Notes on the State of Virginia (1853)/Appendix 1
The preceding sheets having been submitted to my friend Mr. Charles Thomson, Secretary of Congress, he has furnished me with the following observations, which have too much merit not to be communicated:
(1.) p. 15. Besides the three channels of communication mentioned between the western waters and the Atlantic, there are two others, to which the Pennsylvanians are turning their attention; one from Presque Isle on Lake Erie, to Le Bœuf, down the Alleghaney to Kiskiminitas, then up the Kiskiminitas, and from thence, by a small portage, to Juniata, which falls into the Susquehanna: the other from Lake Ontario to the East Branch of the Delaware, and down that to Philadelphia. Both these are said to be very practicable: and, considering the enterprising temper of the Pennsylvanians, and particularly of the merchants of Philadelphia, whose object is concentered in promoting the commerce and trade of one city, it is not improbable but one or both of these communications will be opened and improved.
(2.) p. 18. The reflections I was led into on viewing this passage of the Patowmac through the Blue Ridge were, that this country must have suffered some violent convulsion, and that the face of it must have been changed from what it probably was some centuries ago: that the broken and ragged faces of the mountain on each side of the river; the tremendous rocks, which are left with one end fixed in the precipice, and the other jutting out, and seemingly ready to fall for want of support; the bed of the river for several miles below obstructed, and filled with the loose stones carried from this mound; in short, every thing on which you cast your eye evidently demonstrates a disrupture and breach in the mountain, and that, before this happened, what is now a fruitful vale, was formerly a great lake or collection of water, which possibly might have here formed a mighty cascade, or had its vent to the ocean by the Susquehanna, where the Blue Ridge seems to terminate. Besides this, there are other parts of this country which bear evident traces of a like convulsion. From the best accounts I have been able to obtain, the place where the Delaware now flows through the Kittatinny mountain, which is a continuation of what is called the North ridge, or mountain, was not its original course, but that it passed through what is now called ‘the Wind-gap,’ a place several miles to the westward, and above an hundred feet higher than the present bed of the river. This Wind-gap is about a mile broad, and the stones in it such as seem to have been washed for ages by water running over them. Should this have been the case, there must have been a large lake behind that mountain, and, by some uncommon swell in the waters, or by some convulsion of nature, the river must have opened its way through a different part of the mountain, and meeting there with less obstruction, carried away with it the opposing mounds of earth, and deluged the country below with the immense collection of waters to which this new passage gave vent. There are still remaining, and daily discovered, innumerable instances of such a deluge on both sides of the river, after it passed the hills above the falls of Trenton, and reached the champaign. On the New Jersey side, which is flatter than the Pennsylvania side, all the country below Croswick hills seems to have been overflowed to the distance of from ten to fifteen miles back from the river, and to have acquired a new soil by the earth and clay brought down and mixed with the native sand. The spot on which Philadelphia stands evidently appears to be made ground. The different strata through which they pass in digging to water, the acorns, leaves, and sometimes branches, which are found above twenty feet below the surface, all seem to demonstrate this. I am informed that at York Town in Virginia, in the bank of the York River, there are different strata of shells and earth, one above another, which seem to point out that the country there has undergone several changes; that the sea has, for a succession of ages, occupied the place where dry land now appears; and that the ground has been suddenly raised at various periods. What a change would it make in the country below, should the mountains at Niagara, by any accident, be cleft asunder, and a passage suddenly opened to drain off the waters of Erie and the Upper lakes! While ruminating on these subjects, I have often been hurried away by fancy, and led to imagine, that what is now the bay of Mexico, was once a champaign country; and that from the point or cape of Florida, there was a continued range of mountains through Cuba, Hispaniola, Porto Rico, Martinique, Guadaloupe, Barbadoes, and Trinidad, till it reached the coast of America, and formed the shores which bounded the ocean, and guarded the country behind: that, by some convulsion or shock of nature, the sea had broken through these mounds, and deluged that vast plain, till it reached the foot of the Andes; that being there heaped up by the trade-winds, always blowing from one quarter, it had found its way back, as it continues to do, through the Gulf between Florida and Cuba, carrying with it the loam and sand it may have scooped from the country it had occupied, part of which it may have deposited on the shores of North America, and with part formed the banks of Newfoundland. But these are only the visions of fancy.
