THE PASSING OF THE INDIAN
THE white and red men lived peacefully together in Burlington County for many years. Gradually, however, misunderstandings arose between the races. The building of dams in the creeks, preventing the free passage of their canoes, the catching of deer in large steel traps and the selling of liquor to the natives were among the first complaints of the Indians. The Legislature, realizing that this feeling of dissatisfaction was increasing and also desiring to placate the West Jersey Indians because of the war-like activities of the northern and western tribes, appointed commissioners to investigate their grievances. The commissioners held a conference with the natives at Crosswicks in 1756 at which the Indians presented a long list of grievances, the most serious being cheating the natives when under the influence of liquor and the occupation of lands for which they had received no compensation. The commissioners recognized the justice of these claims and in March, 1757, the Legislature passed a Bill the object of which was the protection of the natives from further injustices. This Act prohibited the use of steel traps weighing more than 33/2 pounds, declared an Indian could not be imprisoned for debt and that all sales made by an Indian for liquor be declared void. It also laid a penalty on all persons selling strong drink to the natives, “so as to intoxicate them.”¹
The occupation of lands for which the Indians had not been paid was a matter not so easi1ettled. The long list of such lands presented by the Indians at the conference held in 1756 showed that the white men were not living up to the standards of the first settlers, all of whom pur
¹The West Jersey Assembly passed an Act in 1681, prohibiting the selling of strong liquors to the natives. A fine of 8 pounds was Imposed for each offense.
112 MOORESTOWN AND HER NEIGHBORS
chased the land from the Indians as well as from the proprietors. Another conference was held in the “Great Meeting House” at Crosswicks in February, 1758, at which Teedyescong, King of the Lenni Lenape nation was present. Teedyescong was the last of the great Indian Kings who dominated the Delawares living in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He lived at the forks of the Delaware (Easton) and was converted to Christianity by the early Moravian Missionaries in 1750. He became a victim to the white man’s “fire water” and was burned to death in his wigwam in 1763 while under its influence. Considerable progress was made at this conference in adjusting their differences.
Another conference was held at Burlington in August, 1758, at which the Indians asked that a certain tract of land in Evesham Township be purchased for the Indians living south of the Raritan River in exchange for which they agreed to release all claims to their lands in New Jersey. The Legislature acted favorably on this request and within three weeks’ time appropriated 1600 pounds for purchasing the release of all Indian claims in New Jersey, one-half to be used for purchasing a tract for the settlement of the, Indians living south of the Raritan River and the other half to purchase any latent claims of the back Indians by which was meant those living in north Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. This treaty was ratified by King Teedyescong at a conference held at Easton in October of the same year. A commission was appointed by Governor Bernard and a tract containing 3,044 acres was purchased on August 29, 1758 at Edge Pillock in Evesham Township. This reservation located at Indian Mills about sixteen miles southeast of Moorestown was tax free and no white man was allowed to settle on it or interfere in any way with the rights and privileges of the Indians. History records that about 200 Indians living south of the Raritan River settled on this tract. A village was built containing a number of homes, a saw mill and a house of worship. The
THE PASSING OF THE INDIAN 113
Governor very happily called the village “Brotherton” and the Indians on the reservation were long known as the Brotherton Indians.
The Rev. John Brainerd, the famous Presbyterian Missionary, was appointed Superintendent in 1762. John Brainerd was one of the outstanding characters in the early history of Burlington County. He was a graduate of Yale, a member of a wealthy and cultured family in Connecticut and doubtless gave up what would have proved to have been a brilliant career in the ministry to devote his life to the natives of New Jersey. He was ordained as a Minister in 1748 and was sent out as a Missionary to the Indians by the Society in Scotland for propagating Christian knowledge. He was first placed in charge of the Indian Mission at Bethel near Cranbury in Middlesex County which was founded and conducted for many years by his famous brother, David Brainerd, who broke down in health in 1747 and went home to die a marytr to his zeal for the Indians. John Brainerd was among the first to advocate the purchase of a tract of land for the fast disappearing Indians and it is interesting to note that the tract selected by the State at Indian Mills was the identical location which he advocated as early as 1754. In 1756 he made another effort to raise funds to purchase 3,000 acres in that vicinity and although considerable money was advanced for the purpose and the balance promised by the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, the plan was not carried out.
The Friends of West Jersey were from the earliest days greatly interested in the welfare of the Indians. On April 16, 1757, a number of Friends of West Jersey organized the New Jersey Association for helping the Indians. The first article in their agreement provided that a tract containing 2,000 acres be purchased in Monmouth, Burlington or Gloucester Counties and “set apart for the use of the New Jersey Indians forever free of rent.” 175 pounds was subscribed for the purpose but the plan was abandoned
114 MOORESTOWN AND HER NEIGHBORS
probably for the reason that the State was becoming interested in the proposition. The Indians lived for many years on the Reservation, which as far as I can learn was the first State Indian Reservation established in the country but their numbers gradually decreased largely because the “bootleggers” of the day persisted in smuggling liquor into the reservation.
In 1801 the Brotherton Indians were invited by their relatives the Mohegans, an Algonkin tribe living at New Stockbridge near Oneida Lake, New York, to “pack up their mat and to come and eat out of their dish” and added that “their necks were stretched in looking toward the fireside of their grandfathers till they were as long as cranes.” On receiving this invitation the Indians, greatly reduced in numbers and evidently greatly discouraged, petitioned the Legislature to sell their lands and turn the proceeds over to them so that they could join their kinsmen in New York. Governor Bloomfield appointed James Ewing, John Beatty, Abraham Stockton, William Stockton and Charles Ellis as commissioners to take the matter in charge. They visited the Indians on the reservation and as a majority of the adults, only about sixty-four in number, gave their assent in writing, the property was sold during the following year. A sufficient amount of money was given to the Indians to move them to New York,, the balance being invested for their benefit. History records that there were only about eighty-five Indians living on the reservation at that time. Doubtless it was a sad and discouraged group who left their on their journey to their relatives in New York.
In 1822 the Legislature received a petition from the remnant of the Delawares in New York asking that certain bank stocks which had been purchased by the New Jersey commissioners for their benefit be deposited in the Utica Bank as they desired to move to kinsmen living in Green Bay, Michigan. They also pointed out that they had received no compensation for their hunting and fishing rights
THE PASSING OF THE INDIAN 115
when they surrendered title to New Jersey lands in 1758 and prayed that compensation be made to them for same. The bank stock was transferred but the claim for compensation for their hunting and fishing rights was not upheld by the Courts.
Bartholomew Calvin, son of Stephen Calvin, the famous Indian school master of West Jersey, arrived in 1832 from Green Bay, the last home of the poor wandering Delawares with Power of Attorney to settle these claims. No legal claim could be established but out of compassion the Legislature directed the Treasurer to pay him $2,000. for the extinguishment of their claim. Chief Calvin, then an aged man, said in a letter to the Legislature in which he thanked them for this gift, “not a drop of our blood have ye spilled in battle, not an acre of our land have ye taken but by our consent, naught save benisons can fall upon you from the lips of a Lenni Lenape.” The story of the passing of the South Jersey Indians is pathetic and at times tragic, yet we Jerseymen have every right to feel proud of our State in its telling. They received justice from the State and in the earlier days at least were treated kindly by the whites yet their number dwindled from year to year. The two civilizations would not mix or perhaps it would be more truthful to say that the Indian civilization could not withstand the attendant evils of Christian civilization.
"You have driven us from our lands but we have written our names on the face of the waters."