the time and focus.  On of her posts about John Pierce, she writes about Wawanaquasick, claiming that it was a stream north of Claverack.  That's not true. The name does not pertain to the stream.  I have more information from a document dated October 1768 found by friend and fellow researcher Lion G. Miles at the New-York Historical Society.  It documents depositions in a crown court case involving the two Patroons Van Rensselaer and Livingston.  It's interesting that they needed to turn in part to my relative.  I include more than is pertinent because I find the setting and the rare Mohican history fascinating. 

The witness deposed here is Joseph Van Gilder.  He was the son of John Van Gilder, a Mohican-Wappinger man, and his German wife Anna Marie Koerner.  Joseph was born 14 July 1722.  He married Mary Holly Winchell, the daughter of David Winchell and Mary Trumble, 23 May 1748.  I will write more about Joseph in my next post.

JOSEPH VAN GELDER – That he is Forty Eight Years of Age  He understood the Indian language  that he knows a place called Wawanaquasick  it lies between Claverack and Sheffield one Breakfast Travel from the River to wawanaquasick.  it lies about 9 or 10 Miles East from the River – has seen it often has traveled.  It lies upon the East part of a Hill  has heard of it high thiry Year ago from old Indians who told him it was wawanaquasick and Said it was an old Place they had there, a great many years ago – Old Nannahaken and old Skannout old Panneyote who were Ancient Indians told him so.  Old Skannout was quite grey with Years – Nanahacken about 70 Years then, and old Skannout appeared older then Ampawekine called Sankenakeke who was the Sachem of the Mohickens also told him of it.  He was then better than Sixty Years of Age, they were all of the Mowhickens Tribe  the Indians told him it was an offering Place of their old fore fathers and a boundary between the tribes Mohickens and the River Indians  the Eastern Tribes was called Mohigens and lived at Stockbridge he is sure – the Indians told himWawanaquasick was a boundary between the Mohicken and the River Indians  they used to join together when they went to war  has heard of Keeswky’s  He was a River Indian not a Sachem had erected this place as he knows – that he lived about Claaverack and up towards Albany  Indians told him his fore fathers had erected this place and that they had it from them  Patenhook is the General name of every fall of Water  Papteut is at Claaverack as the Indians told him  it is the name of a Particular Place – Has lived in Sheffield and Egremont within 5 or 6 Miles of it almost all his Life  Knows of a Large Samuel of a large flat Rock between Sheffield – Knows Samuel Summers he lives near the Large Rock within ¾ Mile and where old Jackson lived  it is on the East side of Housitonick River  Remembers this Great Rock ever since he can Remember anything from 10 Years old  Indians told him it never was a Monument or Boundary  he used to play there often when Young  lived within a half a Mile of it  There never was a heap of Stones on it when he first knew it  When he was a little Boy there was a Clift in the Rock  the Boys threw stones on the South side to fill up the Clift which hurt their legs in Playing  Never heard this Rock Called Wawanaquasick  There are two Cracks in the Rock one Runs East and West and had Earth in it the other North and South and had none – He is not sure th which Crack it was [historian James N. Parrish of Great Barrington believes this location is on the west bank of the Green River along the north end of the West Sheffield Road.]
Cross-examined – Will not be positive how old he was when he throgh’d the Stones but he was a little Chap  his fathers name was John Van Gelder in Indian Toanunck  his Fathers Land was near the flat Rock, the Rock fifty or sixty Rods to the East of his Fathers Land  His father lived there better than fifty Years  as his Mother and father told Schnapk [sic] told him of Wawanaquasick when he was a little Child and so on from time to time  the last time he told him so was 10 Years ago but he is not certain  Also the time but it may be thereabouts  Sowhhaap [sic] he believes he has been dead 4 or 5 Years does not know certain but believes thereabouts  He lived at Stockbridge usually  Knew Samuel Winchel when he first came to live there about forty Years ago.  There were stones on the Rock when he first came to live there about  The Staddel when he first knew it was a little thing no Biger than a Man’s Leg  when he left that place there was not more than a load of Stones on a Rock and this was almost 20 Years ago  the Tree was cut Down he believes by Mr Summers who cleared the Land Thereabouts a few Stones on it  there did not appear so many as the Boys had put on by  Never saw Indianmen throw any Stones on the Crack tho he has gone by the Rock several times with Indanmen [sic]  When he left the Place it looked as if there was as many Stones there as when they were thrown on by the Boy’s ....a Heap of stones in the Indian Language is called Sinnaghkic  at Monument Mountain there is a Placed called Wawanaquasick and another somewhere towards albany.