Bidwell Lore – Indian Town’s Mohican Burying Ground

Happy New Year and welcome to week 37 of Bidwell Lore! This week we will be sharing the story of the Mohican burying ground in Indian Town (now Stockbridge).

“A plat of 23,040 acres of land lying on both sides of the Housatonnuck river being A Grant made by the Great. Gen’l Court or Assembly of the Province of Massachusetts Bay March 20th, 1736 to the Housatonnuck Tribe of Indians and ordered to be laid out by the Hon. John Stoddard & Eben’r Pomeroy & Thomas Ingersole Esqr. E begin at a monument of stones laid up ast three degrees and fifteen minutes North four hundred  fifty perch from Joakhim Vanvalkumburghs [1] House and from hence we ran as describes in the Plat. His said House is N. 30 deg. five miles fifty rods from a monument of stones about sixty rods northerly from Peter Moses House reputed to be the divisional line between the two Housatonnuck Townships. [2] Surveyed by the needle of the Instrument, April 1736 P. Timothy Dwight, Surveyor” [3]

On May 7th, 1737 a royal charter called Indian Town was issued by Governor Jonathan Belcher and the Great and General Court on behalf of King George II, creating a township 6 miles square or 23,040 acres. In 1739 Indian Town was incorporated as the Town of Stockbridge and in 1774 a portion of the town was separated by an act of the Provincial legislature and became the Town of West Stockbridge.

From the original 23,040 acres making up Indian Town, the only visible reminder of the presence of the Mohican people today is 1/3 of an acre resting on a knoll overlooking the great meadow. [4] This area is referred to by the Mohicans as Wnathktukook, meaning “bend in the river,” and also signifying the name of a precontact Mohican village. At the time of English contact, the village leader was tribal sachem John Pohpnehounuwoh. [5] That 1/3 of an acre was a Mohican burying ground, which might have been desecrated had it not been for the wisdom of Joseph Shauqueatheat, Hendrick Aupaumut, Solomon Q. Hendrick, Joseph Quinney, and John Metoxen, Sachems and Counsellors of the Muhhuonnut [6] tribe of Indians.

View Near Stockbridge, Painting, Frederic Church
Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), View Near Stockbridge, 1847. Collection of Richard and Jane Manoogian.

One of the many myths of the Mohican presence in Stockbridge has long been the “chipped in stone” date of 1783 as a departure date for their move to New Stockbridge, New York. For as long as 30 years after 1783, members of the tribe were returning to Stockbridge and frequently spending the winter months there. Even in the face of a 160-mile journey each way, likely on foot, for over thirty years after officially moving to New Stockbridge they made a pilgrimage to what they considered their home, nestled in the Berkshire Hills, a very small piece of their original homeland. Other members of the tribe continued to live in Stockbridge after the majority had joined the Oneida.

“The gratitude of the Oneidas to the Stockbridge tribe for aid received when a powerful tribe from the west were about to destroy them. [7] was effectively manifested by the gift of a tract of land in what is now the county of Madison, New York…the main body did not remove until 1785. Various families still lingered. The widow of Captain Nimham remained for several years in Glendale, and with her beautiful and excellent daughter Lucretia. Captain Yokun, lived near the residence of Mrs. Hopkins; Catherine, the widow of King Solomon, on the same street, [8] but nearer to the village; Widow Elizabeth in her little log cabin, neatly lined with matting, near Mrs. Sheldon’s, [9] and some of the last snows of winter linger in the dell called “the Widow Pochow Place.” Abraham Konkapot, [10] and his wife Hannah, were the last to leave.” [11]

By 1809 there were only four properties still in the possession of the Mohican Proprietors. In 1810 the Indian Proprietors Joseph Shauquethqueat, Solomon Henrick, Joseph Quinney, and John Jacobs sold to Thaddeus Pomeroy [12] for ten dollars land on Monument Mountain with this interesting description: “To any land lying and being on the northerly end or side of the mountain called Monument Mountain[13] in Stockbridge aforesaid where ever the same may be situated on the said mountain or however it may be bounded.’ [14] (Good luck locating that land.)

Current view from Monument Mountain looking south east.  Photo by Tom Walsh.

Also in 1810, Jacob Konkapot sold land on Main Street to Dr. Oliver Partridge for fifteen dollars, which was described as: A certain tract of land lying in Stockbridge aforesaid bounded Southerly on an Highway, Westerly on Elijah Demings Land, Northerly and Easterly on land now owned by Thaddeus Pomeroy, it being land which Lucertia Nimham last lived in this Town contains by estimation one half an acre. [15]

On the 29th of August, 1818, the last plot of land out of the original 23,040 acres was sold by the Indian Proprietors Hendrick Aupaument, Sachem, David Neshoonhuh, Solomon L. Hendrick, Abner Hendrick, and Solomon U. Hendrick, Sachems and Counselors of the Muhhuonuck Tribe of Indians who formerly were proprietors of the Town of Stockbridge which was described as: “A certain tract of land lying in Stockbridge aforesaid containing by estimation four acres it being part of a road formerly conveyed out by the said Indian Proprietors to lead from said Stockbridge to Sheffield of an undescribed width but afterwards conveyed out by order of the County Court of said Berkshire & consent of the said proprietors & laid four Rods in width the part hereby conveyed is now by the said Court discontinued to wit Beginning at the South line of said Stockbridge & hence northerly as said road was laid as far as where Ichabod Fairman now lives being about two hundred Rods Against said piece of road grants were Formerly maid & laid by said proprietors on the west side of the same to Stephen Nash, Daniel Pochause & Joseph Woodbridge on the East side to Ebenezer Poopoonuck, Shuthoump, Tim Woodbridge & may approve by said proprietors records reference to said Town of Stockbridge for the use and privilege of the said County of Berkshire free of any future expense the whole of the said land if the said County ever in future shall new lay a road over the said ground.” [16] In 1803 the Town of Stockbridge had constructed a road, later part of South Street, Route 7, that ran from the Cherry Hill intersection to the Great Barrington town line, abandoning the old road to Great Barrington, which ran over current Clark Road, then over Evergreen Hill, merging with the road to Great Barrington somewhere after the town line.

