Long Island Indians and The Early Settlers

Indians of BRIDGEHAMPTON, LI, NY abt 1905

The 13 Tribes of Long Island Treaty With The NY Indians, of January 15, 1838.
Indian Land Bought
The Early Settlers and The Indians
The Poosepatuck Tribe Of Mastic
Some of these articles were originally written and published by Richard Bayles, local historian.

The 13 Tribes of Long Island

    When the Island was first settled by the whites it was inhabited by 13 tribes or groups of Indians. The Canarsee, Rockaway, Merrick, Marsapeague, Secatogue, and Unkechaug lived on the South Shore. On the north were the Matinecock, Nesaquake, Setalcott, and Corchaug. On the east end of the Island were the Shinnecock, Manhasset and the Montauks.
The Unkechaug tribe occupied the South Shore of Brookhaven town with headquarters in Mastic, and Tobaccus was the sachem of this tribe in 1664.
    The North Shore of Brookhaven town was inhabited by the Setalcott tribe, which had headquarters at Setauket and was a very powerful group.
The Montauks, probably had been the most warlike tribe on the island and had reduced the other tribes or groups to some kind of subjection. Wyandanch, the sachem of the Montauks, was grand sachem of all the tribes on the island and his signature was required to the early Indian deeds in addition to that of the sachem of the local tribe when land was purchased by the white settlers.
    In 1659 Wyandanch conveyed to Lyon Gardiner the territory comprising the town of Smithtown, then occupied by the Nesaquake Indians. This was done in gratitude to Gardiner for rescuing the daughter of Wyandanch from the Narragansett tribe who had captured her during an invasion of the Montauk tribe by the Narragansetts from across the sound.
    Wyandanch seems to have been the friend of the white men always and it was no doubt this friendly interaction between him and the white settlers that made their relations with the Indians of Long Island so peaceful and harmonious. Wyandanch refused to enter into any conspiracy with the tribes from across the sound and always maintained a friendly attitude towards the white settlers. Many a monument has been erected to those less worthy of memorial than Wyandanch, the white man's unwavering friend, whose grave lies unmarked in the solitude of Montauk.
    The Indian names of Long Island are said to have been Sewanhacky, Wamponomon and paumanake. The first two are said to have come from the abundance of the quahog, or hard clam, the shell of which furnished wampum, which was first used as money in the settlements.
    The Indians of the Island were tall and straight, musvular and agile, with straight hair and reddish brown complexion. Their language was the Algonquin, the highly descriptive tongue in which John Eliot wrote the Indian Bible, and was the language which greeted the Pilgrims at Plymouth. It is doubtful if there is anyone now living who can speak this tongue, which was used freely in those early days.
    At the time of the first white settlement on the Island the Indian poipulation was very large, as shown by the shell banks found at various places around the shores of the bays and coves. Their settlements were always near the shores on the north and south sides of the Island, as there they found most of their food, fish and clams, and their transportation was by canoe along the waters. The forests toward the middle of the Island were their hunting grounds for wild game and clearings were made where they planted Indian corn, placing a fish in each hill for fertilizer.
In 1653 the Narragansett Indians, under Ninigret, one of their chiefs, invaded the territory of the Montauks, and commenced a war which lasted for several years, and would have exterminated the whole Montauk tribe if they had not received help from the white settlers. They were compelled to abandon their villages and flee for refuge to East Hampton, where they were kindly received and protected.
    The commissioners sent supplies and military supplies to the towns of East hampton and Southampton, and to the Indians. They also stationed an armed vessel in the sound under the command of Captain John Youngs, with orders to wreck Ninigret's canoes and destroy his forces if he attempted to land on the Island. This war seems to have continued until about 1657. It left the Montauks in a very much weakened condition.

