The idea of a removal to the west had long been in the minds of the Stockbridge chiefs, especially Captain Hendrick, and they had frequently referred to their ancient covenant with the western tribes in the Ohio country. Hendrick had, in 1807, informed the Mohawk chief, Joseph Brant, that he would "never live in a land which can be taken from me without my consent." Captain Hendrick had acted as a peace ambassador for the United States on four different occasions in 1791, 1792, 1793, and 1808. He lived with the Delaware tribe on the White River in Indiana for seven years and obtained a promise from them of land for his people. In his absence from New Stockbridge the Mohicans were ably led by Chief Sachem Joseph Shauquethqueat (Pye), David Neesoonnuhkeek, John Quinney, John Metoxen, Isaac Wnaupey, and others.
The War of 1812 intruded on life at New Stockbridge during Hendrick's time on the White River. In the spring of 1813 his son, Abner W. Hendrick, served under General Edmund Gaines at Sacketts Harbor, New York, with ten Stockbridge and five Oneida Indians. In September he joined his warriors to a company of Stockbridge's commanded by John W. Jacobs and served for two months under General James Wilkinson at Fort George in Canada. Rev, Sergeant described their departure:
In the fall of the year when Gen Wilkerson [Wilkinson] commanded the American Army at the Niagara frontier, it was reported to him [Sergeant] that the young warriors of the Stockbridge Tribe were invited by some officers from the Gen Government to join said Wilkersons Army. ... He saw said Warriors in great numbers paraded before his door, Captin John Jacobs and Leut Jacob Konkpot at their head. ... He saw them March in single file after the Indian custom from his bouse on their way to said Army. ... It was currently reported in the Tribe that they were paid forty dollars only for their services by Captin Paresh [Parish] the Indian Agent.
The Stockbridge's and the neighboring Brothertowns again fielded a company of 48 warriors in June 1814 to join the American Army under General Jacob Brown at Niagara. They possibly crossed into Canada with the main army and took part in the taking of Fort Erie. Finally, from August to September 1814, seventeen Stockbridge warriors served under Ensign Jacobs on unspecified duty. After the war, in 1818 and again in 1820, 38 Mohican veterans petitioned Congress and the Secretary of War for proper compensation for their services. Secretary Calhoun denied their claim on the grounds that they had not produced the necessary vouchers and documentary proof.
Captain Hendrick returned from White River in 1815 and reported that the title to the Stockbridge lands there had been secured. John Sergeant wrote that "the Stockbridge Indians will all remove into that country in the course of eight or ten years. ... It is a settled point that they cannot flourish where white people are allowed to mix among them. In order, therefore, to have religion and civilization flourish among Indians, the societies and Missionaries must use their influence with the government, to keep them at a distance from all immoral squatters on Indian land." Squatters became so numerous in New Stockbridge that the state passed a law in 1817 authorizing the superintendents of the tribe to remove all those who were "not entitled by law to settle on said lands," and were "likely to be injurious to the said Indians by corrupting their morals, or by injuring their lands or property."
Although the anti-leasing party had become ascendant in 1796, the Stockbridge tribe obtained permission in 1803 to lease 1,000 acres in the southeastern part of the town to Captain John Gregg, John Gregg Jr., and James Alexander. They were to receive $300 a year in rent, which was to be used to support the tribal school and allow for the establishment of a second school to handle the increased number of children who had arrived from New Jersey with the Delaware. Then in October 1809 the state allowed the tribe to sell 310 acres for the support of the poor, with tracts in the west going to Joseph Black, John Demott, and George Gragg. Another lot of 500 acres in the east was sold in 1815 for building mills. Then in 1816 Thomas Eddy wrote the Governor:
We have lately been informed by some of our friends who reside near the Stockbridge Indians, that near one hundred white persons have settled on the lands belonging to said Indians – "that, although they have been proceeded against, as the law directs, yet by their influence with the chiefs, the matter has been so represented to the Governor, that he and the Attorney General have directed that further proceedings against them be stopped for the present, and the probability is, that the chiefs may address the Legislature, requesting a law to permit them to remain." ... We have always found, that [the Indians] have been exceedingly injured in their morals, &c. by the whites getting on their lands, and mixing with them. ... We have a confidence that everything on thy part has, and will be done, for the welfare of the Indians; but, as an application may be made by the white people to the Legislature, for some law to be passed, by which they may unjustly get an advantage over the Indians ... we, therefore, take the liberty ... respectfully to solicit a continuation of thy friendly regard ... of our fellow men ... whose peculiar situation and circumstances seem to demand our sympathy, and require our assistance.
The tribe had allowed the white settlers into their town illegally by accepting rent of $30 a year for each 100 acres and declared that they "did not know or suppose that making such contracts was criminal" under the laws of New York. Fearing that the whites would be liable to heavy penalties and lose the improvements they had made, the chiefs of the tribe joined with the settlers in petitioning the Governor to stop any further proceedings against them. The state legislature responded with an act granting immunity from prosecution for those whites who had leased Stockbridge land before 1815. By 1818 the Stockbridge Indians had leased or sold more than 1,800 acres to white people and were under increasing pressure to give up more of their land. Many in the tribe felt it was time to remove from New York. The beginnings of their move will be described in Part Three.