Bidwell Lore – Magnificent Mohicans

Welcome to week 38 of Bidwell Lore! This week we are featuring two accounts from series a created by the Stockbridge-Munsee Community called Magnificent Mohicans, where they share the remarkable stories of their Mohican ancestors.

Magnificent Mohicans
John Konkapot (c. 1690-1764/5)

Pophnehonawoh, also known as John Konkapot, was a highly regarded diplomat and community leader in the Mohican Nation’s experience in “Indiantown,” or the Stockbridge Mass., mission settlement. Reverend John Sergeant speaks glowingly of John Konkapot in his journals, observing that Konkapot is a “very modest, but intelligent man, of great integrity, and of a blameless conversation… with a serious and religious turn of mind.”

Believed to have been born in 1690 and raised along the Hudson River, Konkapot was a courageous and cool-headed leader of the Mohican people at critical moments. He signed the earliest known land deed in the Berkshires in 1724. Konkapot, along with Umpachenee, was instrumental in a 1735 meeting of the tribe held at Housatonic to advocate for the decision to accept the offer to consolidate in the Stockbridge, Mass. mission. Some 150-200 Mohicans gathered and debated this decision—it was not unanimous. Konkapot was a major force in the eventual acceptance of this option as the best mode of survival at the time, as well as to accept Christianity. In doing, he laid down a parcel of deer skins as a present while pleading to the Massachusetts Governor for protection of the Mohican people.

Konkapot served honorably as a Captain in King George’s War and led 18 Stockbridge Mohicans. As a counselor under sachem “King” Ben Kokhkewaunaunt, Konkapot conducted numerous land negotiations and petitions for justice for Mohican people throughout the mid-1700s, speaking up against inadequacies with the Stockbridge Indian School, nonpayment for Mohican lands, and political disenfranchisement. In a 1763 petition to the Massachusetts General Court, Konkapot and other leading citizens stated, “That Elijah Williams… with others, has acted unreasonable” by calling a surprise vote with no advance notice to the Mohicans, many of whom were out of town. “The said Williams now pretends to be chosen a representative. I believe he is none…he brought in many strangers to vote for him and we always used to choose our own representative ourselves.”

Konkapot signed many documents by making a three-pronged mark of a turkey symbol, which is understood to be his clan. He has left his “mark” locally in other ways as well: Konkapot’s name is familiar in his homelands through place names such as Kampoosa (Konkapot’s Brook) Bog and Konkapot River. An image of him is featured above the offices to the Stockbridge Town Offices. Heartbreakingly, he is believed to have died suffering and in debt in 1764 or 1765 around age 74. A marker in the Stockbridge Town Cemetery reads “God be as good to you as he would be to you if he were God and you were John Konkapot.”

The image below is of one artistic rendering of Konkapot in the Town of Lee, Mass. on a historic fountain. Konkapot’s direct descendants, Stockbridge-Munsee Mohicans Sioux Collom and her grandmother, JoAnn Schedler, participated in a 2019 re-dedication ceremony at the fountain featuring their beloved Magnificent Mohican ancestor.

John Wauwaumpequunnaunt (1727-1768)

John Wauwaumpequunnaunt was described by Jonathan Edwards as “an extraordinary man on some accounts.” We think he is certainly a Magnificent Mohican! As a boy in the Mohican village of Kaunaumeek, New York, he stole away from his home to attend Timothy Woodbridge’s Indian School at Stockbridge. He was an “usher” there and served as a translator for missionaries David Brainerd and Jonathan Edwards and as assistant to John Sergeant.

Wauwaumpequunnaunt had an extraordinary ability to read and write, communicate scriptures, and interpret. As a measure of Edwards’ esteem and appreciation for his services, he advocated better pay for Wauwaumpequunnaunt, who was so taken up in his clerical and translating duties that he could not attend to farming. In 1753 he became a Stockbridge constable.
As did many Mohicans, John volunteered to fight for the English during the French and Indian War. Likewise, his son, Daniel, volunteered to fight in the Continental army when the American Revolution broke out.
The school at Kaunaumeek began operations in June 1743 with John Wauwaumpequunnaunt, at Brainerd’s request, serving as schoolmaster. He may have been one of the first, if not the first, Indian officially on the payroll of a British mission society.
John was a signatory, along with other Stockbridge Mohicans, for land in Hillsdale, New York. This was part of the land that four Mohican Sachems sailed to England for in 1766 with the hope of finding the King’s support (more on that in a later issue of Bidwell Lore).
Deed evidence suggests that Katherine Evens, wife of John Wauwaumpequunnaunt, retained 10 acres of their land in Stockbridge in between the Housatonic River and today’s Larrywaug Crossroad when he passed in 1768 at age 40.

We will share more stories of Magnificent Mohicans later in January. Next week we share a story about Mohican wisdom on a life well lived.