(3.) p. 38. There is a plant or weed, called the Jamestown weed, of a very singular quality. The late Dr. Bond informed me, that he had under his care a patient, a young girl, who had put the seeds of this plant into her eye, which dilated the pupil to such a degree, that she could see in the dark, but in the light was almost blind. The effect that the leaves had when eaten by a ship's crew that arrived at Jamestown, are well known.
(4.) p. 69. Mons. Buffon has indeed given an afflicting picture of human nature in his description of the man of America. But sure I am there never was a picture more unlike the original. He grants indeed that his stature is the same as that of the man of Europe. He might have admitted, that the Iroquois were larger, and the Lenopi, or Delawares, taller than people in Europe generally are. But he says their organs of generation are smaller and weaker than those of Europeans. Is this a fact? I believe not; at least it is an observation I never heard before. ‘They have no beard.’ Had he known the pains and trouble it costs the men to pluck out by the roots the hair that grows on their faces, he would have seen that Nature had not been deficient in that respect. Every nation has its customs. I have seen an Indian beau, with a looking-glass in his hand, examining his face for hours together, and plucking out by the roots every hair he could discover, with a kind of tweezer made of a piece of fine brass wire, that had been twisted around a stick, and which he used with great dexterity. ‘They have no ardor for their female.’ It is true, they do not indulge those excesses, nor discover that fondness which is customary in Europe; but this is not owing to a defect in nature, but to manners. Their soul is wholly bent upon war. This is what procures them glory among the men, and makes them the admiration of the women. To this they are educated from their earliest youth. When they pursue game with ardor, when they bear the fatigues of the chase, when they sustain and suffer patiently hunger and cold; it is not so much for the sake of the game they pursue, as to convince their parents and the council of the nation that they are fit to be enrolled in the number of the warriors. The songs of the women, the dance of the warriors, the sage counsel of the chiefs, the tales of the old, the triumphal entry of the warriors returning with success from battle, and the respect paid to those who distinguish themselves in war and in subduing their enemies; in short, every thing they see or hear tends to inspire them with an ardent desire for military fame. If a young man were to discover a fondness for women before he has been to war, he would become the contempt of the men, and the scorn and ridicule of the women. Or were he to indulge himself with a captive taken in war, and much more were he to offer violence in order to gratify his lust, he would incur indelible disgrace. The seeming frigidity of the men, therefore, is the effect of manners, and not a defect of nature. Besides, a celebrated warrior is oftener courted by the females, than he has occasion to court: and this is a point of honor which the men aim at. Instances familiar to that of Ruth and Boaz are not uncommon among them. For though the women are modest and diffident, and so bashful that they seldom lift up their eyes, and scarce ever look a man full in the face, yet, being brought up in great subjection, custom and manners reconcile them to modes of acting, which, judged of by Europeans, would be deemed inconsistent with the rules of female decorum and propriety. I once saw a young widow, whose husband, a warrior, had died about eight days before, hastening to finish her grief, and who by tearing her hair, beating her breast, and drinking spirits, made the tears flow in great abundance, in order that she might grieve much in a short space of time, and be married that evening to another young warrior. The manner in which this was viewed by the men and women of the tribe, who stood round, silent and solemn spectators of the scene, and the indifference with which they answered my question respecting it, convinced me that it was no unusual custom. I have known men advanced in years, whose wives were old and past child-bearing, take young wives, and have children, though the practice of polygamy is not common. Does this savour of frigidity, or want of ardor for the female? Neither do they seem to be deficient in natural affection. I have seen both fathers and mothers in the deepest affliction, when their children have been dangerously ill; though I believe the affection is stronger in the descending than the ascending scale, and though custom forbids a father to grieve immoderately for a son slain in battle. ‘That they are timorous and cowardly,’ is a character with which there is little reason to charge them, when we recollect the manner in which the Iroquois met Mons. ——, who marched into their country; in which the old men, who scorned to fly, or to survive the capture of their town, braved death, like the old Romans in the time of the Gauls, and in which they soon after revenged themselves by sacking and destroying Montreal. But above all, the unshaken fortitude with which they bear the most excruciating tortures and death when taken prisoners, ought to exempt them from that character. Much less are they to be characterised as a people of no vivacity, and who are excited to action or motion only by the calls of hunger and thirst. Their dances, in which they so much delight, and which to a European would be the most severe exercise, fully contradict this, not to mention their fatiguing marches, and the toil they voluntarily and cheerfully undergo in their military expeditions. It is true, that when at home, they do not employ themselves in labor or the culture of the soil: but this again is the effect of customs and manners, which have assigned that to the province of the women. But it is said, they are averse to society and a social life. Can any thing be more inapplicable than this to a people who always live in towns or clans? Or can they be said to have no ‘republique,’ who conduct all their affairs in national councils, who pride themselves in their national character, who consider an insult or injury done to an individual by a stranger as done to the whole, and resent it accordingly? In short, this picture is not applicable to any nation of Indians I have ever known or heard of in North America.