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Indian Land Bought

    Soon after the original purchase of land from the Indians had been made at Setauket in 1655, and this land had been divided into lots or "accommodations" among the settlers, these pioneers began to explore the island beyond their holdings.
    They discovered that on the south shore of the island were large meadows of salt hay and grass which could be harvested for their cattle. In 1657, Richard Woodhull, acting for the town, purchased two large tracts of meadow land from the Urkechaug Indians at Mastic. One of these was at Noccomock, a region on the eastern bank of the Connecticut (Carman's) River, and one in the southern part of Mastic along the bay front.
    The deed to these meadows, the second earliest recorded, is dated July 20, 1657. The price paid was the usual assortment od axes, guns, powder, lead and knives, gathered from the settlers who hoped to use the land.
    Evidently the Unkechaug Indians were displeased with the deal for their land, which had been transacted by Wyandanch, sachem of the Montauk tribe, and grand sachem of all the Long Island tribes, or groups, as they are sometimes called. A committee was appointed at a town meeting on August 22, 1671, to go to the Indians and settle the dispute, and to carry "som Likers with them to the Indians on the town's account." The committee was apparently successful, whether by reason of the "likers" or otherwise, and the same land was repurchased from Tobaccus, the new sachem of the Unkechaug's in 1674. Brookhaven town now owned all the "mowable meadow land, whether higher land or lower that lieth between a river called Connenticut, to another river called Mastic." This was called "the new purchase."
During these years other tracts of land were purchased from the Indians, and one in the southern part of the town is the "Old Purchase at South," which included parts of the communities now know as South haven (west part), Brookhaven and Bellport. This purchase was made from Tobaccus on June 10, 1664, for four coats and six pounds ten shillings in cash ($16.25). The original deed and receipt for payment are still preserved among old papers in the Brookhave Town hall at Patchogue.
    The small settlement thrived as the years went by. Land was cleared and planted, grist mills constructed, and the town government more clearly developed. The increase in population was slow, as Brookhaven, like her sister towns, was an exclusive community. The rules regarding the buying of land by anyone not already a freeholder of Brookhaven were clearly defined.
    The following regulation was passed at a town meeting on March 8, 1664. "To the end that the town be not spoiled or impocished it is ordered that no accomodations shall be sold piece meal, but entire, without the consent of the Constable and Overseers, or the major part thereof."
The town kept a vigilant eye upon the character of its inhabitants, and individuals who wanted to join the settlement were generally placed on probation for a term of three to six months. At the end of that time, if their character and behavior were approved, they were admitted to the privileges of freemen, and alloted certain portions of land, with the same rights as the other settlers.
    Committees were appointed to investigate the character and reputation of proposed settlers, and if they did not prove satisfactory to the townspeople, they were directed to leave within a specified time. No individual inhabitant was allowed to sell or lease real estate to a stranger not accepted by the town as a proper person to be a member of the settlement. By enforcing these restrictions, the society of the first settlements was kept measurably free from undesirable persons.

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Town's Early Settlers Lived Peaceably With the Indians

    The town of Brookhaven is the largest on Long island, and extends across the island from the sound to the ocean, and is about 20 miles long, east and west. the towns of Smithtown and Islip are to the west, and Riverhead and Southampton on the east.
During the early part of the year 1655, a party of six men from the colonies of new England landed on the shores of those beautiful bays and coves around Setauket. They purchased from the Setalcott Indians, who had their headquarters there, a tract of land extending from Stony Brook to and including Port Jefferson, and gave the Indians in payment, "10 coats, 12 hoes, 12 hatchets, 50 muxes (small brad awis), 100 needles, 6 kettles, 10 fathoms of wampum, 7 pipe bowls of power, 1 pair of children's stockings, 10 pounds of lead, and one dozen knives." The deed was dated April 14, 1655, and contained the signature marks of the Setalcott Sachem Warawasen or Warawakmy, and 14 of his tribesmen. The settlers also were given the right to let their cattle run beyond the bounds of their purchase, and to cut timber as far east as they pleased. The Indians and the proposed settlers agreed to live peaceably with each other, which they did.
The first settlement was called Ashford, later Brookhaven, and finally Setauket, and was located around the "meeting house" green at Setauket. The lands of the town were purchased from the Indians at different times by the early settlers, and later held by the 54 proprietors as tenants in common, which were divided among them as occasion demanded. In some of these divisions an extra share was made for the support of the minister.
    Those first settlers at Setauket soon began to explore the south side of the town and discovered large meadows of salt hay and grass which could be harvested for their cattle. They purchased in1657 two tracts of meadow land from the Unkechaug Indians, who had their headquarters at Mastic. The settlers purchased from Tobaccus, chief of the Unkechaug Indians, on June 10, 1664, all that tract of land extending from Yamphanke creek in South Haven to a small pond in the western part of Bellport, and north to the middle of the Island. The same day, Gov. Winthrop of Connecticut, bought from Tobaccus all the land west of this to the Islip Town line at a creek called Nampkee in the western part of Blue Point. On this tract are the present communities of East Patchogue, Patchogue, and Blue Point. This was underdeveloped for many years and was not annexed to Brookhaven Town until 1773, by an act of the Colonial Assembly. The town also bought at the same time from the Setalcott chief, all the land on the north side from Mt. Sinai to Wading River, and south to the middle of the island. Old Field was purchased from the Indians sometime before 1659.
    A patent was issued by Gov. Nicolls on March 7, 1666, for all the land that had been bought or should be bought from the Indians, bounded on the west by a line running across the island at Stony Brook, and on the east by a line at Wading River. On November 19, 1675, the Setalcott chief, Gle, conveyed to Richard Woodhull, acting for the town, all unsold land within the linit of the patent to the middle of the island, and also confirmed all former grants, which covered all the land claimed by the Setalcott Indians from Stony Brook to Wading River. A second patent for the town was issued by Gov. Dongan on December 27, 1686, which included all former grants, and named John Palmer, Richard Woodhull, Samuel Erburne, Andrew Gigg, William Satterly, Thomas Jenner and Thomas Helme as trustees.
    A tract of land on the south side of the town extending east from the Connecticut (Carman's) river to the Mastic river and north to the middle of the island was purchased from the Indians by Col. William Smith in May 1691. This also included the Great South bay, the island in it and the ocean beach, and was known as the Manor of St. George. A patent for this immense tract of thousands of acres was issued by Gov. Fletcher in 1693. Mr. Smith later purchased most of the land east of this to the Southampton Town line at Eastport, for which he received a patent in 1697 from Gov. Fletcher.
    In 1659, the town requested an alliance with Connecticut for protection against any possible invasion by the Indians or the Dutch on the west end of the Island. On May 16, 1661 Hartford voted to receive Brookhaven Town and appointed Richard Woodhull and Thomas Pierce as magistrates. This continued until 1664 when the English took over the Dutch settlement at New York, including Long Island. The Duke of York appointed Richard Nicolls as governor.

