Indians of Jefferson County
By Megan Milford
As late as 1815 - 1816, a considerable amount of Indians settled along the banks of the Red Bank Creek. Almost 300 of them settled along the stream below Brookville around that time.
From William Penn's arrival in 1682, the Delaware were subject to the Iroquois, or the most confederacy of the six nations, who were the most warlike savages in America. The Iroquois were divided and known among the English as the Mohawks, the mountaineers, who occupied Western New York and Northwest Pennsylvania. They were found in great numbers along the Allegheny and its tributaries. Their great chiefs were Cornplanter and Guyasutha. This tribe was the most numerous, and powerful and warlike of the Iroquois nation, and comprised the Indians of the Northwestern Pennsylvania.
The Seneca of the Cornplanter tribe were friendly and peaceable neighbors, and often extended their excursions into these waters, where they encamped, two or three in a squad, and hunted deer and bears, taking the hams and skins in the spring to Pittsburgh. Their rafts were constructed of dry poles, upon which they piled up their meat and skins in the form of a haystack, and took them to Pittsburgh to exchange for trinkets, blankets, calicoes, weapons, ect. They were friendly, sociable, and rather fond of making money. During the war of 1812, the settlers were apprehensive that an unfortunate turn of the war upon the lakes might bring an eruption of the savages upon the frontier through the Seneca nation. The Seneca nation was the most numerous and comprised the greatest warriors of the Iroquois confederacy. In person the Seneca were slender, middle-sized handsome and straight. The squaws were short, not very pretty, and clumsy. Their skin was reddish brown, and hair straight and jet-black.
Joseph Barnett made flour with his "Port Barnett flintstone bins." The Indians (Cornplanter and Seneca) in the country were good customers, and what few whites there were for 40 miles around would make his cabins a stoping-place for several days at a time. His log cabin became a tavern, the only one in the 75 mile journey, and was frequented by all the early settlers.
The Indians would work for Joseph Barnett doing things like building what became Port Barnett, and helping him make his flour, Joseph paid them with "moonshine," or whiskey.
More than 1800 years ago, the Iroquois held a lodge in Punxsutawney(this town still bears its Indian name, which was their sobriquet for "gnat town"). To which point they could ascend with their canoes and still go higher up the Mahoning to within a few hours travel to the summit of the Allegheny Mountains. There were various Indian trails traversing the forests. These trails were various the thoroughfares or roads of the Indians, over which they journeyed when on the chase or the "war-path."
Punxsutawney was an Indian town two centuries ago, and like all other towns of the Indians before the white man reached this continent with firearms, was a stockade.
The word "puxsu" means gnat. The land was a swamp, and alive with gnats, mosquitoes, turtles, and reptiles. For protection against the gnats the Indians anointed themselves with oil and ointments made of fat and poisons. Centuries ago the Indians of Punxsutawney dressed themselves in winter with a cloak made of Buffalo, bear, or beaver skins, with a leather girdle and stocking or moccasins of buckskin. Beavers were of all colors, white, yellow, spotted, gray, but mostly black. The Indian subsisted mostly on game, but when pressed for food, ate acorns, nuts, and the inside bank of the birch tree.
Punxsutawney was the largest Indian village in the area. It consisted of hundreds and hundreds of acres of stockades (bark houses) and hunting grounds.
Another fair-sized village of Indians was the Village of Troy. What is now known as Summerville. This is the village where Chief Cornplanter and his tribe of the Seneca lived. Here, they planted fields, and fields of maize, or corn. Then at one of their five ceremonies during the year, the Harvesting Festival, all the Seneca Indians in the area would get together and have a big feast. The Cornplanter Indians brought all of the corn for the Senecas.
To get to: Port Barnett follow Route 322 east about one mile, after the underpass, you're there. Punxsutawney, take Route 36 south 18 miles. Follow Route 28 six miles to get to Summerville.
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