(5.) p. 104. As far as I have been able to learn, the country from the sea coast to the Alleghaney, and from the most southern waters of James river up to Patuxent river, now in the State of Maryland, was occupied by three different nations of Indians, each of which spoke a different language, and were under separate and distinct governments. What the original or real names of those nations were, I have not been able to learn with certainty: but by us they are distinguished by the names of Powhatàns, Mannahòacs, and Mònacans, now commonly called Tuscaròras. The Powhatàns, who occupied the country from the sea shore up to the falls of the rivers, were a powerful nation, and seem to have consisted of seven tribes, five on the western and two on the eastern shore. Each of these tribes were subdivided into towns, families, or clans, who lived together. All the nations of Indians in North America lived in the hunter state, and depended for subsistence on hunting, fishing, and the spontaneous fruits of the earth, and a kind of grain which was planted and gathered by the women, and is now known by the name of Indian corn. Long potatoes, pumpkins of various kinds, and squashes were also found in use among them. They had no flocks, herds, or tamed animals of any kind. Their government is a kind of patriarchal confederacy. Every town or family has a chief, who is distinguished by a particular title, and whom we commonly call ‘Sachem.’ The several towns or families that compose a tribe, have a chief who presides over it, and the several tribes composing a nation have a chief who presides over the whole nation. These chiefs are generally men advanced in years, and distinguished by their prudence and abilities in council. The matters which merely regard a town or family are settled by the chief and principal men of the town: those which regard a tribe, such as the appointment of head warriors or captains, and settling differences between different towns and families, are regulated at a meeting or council of the chiefs from the several towns; and those which regard the whole nation, such as the making war, concluding peace, or forming alliances with the neighboring nations, are deliberated on and determined in a national council composed of the chiefs of the tribe, attended by the head warriors and a number of the chiefs from the towns, who are his counsellors. In every town there is a council house, where the chief and old men of the town assemble, when occasion requires, and consult what is proper to be done. Every tribe has a fixed place for the chiefs of the towns to meet and consult on the business of the tribe: and in every nation there is what they call the central council house, or central council fire, where the chiefs of the several tribes, with the principal warriors convene to consult and determine on their national aflfairs. When any matter is proposed in the national council, it is common for the chiefs of the several tribes to consult thereon apart with their counsellors, and, when they have agreed, to deliver the opinion of the tribe at the national council: and, as their government seems to rest wholly on persuasion, they endeavor, by mutual concessions, to obtain unanimity. Such is the government that still subsists among the Indian nations bordering upon the United States. Some historians seem to think, that the dignity of office of Sachem was hereditary. But that opinion does not appear to be well founded. The Sachem or chief of the tribe seems to be by election. And sometimes persons who are strangers, and adopted into the tribe, are promoted to this dignity, on account of their abilities. Thus on the arrival of Captain Smith, the first founder of the colony of Virginia, Opechàncanough, who was Sachem or Chief of the Chickahòminies, one of the tribes of the Powhatàns, is said to have been of another tribe, and even of another nation, so that no certain account could be obtained of his origin or descent. The chiefs of the nations seem to have been by a rotation among the tribes. Thus when Captain Smith, in the year 1609, questioned Powhatàn (who was the chief of the nation, and whose proper name is said to have been Wahunsonacock,) respecting the succession, the old chief informed him, “that he was very old and had seen the death of all his people thrice; that not one of these generations were then living except himself, that he must soon die and the succession descend in order to his brothers Opichapàn, Opechàncanough, and Cattatàugh, and then to his two sisters, and their two daughters.” But these were appellations designating the tribes in the confederacy. For the persons named are not his real brothers, but the chiefs of different tribes. Accordingly in 1618, when Powhatàn died, he was succeeded by Opichapàn, and after his decease Opechàncanough became chief of the nation. I need only mention another instance to shew that the chiefs of the tribes claimed this kindred with the head of the nation. In 1622, when Raleigh Crashaw was with Japazàw, the Sachem or chief of the Patowmacs, Opechàncanough, who had great power and influence, being the second man in the nation, and next in succession to Opichapàn, and who was a bitter but secret enemy to the English, and wanted to engage his nation in a war with them, sent two baskets of beads to the Patowmac chief, and desired him to kill the Englishman that was with him. Japazàw replied, that the English were his friends, and Opichapàn his brother, and that therefore there should be no blood shed between them by his means. It is also to be observed, that when the English first came over, in all their conferences with any of the chiefs, they constantly heard him make mention of his brother, with whom he must consult, or to whom they referred them, meaning thereby either the chief of the nation, or the tribes in confederacy. The Manahòacs are said to have been a confederacy of four tribes, and in alliance with the Mònacans, in the war which they were carrying on against the Powhatàns.
