Native Americans who inhabited the Poconos when colonists arrived in the 18th century were of the Lenni Lenape tribe, Munsee or Minsi (Wolf) Nation. The English referred to them as the Delaware.
WALLENPAUPACK VALLEY - Native Americans who inhabited the Poconos when colonists arrived in the 18th century were of the Lenni Lenape tribe, Munsee or Minsi (Wolf) Nation. The English referred to them as the Delaware.
By the late 1770′s, most of the Lenape had journeyed west, either driven by the Iroquois or avoiding the encroachment of the colonists.
Clashes occurred with Indians of the Six Nation Iroquois Confederacy, to whom the Lenape were made subject, in both the area of the Wallenpaupack and along the Upper Delaware.
Part of the hostilities arose over competing land claims in the Poconos and further west by both the colonies of Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
During the Revolutionary War, the British made use of the Iroquois as well as sympathetic colonists known as Tories in their war with the American Patriots. It was a brutal time in the wilderness, where settlers no where felt safe.
More than 200 settlers at Wyoming Valley (near present day Wilkes Barre on the Susquehanna River) were massacred by a much larger army of British regulars, Tories and Indians on July 3,1778. About 140 survivors (accounts vary in number) escaped into the what were referred to as the “Shades of Death,” dense woods and swamps of the Pocono Mountains. The Indians followed after them.
The day after, on July 4, 1778, Indians fell upon a group of settlers who were squatting on what was an orchard planted by the Indians on one of their hunting trails. The location, known as “Little Meadows,” was located east of what we know as Hamlin, in Salem Township. The hunting trail would later become a major settler’s road, which we know as Route 590 leading from Mount Cobb through Hamlin and continuing down Goose Pond Road, crossing the Wallenpaupack and known in Pike County as Gumbletown Road and Blooming Grove Road, on the way to Minisink Island on the Delaware. The trail allowed passage for Indian trade, from the New Jersey coast to the Susquehanna Valley.
The resulting confrontation left the squatters butchered, except Jacob Stanton who was able to escape. He fled to the Paupack settlement seven miles away, south of the Wallenpaupack River.
Twenty years earlier, the Nathaniel Carter family, with two other families (one was named Duncan; the other we do not know) from Connecticut, on their way to the Wyoming Valley, stopped along the Wallenpaupack River in 1758 (another reference says 1763). They formed the new settlement of Paupack in what we know as Palmyra Township, Pike County. This began the collision of worlds. For thousands of years the domain of the Indian, the steel ax had swung and a crude log cabin was built by the first white colonists, settling in what would one day be the bed of Lake Wallenpaupack, an era too distant for them to imagine.
These first settlers enjoyed peaceful co-existence with the local Lenape, who were of the Walink-pa-peek clan.
This pioneer family was killed by what were said to be Cherokee Indians during the French and Indian War. Five children were taken prisoners by the Indians and later ransomed to the British. More Connecticut settlers came to Paupack in 1774, although frequently harassed by Indians working for Tories during the Revolutionary War.
Historian Phineas Goodrich described those Indians as “vagabond scamps and outcasts of the Indian tribes.” The principal motive of the marauders was to steal the cattle of the settlers.
Col. Joseph Brandt, a half-blood Mohawk chief in the British army, had given orders that the Paupack people be spared because they had been friendly with the Indians. Brandt, however, could not control the Tories.
A palisade fort was built at Paupack, known as Fort Lackawac, covering an acre of high ground above the Pellet flats. Inside were a spring, a blockhouse with a sentry box, and emergency sleeping quarters for the entire community.
In the swamp near Paupack in 1777, 28 men were caught hiding out. They were Tories, who sided with the British. Some had been living at Maghaghamack (Port Jervis), Cochecton and Wyoming before the Revolutionary War began, and knew the area. Their capture encouraged the band of Connecticut settlers at Paupack.
On July 3, 1778, refugees from the Wyoming Valley Massacre arrived at Paupack with the news. They found that the settlement had just been raided by some 60 Indians and Tories, who had tried to take their cattle. The Wallenpaupack settlers, however, were ready for the attack, and the Indians and Tories had left after burning the grist mill of Joseph Washburn at the Wallenapaupack falls (later known as Wilsonville). Goodrich wrote that the Tories burned Washburn’s mill as they retreated.
The Indians took a few prisoners.
When they received word about the attack a few miles away at Little Meadows, the inhabitants of Paupack abandoned the fort and fled to Orange County, NY. When parties of young men attempted to return in August 1778, they found that their buildings were burned. A saw mill built by Burnham Kimble on the Wallenpaupack falls at what would later be the known as Wilsonville also was burned down.
Most of the settlers returned in 1783, after the close of the Revolution.
Other skirmishes and battles occurred on the Upper Delaware involving Indians and colonial settlers. Only brief mention is made here:
In 1776, three Jersey men were taken by Indians across the Delaware near Dingmans Ferry. A militia was able to save two of them.
On June 17, 1781, 12 Indians killed an old man and took three prisoner near Shohola.
In Lackawaxen Township, William Holbert, his family and neighbors, were taken prisoner and brought to Indian Orchard. The settlers were enslaved many months. Several escaped, and the others were freed after the war.
The Battle of Minisink took place on July 22, 1779 on the New York side of the Delaware, opposite the Lackawaxen. A body of American militia was overwhelmed by a force of 140 Iroquois Indians, working for the British. Between 40 and 50 of the militia were killed or taken prisoner. Nearly every capable man from the Paupack settlement and Damascus settlement took part in the battle.
The Wyoming Massacre sparked a bloody response in the summer of 1779, with the march of General Sullivan and some 2,500 soldiers against the Iroquois, up the Susquehanna and into New York State.
For further reading:
Palmyra Township Pike County, PA: A History (2007) by Donal S. Coutts (Wallenpapack Historical Society)
Pike in Pennsylvania: A History (1993) by George S. Fluhr
History of Wayne, Pike & Monroe Counties, PA (1886) by Alfred Mathews
History of Wayne County, PA (1880) by Phineas Goodrich
(These books written by Mathews and Goodrich may be read online.)