Improbability of More than Temporary Occupation by the Indians - Punxsutawney, an Indian Town - Origin of the Name - Legends of Captain Brady, the Great Indian Fighter - Captain Hunt and Jim Hunt.
The Indian history of this region of country is very obscure, and there is scarcely anything to prove that the red men ever occupied this county to any great extent. What little we have been able to glean of the aboriginal tribes we have taken chiefly from the "Early Days of Punxsutawney and Western Pennsylvania," contributed a few years ago to the Punxsutawney Plaindealer by the late John K. Coxson, Esq.., who had made considerable research into Indian history, and was an enthusiast on the subject. According to Mr. Coxson: "More than 1,800 years ago the Iroquois held a lodge in Punxsutawney (this town still bears its Indian name, which was their sobriquet for gn’at town’), to which point they could ascend with their canoes, and go still higher up the Mahoning to within a few hours’ travel of the summit of the Allegheny Mountains. There were various Indian trails traversing the forests, one of which entered Punxsutawney near where Judge Mitchell now resides."
These trails were the thoroughfares or roadways of the Indians, over which they journeyed when on the chase, or the "war path," just as the people of the present age travel over their graded roads. "An erroneous impression obtains among many at the present day that the Indian, in traveling the interminable forests which once covered our towns and fields, roamed at random, like a modern afternoon hunter, by no fixed paths, or that he was guided in his long journeyings solely by the sun and stars, or by the course of the streams and mountains; and true it is that these untutored sons of the woods were considerable astronomers and geographers, and relied much upon these unerring guide marks of nature. Even in the most starless nights they could determine their course by feeling the bark of the oak trees, which is always smoothest on the south side and roughest on the north. But still they had their trails, or paths, as distinctly marked as are our county and State roads, and often better located. The white traders adopted them, and often stole their names, to be in turn surrendered to the leader of some Anglo-Saxon army, and finally obliterated by some costly highway of travel and commerce. They are now almost wholly effaced or forgotten. Hundreds travel along, or plow over them, unconscious that they are in the footsteps of the red men."* It has not taken long to obliterate all these Indian landmarks from our land; little more than a century ago the Indians roamed over all this western country, and now scarce a vestige of their presence remains. Much has been written and said about their deeds of butchery and cruelty. True, they were cruel, and in many instances fiendish in their inhuman practices, but they did not meet the first settlers in this spirit. Honest, hospitable, religious in their belief, reverencing their Manatou, or Great Spirit, and willing to do anything to please their white brother - this is how they met their first white visitors; but when they had seen nearly all their vast domain appropriated by the invaders, when wicked white men had introduced into their midst the "wicked fire-water," which is to-day the cause of many an act of fiendishness perpetrated by those who are not untutored savages, then the Indian rebelled, all the savage in his breast was aroused, and he became pitiless and cruel in the extreme.
It is true that our broad domains, were purchased and secured by treaty, but the odds were always on the side of the whites. The "Colonial Records" give an account of the treaty of 1686, by which a deed for "walking purchase was executed, by which the Indians sold as far as a man could walk in a day. But when the walk was to be made the most active white man was obtained, who ran from daylight until dark, as fast as he was able, without stopping to eat or drink. This much dissatisfied the Indians, who expected to walk leisurely, resting at noon to eat, and shoot game, and one old chief expressed his dissatisfaction as follows: "Lun, lun, lun; no lay down to drink; no stop to shoot squirrel, but lun, lun, lun all day; me no keep up; lun, lun for land.’ " That deed, it is said, does not now exist, but was confirmed in 1737.
