1784-1829: The Tribe Leaves New York

Stockbridge Indians in New York:  1784 - 1829
By Lion J. Miles


 (Editor’s Note: The following account is the information that was researched and written by the author of this piece. Given the extensive nature of the work we have not independently corroborated this information. However, we have met Mr. Miles and believe him to be a man of substance and character. We present the following in that light). 


Faced with an ever-growing white population in and around the Mohican town of New Stockbridge, the tribe looked to the west for its salvation. Captain Hendrick Aupaumut's long residence on the White River in Indiana had been devoted to the obtaining of a permanent tract of land there for the resettlement of his nation. When he returned to New Stockbridge in 1815, he felt confident that a good title had been acquired and a number of families prepared for the move. The tribe petitioned New York to sell part of its township to raise money for the move and on July 14, 1818, it concluded the first of a series of land sales (called "treaties") with the state. For $5,390 New York purchased 5,640 acres, equal to 95 cents per acre. At the same time the tribe was to receive a single additional payment of $282.45 plus an annuity thereafter of $322.80. The land sold consisted of 4,500 acres in the southwest, 890 acres in the southeast, and a 230-acre tract in the northeast to be conveyed by the state to Rev. John Sergeant's son.

Eleven days after the land sale, Rev. Sergeant collected the whole tribe together "with a view to be present at forming a Church ... who were about to remove and form a new settlement at White River, Indiana State, with a number of others of the Tribe." Four men and seven women declared themselves to be a Church of Christ and made ready to move. Sergeant delivered a long address with this advice:


When you arrive among your heathen friends, if you set your minds wholly to follow their customs, by hunting fishing and the like for your living, you may depend the curse of heaven will follow. Every kind of trouble will soon overtake you, if you unite with the heathen in procuring strong drink, various kinds of plays, and dancing. In this case you will harden the hearts of the heathen against Christian religion, and even civilization.


With this stem admonition in mind, a total of 60 to 70 Indians, about one quarter of the tribe, departed New Stockbridge in two groups in August 1818, full of hope for a new life in Indiana. Before they had arrived, the Delaware and Miami ceded the land promised to the United States government at the Treaty of St. Mary's, Ohio, on October 3rd. The weary travelers despaired and found themselves in a strange land with nowhere to go. Their leader, John Metoxen, called Ohio "a vale of tears." The tribe immediately petitioned the federal government for the reinstatement of their White River lands and the chiefs traveled to Washington in a futile attempt to get satisfaction. Meanwhile, all but three families elected to return to New Stockbridge.


In 1821 the United States Paid the Stockbridge Indians $2,000 in return for the tribe's relinquishment of its claim to the White River country. A five-man delegation of Stockbridge, Solomon U. Hendrick and Abner W. Hendrick (Captain Hendrick's sons), with Jacob Konkapot, Robert Konkapot, and Jacob Chicks, now left New Stockbridge for Green Bay in the Michigan Territory. Their objective was to obtain new land from the Menominee and Winnebago tribes in present-day Wisconsin. On August 18, 1821, they purchased two million acres along the Fox River. The tribe now began to dispose of its New York property in earnest, as a means to finance its removal to the west. They made a second large sale or "treaty" on February 23, 1822, when they transferred 3,250 acres to the state for $3,100, or 95 cents an acre. In August of the same year they sold 5,000 acres for $10,000, at a rate of $2 per acre.

Rev. Sergeant felt the tribe was being cheated and that these sales were made "thro: the influence of a certain bad white man," probably John Hadcock, one of the earliest settlers in the area. Hadcock had obtained a 130-acre lot from the tribe without the knowledge or consent of the Indians living there and the August treaty exempted it from sale. Furthermore, as Sergeant described the situation to the surveyor in Utica:


The last Treaty in Augt [the tribe] sold 5,000 Acres of their lands. $6,000 was paid, the remainder to be paid when the land is surveyed -- ... the money they have received has demoralized them more than the Land is all worth -- ... if the remainder of the money which I judge will be about $4,000 is paid this fall into the hands of the Indians, they will neither pay their honest debts or use it for any good purpose. Now Sir, out of pity and compassion to the poor depraved nation, that you would use your influence with the government to let this last tract lye until spring & the remainder of the money paid the first of June, in this case, myself with the steady part of the Tribe might use means to have some part at least of the money used to remove certain numbers of them to Green Bay... if the money is paid this fall it will be worse than lost.

Sergeant also appealed to the state legislature that the tribe's "situation is such that unless the government will allow them the advantage of the full value of their remaining property, nearly the half of them can never emigrate at their own expense."

Another large sale to the state followed on September 16, 1823. The Stockbridge Indians sold approximately 2,500 acres in the southern part of town for $2 an acre. This enabled 50 more Stockbridge to immigrate to Green Bay, so that there were about 100 there in November, leaving 300 behind in New York. Rev. Sergeant again appealed to the legislature for a fair price and traveled to Albany to lobby on behalf of the tribe.