To the northward of these there was another powerful nation, which occupied the country from the head of the Chesapeak bay up to the Kittatinney mountain, and as far eastward as Connecticut river, comprehending that part of New York which lies between the highlands and the ocean, all the State of New Jersey, that part of Pennsylvania which is watered, below the range of the Kittatinney mountains, by the rivers or streams falling into the Delaware, and the county of Newcastle in the State of Delaware, as far as Duck creek. It is to be observed, that the nations of Indians distinguished their countries one from another by natural boundaries, such as ranges of mountains, or streams of water. But as the heads of rivers frequently interlock, or approach near to each other, as those who live upon a stream claim the country watered by it, they often encroached on each other, and this is a constant source of war between the different nations. The nation occupying the tract of country last described, called themselves Lenopi. The French writers call them Loups; and among the English they are now commonly called Delawares. This nation or confederacy consisted of five tribes, who all spoke one language. 1. Chihohocki, who dwelt on the West side of the river now called Delaware, a name which it took from Lord De la War, who put into it on his passage from Virginia in the year ——, but which by the Indians was called Chihohocki. 2. The Wanami, who inhabited the country called New Jersey, from the Rariton to the sea. 3. The Munsey, who dwelt on the upper streams of the Delaware, from the Kittatinney mountains down to the Leheigh or western branch of the Delaware. 4. The Wabinga, who are sometimes called River Indians, sometimes Mohickanders, and who had their dwelling between the west branch of Delaware and Hudson's river, from the Kittatinney ridge down to the Rariton: and 5. The Mahiccon, or Mahattan, who occupied Staten island, York island, (which, from its being the principal seat of their residence, was formerly called Mahatton,) Long island, and that part of New York and Connecticut which lies between Hudson and Connecticut rivers, from the highland, which is a continuation of the Kittatinney ridge, down to the Sound. This nation had a close alliance with the Shawanese, who lived on the Susquehannah and to the westward of that river, as far as the Alleghaney mountains, and carried on a long war with another powerful nation or confederacy of Indians, which lived to the north of them between the Kittatinney mountains or highlands, and the lake Ontario, and who call themselves Mingos, and are called by the French writers Iroquois, by the English the Five Nations, and by the Indians to the southward, with whom they were at war, Massawòmacs. This war was carrying on, in its great fury, when Captain Smith first arrived in Virginia. The Mingo warriors had penetrated down the Susquehanna to the mouth of it. In one of his excursions up the bay, at the mouth of the Susquehanna, in 1608, Captain Smith met with six or seven of their canoes full of warriors, who were coming to attack their enemies in the rear. In an excursion which he had made a few weeks before, up the Rappahanoc, and in which he had a skirmish with a party of the Manahòacs, and taken a brother of one of their chiefs prisoner, he first heard of this nation. For when he asked the prisoner, why his nation attacked the English? the prisoner said, because his nation had heard that the English came from under the world to take their world from them. Being asked how many worlds he knew? he said, he knew but one, which was under the sky that covered him, and which consisted of the Powhatàns, the Mànakins, and the Massawòmacs. Being questioned concerning the latter, he said, they dwelt on a great water to the North, that they had many boats, and so many men that they waged war with all the rest of the world. The Mingo confederacy then consisted of five tribes; three who are called the elder, to wit, the Senecas, who live to the West, the Mohawks to the East, and the Onondagas between them; and two who are called the younger tribes, namely, the Cayugas and Oneidas. All these tribes speak one language, and were then united in a close confederacy, and occupied the tract of country from the East end of lake Erie to lake Champlain, and from the Kittatinney and Highlands to the lake Ontario and the river Cadaraqui, or St. Laurence. They had, for some time before that, carried on a war with a nation, who lived beyond the lakes, and were called Adirondacs. In this war they were worsted: but having made a peace with them through the intercession of the French, who were then settling Canada, they turned their