When the white man came the Indians were a temperate people, and their chiefs tried hard to prohibit the sale of intoxicating drinks among their tribes; and when one Sylvester Garland, in 1701, introduced rum among them and induced them to drink, at a council held in Philadelphia, Shemekenwhol, chief of the Shawnees, complained to Governor William Penn, and at a council held on the 13th of October, 1701, this man was held in the sum of one hundred pounds never to deal rum to the Indians again; and the bond and sentence was approved by Judge Shippen, of Philadelphia. At the chief’s suggestion the council enacted a law prohibiting the trade in rum with the Indians. Still later the ruling chiefs of the Six Nations opposed the use of rum, and Red Jacket, in a speech at Buffalo, wished that whisky would never be less than "a dollar a quart." He answered the missionary’s remarks on drunkenness thus: "Go to the white man with that." A council, held on the Allegheny River, deplored the murder of the Wigden family in Butler county, by a Seneca Indian, while under the influence of whisky, approved the sentence of our law, and again passed their prohibitory resolutions, and implored the white man not to give rum to the Indian.
Mr. Coxson claims that the council of the Delawares, Muncys, Shawnees, Nanticokes, Tuscorawas, and Mingoes, to protest against the sale of their domain by the Six Nations, at Albany, in 1754, was held at Punxsutawney, and cites "Joncaire’s Notes on Indian Warfare," "Life of Bezant," etc. "It is said they ascended the tributary of La Belle Riviere to the mountain village on the way to Chinklacamoose (Clearfield) to attend the council."** At that council, though Shekiemas, the Christian king of the Delawares, and other Christian chiefs, tried hard to prevent the war; they were overruled and the tribes decided to go to war with their French allies against the colony. "Travelers, as early as 1731, reported to the council of the colony, of a town sixty miles from the Susquehanna."***
"After the failure of the expedition against Fort DuQuesne, the white captives were taken to Kittanning, Logtown, and Pukeesheno (Punxsutawney). The sachem, Pukeesheno (for whom the town was called), was the father of Tecumseh, and his twin brother. The Prophet, and was a Shawnees. We make this digression to add another proof that Punxsutawney was named after a Shawnees chief as early as 1750."(****)
"I went with Captain Brady on an Indian hunt up the Allegheny River. We found a good many signs of the savages, and I believe we were so much like the savages (when Brady went on a scouting expedition he always dressed in Indian costume), that they could hardly have known us from a band of Shawnees. But they had an introduction to us near the mouth of Red Bank. General Brodhead was, on the route behind Captain Brady, who discovered the Indians on a march. He lay concealed among the rocks until the painted chiefs and, their braves had got fairly into the narrow pass, when Brady and his men opened a destructive fire. The sylvan warriors returned the volley with terrific yells that shook the caverns and mountains from base to crest. The fight was short but sanguine. The Indians left the pass, and retired and soon were lost sight of in the deepness of the forest. We returned with three children recaptured, whose parents had been killed at Greensburg. We immediately set out on a path that led us to the mountains to a lodge the savages had near the headwaters of Mahoning and Red Bank."
"We crossed the Mahoning about forty miles from Kittanning, and entered a town which we found deserted. It seemed to be a hamlet, built by the Shawnees. From there we went over high and rugged hills, through laurel thickets, darkened by tall pine and hemlock groves, for one whole day, and lay quietly down on the bank of a considerable stream (Sandy Lick). About midnight Brady was aroused by the sound of a rifle not far down the creek. We arose and stole quietly along about half a mile, when we heard the voices of Indians but a short distance below us, where another creek unites its waters with the one upon whose banks we had rested. We ascertained that two Indians had killed a deer at a lick. They were trying to strike a light to dress their game. When the flame of pine knots blazed brightly and revealed the visages of the savages, Brady appeared to be greatly excited, and perhaps the caution that he always took when on a warpath was at that time disregarded. Revenge swallowed and absorbed every faculty of his soul. He recognized