Knowing the intentions of my people, or nearly all, of emigrating to the North West Territory some years hence, and at the most proper time, and knowing likewise that the Government of this State, taking advantage of their wants, had purchased a part of their Township for a mere trifle... the Township given them by their Breathren the Oneidas near 40 years since, when the State sold the Lands they bought of them to white settlers for five times more than they gave the Indians ... I will note ... [the Indians] paid the expense of near one hundred of their Tribe with their furniture emigrating to said new Country ... I told my people if they thought it best, I would go to the Legislature of the State and use my utmost influence, that the remainder of their Lands ... should be sold for its value.

Sergeant failed in his attempt and died in 1824 before he could resume his struggle to protect the tribe. Only after the young Stockbridge chief, John W. Quinney, had gone to Albany in 1825 did the state pass a bill that allowed the tribe a "fair price for their lands." Later Stockbridge Indian sales produced better prices, ranging from $6 to $14 an acre.

Year

(approx.)

1809

1815

1818

1820

1822

1822

1823

1825

1826

 Acres

(approx.)​

238

500

5,640

300

3,250

5,000

2,464

1,258

1,436

Price

(in Dollars)

185

----

5,390

600

3,100

10,000

5,000

17,831

14,370

Price/Acre

(in Dollars)

.77

----

95

2.00

.95

2.00

2.00

14,17

10.00

1827

150

1,467

9.78

1827

150

972

7.25

1829

130

774

5.95

1829

150

1,272

8.48

1829

145

1,740

12.00

1830

91

925

10.15

1842

144

At vendue

----

1847

53

700

13.20

Sergeant's efforts on behalf of the tribe resulted in a backlash from one party of Indians led by the Delaware chief, Bartholomew Calvin. He accused the minister of being dishonest and "knavish," that his son had cheated the tribe out of a large sum of money, and that both of them were out to obtain Indian lands. Captain Hendrick's party countered by defending the Sergeants and deploring the dissension that had arisen in the "once happy town." In consequence of this dispute, the state passed a law in 1823 removing control of monies paid to the tribe from the peacemakers and placing it in the hands of the tribe's white superintendents.

Tribal members departed New Stockbridge in detachments as funds became available to them. A group of 30 reached Green Bay in the summer of 1824, another of about 50 left New York in 1825. In 1827 Captain Hendrick's wife, Lydia, purchased the meetinghouse and its one-acre lot. Finally, in 1829, the aging Captain Hendrick himself made the journey to Green Bay, where he died the next year. After that only one or two Stockbridge Indian families remained in New York, including that of Elijah Pye, who died there about 1840. The last land sale took place in 1847 when Lydia Harden, an Indian married to a white man, sold her 53 acres of tribal land to the state. This sale finally extinguished the Indian title to New Stockbridge.

From 1809 to 1847 the Stockbridge tribe had made approximately nineteen sales of land to individual whites or to the state, all of which are now considered to be illegal transactions. By the terms of the federal Trade and Intercourse Act of July 22, 1790, "no sale of lands made by any Indians, or any nation or tribe of Indians within the United States, shall be valid to any person or persons, or to any state ... unless the same shall be made and duly executed at some public treaty, held under the authority of the United States." Similar acts followed this law in 1796, 1799, and 1802, the latter stating that "no purchase, grant, lease, or other conveyance of lands, or of any title or claim thereto, from any Indian, or nation, or tribe of Indians, within the bounds of the United States, shall be of any validity, in law or equity, unless the same be made by treaty or convention, entered into pursuant to the [U.S.] constitution." Rev. Sergeant had frequently stated that the actions of speculators like Peter Smith and those Indians who leased their lands were unlawful and yet the state of New York ignored the legal requirement for federal supervision, in a deliberate attempt to acquire Indian land and remove the tribes from the state.

The New York Quaker leader and merchant, Thomas Eddy, summed up the situation in an 1816 letter:

Although no treaty can be held for purchasing without a Commissioner, appointed by the President, be present, to prevent the Indians being imposed on, yet it would probably not be difficult for him to get such a man appointed as would answer his purposes. Many persons, (high in office in this state) who profess, and indeed, seem to be well disposed and friendly to the Indians, have openly and decidedly given their opinions, that it would be better for them to sell their reservations, and remove to some remote situation to the Westward; they say that now they are exposed to a constant intercourse with bad whites, who supply them with rum, and in every way try to cheat them, and corrupt their principles, and, if they remain, the consequence will be, that they will be soon extinct. ... It is, perhaps, not in our power to say, whether such removal would, eventually, be better for the Indians or not; but it appears to us, that if they should go far West, they will still be exposed to the same evil, and would suffer still worse, from a kind of white people, who are not so much under the restraints of law as the same description of whites who now surround them. ... Taking a view of the whole subject, in all its various ramifications, we cannot but believe it would be most for the advantage of the Indians, to remain on their respective reservations.

Having said that, Eddy was quick to advise the Quakers not to take a strong position on the matter, for fear of being "wrongly represented" to both Indians and whites. No doubt he was thinking of his position as a director of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company and supporter of land interests connected with canal development in western New York.