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The Poosepatuck Tribe Of Mastic

    Much has been written about the Long Island Indians, but the Poosepatuck tribe seems to have escaped much notice. They were a part of the Unkechaug tribe called the "Beach Indians," and occupied a tract of land in the eastern part of Mastic adjoining the Mastic (Forge) river, and overlooking the bay.
    In 1691, Col. William Smith purchased from the Indians all that tract of land between the Mastic river and the Connecticut (Carman's) river, and extending north to the middle of the island. In 1700, he gave the Poosepatuck Indians the right to use and raise crops on a 75-acre tract of land on the Mastic river, to be reserved for them forever. The "herbage" growing after the crops were harvested was reserved by him, and they were not to sell or lease any part of the land to anyone else. The annual rent was two ears of yellow corn, forever. At the time of this agreement with Col Smith the Indian population was very large, but they have dwindled away until there are only a few descendants of this tribe left.
It was one of the early customs of the tribe to elect a chief or king, and a queen. An old Long Island newspaper of 1830 states that on January 5 of that year there died at Poosepatuck, Elizabeth Job, queen of the Indians at that place, aged 72 years. With her death ended the custom of paying a yearly tribute of a handhul of rushes to the queen. In 1895, the queen was Martha Hill who was 91 years of age at that time.
Since before the coming of the white man, the "June Meeting Day" has been an annual event of great importance to the Poosepatuck tribe. They gathered on Sunday once a year in June, during the "Moon of Flowers" for a big religious meeting and reunion. The mission teachers converted them to Christianity and their pagan ceremonies eventually became Christian ones. For several days previous to this Sunday meeting, small bands of Indians from all parts of the island made their way to Poosepatuck for the services.
    The following article from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1895 gives a picture of conditions as they existed at that time among these Indians.
"A drive of about three miles through the woods from Mastic station brings the visitor to the Indian settlement, which is on the Mastic river adjoining the bay and commands a beautiful view of the surrounding country. The first house the visitor to is that of Richard Ward, the leader of the tribe. The floor of his house is strewn with muskrat and racoon skins, and he explained that they had belonged to thirteen coons who had ventured into his cider mill on night a week ago, and had become so drunk with the cider that his dogs made short work of them. According to Ward the natives of this reservation make a living by hunting and trapping, and the surrounding dense forest gives plenty of field dor this industry.
    "On the reservation is a church as well as a schoolhouse which are supported by the government. The schoolhouse was built by the state in 1868 and William Morrison is the teacher of about 20 pupils. The church is Congregational, and one of the oldest of the Indian churches on the Island, and was built by the state in 1845. They have no regular minister but hold services among themselves every Sunday.
"The oldest woman is Queen Martha Hill, who is 91. She said that when her grandfather settled here there were a very large number of Indians in the neighborhood. The tribe has been sadly reduced by the use of intoxicants, principally bnitters of home manufacture. Recently one of them was seen to buy a pint of alcohol, one half a pound of wintergreen candy and a bottle of sarsaparilla, which he said he was going to mix and have something fit to drink. Queen Martha said that when the wintergreen grows in great abundance, as it did last summer, it is a sure sign of a long cold winter.
    "A few of the Indians who are supposed to be full bloods are Chief Richard Ward and his brothers Paul, Obey, and Cuffey, and Queen martha Hill. She was born on the reservation in 1804, and is the daughter of Chief Cuffey, who was once considered one of the most daring Indians on the Island. Old Chief Ward is the undisputed leader of the reservation, and what he says the tribe obeys. he was born on the reservation in 1814, and all his kin before him, for many generations.
    "June Meeting Day is peculiar to the east end of Long Island. For several years a rough white element has made it a boisterous affair, but of late, thanks to the Floyd family of Mastic, who have provided police protection, the meeting has again resumed its religious aspect. The meetings are held in the little church which seats about sixty, and ministers of the A. M. E. Zion Church have charge of the services.
During late years white ministers from nearby churches assist in the afternoon program. It is an interesting sight to attend one of these meetings and the church is always filled, while on the outside is the overflow congregation.
    The services are always held morning, afternoon and evening, The old chief opens the program with an address in which he reviews the work of the year. Prayers follow, then the singing, which is in itself a feature. The good folks become excited, shout the tune at the top of their voices and clap their hands in unison. After a short recess for lunch the services are continued, and as the day advances, the fervor becomes more intense. Usually one of the white ministers makes an address but his words do not have the same effect as the quaint appeals of the colored brethren."

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