the Indian who was foremost, when they chased him, a few months before, so closely that he was forced to leap across a chasm of stone on the slippery rock twenty-three feet; between the jaws of granite there roared a deep torrent twenty feet deep. When Brady saw Conemah he sprang forward and planted his tomahawk in his head. The other Indian, who had his knife in his hand, sprang at Brady. The long, bright steel glistened in his uplifted hand, when the flash of Fancy’s rifle was the death-light of the brave, who sank to the sands. . . . Brady scalped, the Indians in a moment, and drew the deer into the thicket to finish dressing it, but had not completed his undertaking when he heard a noise in the branches of the neighboring trees. He sprang forward, quenched the flame, and in breathless silence listened for the least sound, but nothing was heard save the rustling of the leaves, stirred by the wind. One of the scouts softly crept along the banks of the creek to catch the faintest sound that echoes on the water, when he found a canoe down upon the beach. The scout communicated this to Brady, who resolved to embark on this craft, if it was large enough to carry the company. It was found to be of sufficient size. We all embarked and took the deer along. We had not gone forty rods down the stream when the savages gave a war-whoop, and about a mile off they were answered with a hundred voices. We heard them in pursuit as we went dashing down the frightful and unknown stream. We gained on them. We heard their voices far behind us, until the faint echoes of the hundreds of warriors were lost; but, unexpectedly, we found ourselves passing full fifty canoes drawn up on the beach. Brady landed a short distance below. There was no time to lose. If the pursuers arrived they might overtake the scouts. It was yet night. He took four of his men along, and with great caution unmoored the canoes and sent them adrift. The scouts below secured them, and, succeeded in arriving at Brodhead’s quarters with the scalps of two Indians and their whole fleet, which disabled them much from carrying on their, bloody expeditions."(*****)
In the legend of Noshaken, the white captive of the Delawares, in 1753, who was kept at a village supposed to have been Punxsutawney, occurs the following: "The scouts, were on the track of the Indians, the time of burning of the captives was extended, and the whole band prepared to depart for Fort Venango with the prisoners. . . . They continued on for twenty miles, and encamped by a beautiful spring, where the sand boiled up from the bottom, near where two creeks unite. Here they passed the night, and the next morning again headed for Fort Venango." This spring is believed to have been the "sand spring" at Brookville. Thus both the earlier histories and traditions would lead us to believe that Jefferson county was once the scene of Indian occupation. The early settlers found many vestiges of them, and even at this late day "Indian relics" in the shape of stone tomahawks, flint arrows, darts, etc., are frequently found.
But it was long after these scenes, when Joseph Barnett, the first white settler, came into the wilds of what is now Jefferson county. Then nearly all the Indians had gone, some towards the setting sun, others to Canada. Of all the tribes that once composed the great Indian confederations, only a few Muncies and Senecas of Cornplanter’s tribe remained. These Indians, for a number of years after the white men came, extended their hunting excursions into these forests. They were always peaceable and friendly. The first settlers found their small patches of corn, one of which was planted where the fair-grounds are now located, and another in the flat at Port Barnett. Indian corn, or maize, as it was sometimes called, is undoubtedly an American cereal, being first discovered on this continent in 1600, though it is now grown in all civilized lands.(******)
The Indians also came here to make maple sugar in the spring. They would cut notches in the trees, and then collect the sap in troughs hollowed out of small logs, which was then collected into a larger trough, when it was boiled down into molasses and sugar by dipping hot stones into it, a process that must have called for a great deal of patience. These Indians would take the skins and hams of the game killed during the winter to Pittsburgh in the spring, where they would exchange them for tobacco, whisky, blankets, trinkets, etc. They generally made these trips on rafts constructed of dry poles withed together.