Rev. Jeremiah Slingerland a Stockbridge Mohican at the Indian Burying Ground 1879

Stockbridge Mohican sachem John Metoxen in April of 1808, and later other sachems of the tribe on May 9, 1808, by petitions to the Selectmen of the Town of Stockbridge, were able to prevent a road cut that would have disturbed the burying grounds of the Stockbridge Mohicans. They may have learned about the possible road “improvements” from Dr. Partridge or had been present when surveying was taking place. The Annual Town Meeting records stated: April 4, 1809 Article 7: Voted: That the prayer of the petition of John Metoxen respecting the Indian Burial Ground be granted and that so much of the said Town Road as be desired by said dotted lines in said petition be discontinued accordingly, and the order to be kept on file.
On 8 February 1809 the Mohican Proprietors Joseph Shauquesthqueat, Hendrick Aupaumut, Solomon Q. Hendrick, Joseph Quinney & John Metoxen, Sachems & Counsellors of the Muhhuonnuk tribe of Indians who formerly were proprietors of the Town of Stockbridge in the County of Berkshire & Commonwealth of Massachusetts & some years since removed therefrom & who now reside in New Stockbridge in the State of New York. In consideration of ten dollars in certain services rendered our Tribe by & the trust and confidence we place in our friend Oliver Partridge of Stockbridge aforesaid We do for ourselves & for our whole tribe hereby forever hereafter relinquish to him our right to a certain piece of land lying in Stockbridge, there called the Indian burying ground lying West of the Town square there so called & is fully described on their Town records…. do by these presents quit claim, release & transfer to him the said Oliver Partridge our right and title to the aforesaid premises for the following uses & purposes. Viz. That he may fence the same that he may in every prevent the soil from being removed, that the bones of our Ancestors may there lie undisturbed, that he may plant trees round & over the same which trees are ever to be considered as the property of the said Oliver his heirs or assigns & improve the same in any way except tilling or breaking up of the sod or turf…” [17]
“The Stockbridge Indians had a burying ground, the care to which they consigned, on leaving the place, to old Mr. Partridge, who keeps it carefully for them. It is in the village and seems to contain a large number of bodies.”  [18]
As you may remember from the early days of Bidwell Lore, Rev. Adonijah Bidwell and his second wife, Jemima, had four children. Their third child, Jemima (1765-1842), married William Partridge (1753-1846). William’s older brother, Oliver Partridge, though a bit further out on the family tree, seemed worthy of mention in this Bidwell Lore article relating to the Mohican Burying Ground. More on Dr. Partridge in a later Bidwell Lore.
Members of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohican Nation, even now, frequently travel to Stockbridge, a spiritual journey to their homeland. Possibly as important, it becomes a journey connecting past with the present, giving back to a community of people a history that has been hidden here in plain sight. By retracing their trail of tears back to its beginning, the Indian Burying Ground became a place not just for the dead, but also for the living.  

[1] More frequently spelled Van Volkenburgh, who lived at 1 Ice Glen Road.
[2] Great Barrington and Sheffield.
[3] Chapter 272 of 1735-6, also Chapter 53 of 1737-8 and Vol. II, Page 28, Mass Archives. Original Map, Stockbridge Library Historical Room. Berkshire Middle Registry of Deeds.
[4] The Mohican Burying Ground is on West Main Street and overlooks the Stockbridge Golf Course.
[5] Alias John Konkapot. Konkapot was believed to be a name given to him by the Dutch during his time in New York.
[6] Muh-he-con-neok, or People of the Waters that are Never Still, also given the place name of Housatonic Indians or Stockbridge Indians.
[7] The Oneida were the only tribe of the Six Nations to side with the Patriots in the Revolutionary War. Large numbers of the tribe came to Stockbridge and West Stockbridge with their families to escape the war.
[8] Off Park Street.
[9] 18 Main Street, Stockbridge.
[10] Son of Robert Nungkauwat and grandson of John Konkapot.
[11] Stockbridge, Past and Present: Or Records of and Old Mission Station, Electa Jones, 1854.
[12] Dr. Pomeroy was married to Eliza Sedgwick, oldest daughter of Theodore and Pamela Sedgwick, and was a land speculator in Stockbridge.
[13] Monument Mountain then included the land all the way to Route 183 in Glendale where the RR bridge crosses the river, hence the “northerly end” was probably near the Housatonic River.
[14] Berkshire Middle Registry of Deeds, Pittsfield, Book 46, Page 423.
[15] Berkshire Middle Registry of Deeds, Pittsfield, Book 49, page 135 (Church Street near the cemetery).
[16] Berkshire Middle Registry of Deeds, Pittsfield, Book 60, Page 255.
[17] Berkshire Middle Registry of Deeds, Pittsfield, Book 50, page 47.
[18] The Journals of Francis Parkman, Volume I, Edited by Mason Wade, 1947. Page 260 (1844 trip to Stockbridge). Partridge would have been 93 and was still practicing medicine.

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