arms against the Lenopi, and as this war was long and doubtful, they, in the course of it, not only exerted their whole force, but put in practice every measure which prudence or policy could devise to bring it to a successful issue. For this purpose they bent their course down the Susquehanna, warring with the Indians in their way, and having penetrated as far as the mouth of it, they, by the terror or their arms, engaged a nation, now known by the name of Nanticocks, Conoys, and Tùteloes, and who lived between Chesapeak and Delaware bays, and bordering on the tribe of Chihohocki, to enter into an alliance with them. They also formed an alliance with the Mònacans, and stimulated them to a war with the Lenopi and their confederates. At the same time the Mohawks carried on a furious war down the Hudson against the Mohiccons and River Indians, and compelled them to purchase a temporary and precarious peace, by acknowledging them to be their superiors, and paying an annual tribute. The Lenopi being surrounded with enemies, and hard pressed, and having lost many of their warriors, were at last compelled to sue for peace, which was granted them on the condition that they should put themselves under the protection of the Mingoes, confine themselves to raising corn, hunting for the subsistence of their families, and no longer have the power of making war. This is what the Indians call making them women. And in this condition the Lenopis were when William Penn first arrived and began the settlement of Pennsylvania in 1682.
(6.) p. 107. From the figurative language of the Indians, as well as from the practice of those we are still acquainted with, it is evident that it was, and still continues to be, a constant custom among the Indians to gather up the bones of the dead, and deposit them in a particular place. Thus, when they make peace with any nation with whom they have been at war, after burying the hatchet, they take up the belt of wampum, and say, “We now gather up all the bones of those who have been slain, and bury them,” &c. See all the treaties of peace. Besides, it is customary when any of them die at a distance from home, to bury them, and afterwards to come and take up the bones, and carry them home. At a treaty which was held at Lancaster with the Six Nations, one of them died, and was buried in the woods a little distance from the town. Some time after a party came and took up the body, separated the flesh from the bones by boiling and scraping them clean, and carried them to be deposited in the sepulchres of their ancestors. The operation was so offensive and disagreeable, that nobody could come near them while they were performing it.
(7.) p. 115. The Oswegàtchies, Connosedàgos, and Cohunnegàgoes, or, as they are commonly called, Caghnewàgos, are of the Mingo or Six-nation Indians, who, by the influence of the French missionaries, have been separated from their nation, and induced to settle there.
I do not know of what nation the Augquàgahs are; but suspect they are a family of the Senecas.
The Nànticocks and Conòies were formerly a nation that lived at the head of Chesapeak bay, and who, of late years, have been adopted into the Mingo or Iroquois confederacy, and make a seventh nation. The Mònacans or Tuscaròras, who were taken into the confederacy in 1712, making the sixth.
The Saponies are families of the Wanamies, who removed from New Jersey, and, with the Mohiccons, Munsies, and Delawares, belong to the Lenopi nation. The Mingos are a war colony from the Six Nations; so are the Cohunnewagos.
Of the rest of the northern tribes I never have been able to learn any thing certain. But all accounts seem to agree in this, that there is a very powerful nation, distinguished by a variety of names taken from the several towns or families, but commonly called Tàwas or Outawas, who speak one language, and live round and on the waters that fall into the western lakes, and extend from the waters of the Ohio quite to the waters falling into Hudson's bay.
- Datura pericarpiis erectis ovatis.—Linn.
- An instance of temporary imbecility produced by them is mentioned—Beverly H. of Virg. B. 2, c. 4.
- When Boaz had eaten and drank, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn; and Ruth came softly and uncovered his feet and laid her down.—Ruth iii. 7.
- This is one generation more than the poet ascribes to the life of Nestor.
Tῶ δ᾽ ἤδη δύο μὲν γενεαὶ μερόπων ἀνθρώπων Eφθίαθ᾽ οἵ οἱ πρόσθεν ἅμα τράφεν ἠδ᾽ ἐγένοντο Eν Πύλῳ ἠγαθέῃ, μετὰ δὲ τριτάτοισιν ἄνασσεν.
1. Hom. II. 250.
Two generations now had past away. Wise by his rules, and happy by his sway; Two ages o'er his native realm he reign'd, And now th' example of the third remain'd.