An old Indian, called Captain Hunt, has been handed down as the last Indian who resided in this county, having had his camp on what is yet known as "Hunt’s Point," on Red Bank, in the present borough limits of Brookville. it is said of him that he was a fugitive from his tribe, having killed a fellow Indian; but the daughter of Joseph Barnett, Mrs. Graham, left the following as her recollections of these Indians, and those of the tribes who were here after her family settled at Port Barnett, and from her statement it appears that it was a cousin of Captain Hunt who was the banished Indian. We give Mrs. Graham’s account of these Indians as nearly as possible in her own language:
"When we came to Port Barnett, in the spring of 1797, there were but two Indian families there. One was Twenty Canoes, and Caturah, which means Tomahawk. The two Hunts were here, but they were alone. Jim Hunt was on banishment for killing his cousin. Captain Hunt and Jim Hunt were cousins. Captain Hunt was an under-chief of the Munsey tribe. In the fall other Indians came here to hunt. I have forgotten their names, with the exception of two, John Jamieson, who had seven sons, all named John; the other was Crow, he was an Indian in name and in nature. He was feared by both the whites and Indians. He was a Mohawk, and a perfect savage. Caturah and Twenty canoes staid here for several years after we came. The Hunts were here most of the time until the commencement of the War of 1812. Jim dare not go back to his tribe until the year 1808 or 1809, when his friends stole a white boy in Westmoreland county and had him adopted into the tribe in place of the warrior Jim had slain.(*******) Jim Hunt and John Jones were great friends, and were always together. John Jones was a brother of Isaac Jones, of Corsica. A great many persons think they know all about the hiding places of Hunt - one of them was a cave in the bank of Sandy Lick, at what is called the ‘deep hole,’ opposite the Sand Spring. The other was on the head waters of Little Sandy Creek. When danger threatened him a runner from the Reservation would warn him by a peculiar whoop from a certain place on the hill northwest from the Port. Jim loved whisky, but never got off his feet for fear he would be caught by his pursuers. At the commencement of the War of 1812 the Munsey tribe were banished from the Six Nations, and Jim Hunt never returned. Captain Hunt was back once or twice. Twenty Canoes and Sassy John were back once to see ‘Joe Blannet’ - they could not pronounce the name of Barnett. The last visit of Caturah was in 1833, he being then over ninety years of age."
While it was known that Hunt had the hiding places mentioned by Mrs. Graham, they were never discovered until the year 1843, when the one at the Sand Spring, in the borough of Brookville, was discovered by Mr. Thomas Graham, a son of the old lady whose narrative we have just given, who was learning his trade in Brookville, and went over to the Sand Spring to cut a cane in the laurel thicket that then covered that spot, and after entering the densest part of the thicket, he was surprised to find the ground give way beneath him, and find himself precipitated into a cave, which had been hollowed out and so deftly covered over that its whereabouts had never before been discovered until Mr. Graham stumbled upon it, and the timbers that upheld the roof having rotted away, it gave way beneath him. It showed signs of having been used as a human habitation and was without doubt Jim Hunt’s place of refuge. Jim Hunt was a great hunter, and in one winter is said to have killed seventy-eight bears, besides other, smaller game. He was inordinately fond of whisky, and nearly all the skins of his game went for his favorite beverage. After he had traded these seventy-eight skins to Samuel Scott, receiving a pint of whisky for each skin, he was found crying in a maudlin way over his bankruptcy. When asked what was the matter, he replied: "Bear skins all gone; whisky all gone. No skins, no whisky, ugh!"
* Judge Veech.
(****) "History of Western Pennsylvania," page 302.
(*****) "Biography of Jno. Morrison," one of Brady’s scouts.
(******) Drs. Sturtevant, Pickering, and other eminent botanists and antiquarians, believed that maize (or Indian corn), is mentioned by the old Icelandic writers, who are thought to have visited the coast of eastern North America as early as 1006.
Columbus found the natives of America using maize (mahiz), and it is cited among the gifts he brought back to Queen Isabella from the New World.
Hernandes found it in Mexico previous to 1600. All the American colonists found it growing in all places adapted to it. Before the Pilgrims landed for settlement, in exploring the coast, they found cornfields, and a magazine of corn, "which we digged up, and found a great fine new basket full of very fine corne of this year, some six and thirty ears of goodly come, some yellow, some red, and some mixed with olive, which was a goodly sight." Chronicles of Plymouth Colony, page 133.
Governor Bradford in his "History of Plymouth Plantation" says: "In the early spring, in April of 1621, as many as were able began to plant their come, in which Servise Squanto (an Indian), stood them in great stead, showing them both ye manner how to set it, and after how to dress and tend it." Thus the Indians taught the first white settlers how to grow this grain, which is now one of the most important of our cereals. Early travelers all speak of it as an absolute necessity in the growing of live stock in this country.
(*******) By a law of the tribe he was not allowed to return until the place of the warrior he had slain was filled by the capture of another male from the whites or some other Indian tribe.
Source: Page(s) 24-30, History of Jefferson County by Kate M. Scott. Syracuse, N.Y., D. Mason & Co., 1888.
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