Bidwell Lore – William Gregg, The Articles of Agreement, Land, and a Visit to King George

Welcome to week 40 of Bidwell Lore! This week we build on last week’s article to provide a little context and background to help you understand what led the Mohican Sachems to make the long journey to England in 1766.

To better understand how Daniel Nimham partnered with three Mohican Sachems, a very short history is offered. Just prior to the beginning of the 18th century, the Mohawks, the Dutch, and the English had all made peace. The Mohicans then gathered all the other tribes along the Hudson, including the Wappingers. “The Wappingers, who had traditionally claimed the land on the east side of the Hudson from Manhattan to northern Dutchess County, acknowledged that they and the Mohicans, whose language differed very little, constituted one nation.” [1]

In the mid 18th century, as the French and Indian War picked up steam, some outlying tribes moved to Stockbridge hoping for a more secure place to live. The Nimham clan and reportedly two hundred other Wappingers arrived in Stockbridge around 1756 for the protection of the women, children, and old men.  Daniel Nimham, Abraham Nimham, and Aaron Nimham, probably a younger brother, were the principal sachems. While a number of Wappingers would return to their homeland, the Nimham family stayed and was granted land by the Mohican Proprietors.

“The Stockbridge Indians also became aware that Massachusetts had made more than generous land grants northeast of Stockbridge to people who yielded their acreage for the Stockbridge Mission. On May 31, 1759 while the Stockbridge fighting men were at Fort Edward, King Ben and one of his sons, Nimham, and a few others came upon Israel Williams surveying land in the woods along the Housatonic south of Pittsfield. When the Indians told him that he was surveying their land, Williams related a history of the grants. The Indians laughed, replying, ‘very pretty, the government pretend to give the Indians a township if they come and settle together, and pay the claimers with the Indians own land.’ They then prohibited any further surveying” [2] Increasing dispossession of Land, no doubt, was further motivation for the three Stockbridge sachems to join with Nimham and also accept Gregg’s somewhat draconian agreement with the hope that King George would protect their homelands.

In addition to the merging of the two tribes, a little family background on Daniel Nimham helps to provide an understanding of why he might have chosen to become a tribal member of the Stockbridge Mohicans. “The families have left the Egremont area, but their essence, structures and names remain. As a boy named Tawanaut (“One Who Opens”), John Van Gilder came with his family to live in vicinity of the cove in the northern end of the Taconic Mountains [3] that would later carry his European name, Guilder Hollow. It was shortly after the turn of the eighteenth century. Contrary to popular belief, John’s father was Awansous, a Wappinger chief, as reported by New York Attorney General John Tabor Kempe to New York Governor Monck on August 2, 1762. John’s mother came from the Catskill band of Mohicans. John had a brother named Sancoolakheeking and a sister who married Nimham of the Wappingers and was the mother of Daniel Nimham, the last Wappinger chief.” [4]  Both the Wappingers and the Mohicans had a common interest in protecting their claims to land both in New York State and Massachusetts. Along came William Gregg, Jr. a wealthy man interested in acquiring land and hoping that if he helped both communities, it would result in his gaining possession of land in the traditional Wappinger homeland.

By May of 1766, a deal was struck with William Gregg, Jr., Daniel Nimham, Jacob Cheeksaunkun, Solomon Uhhaunauwaunmut, and John Naunauphtaunk all agreed to serve as tribal delegates to King George III for all the New York claims. Gregg would lay their claims before the king and other officials. Since they expected to spend a long time in England, Gregg drew up The Articles of Agreement, which further agreed to support them for three years, providing L30 New York currency a year and “meat, drink, apparel, lodging and washing fitting gentlemen,” and to pay for their trip home. Gregg, in turn, would receive a deed or, for ten shillings a year, a 999-year lease to a twelve-mile square tract of land [5] of his choosing. Solomon, John, and Jacob [6] also would act as Gregg’s servants while they were in England. The four Indians signed the contract with Gregg on May 29th, binding themselves to a penalty of L10,000 for default. 

Below you will find the original Articles of Agreement along with Rick Wilcox’s transcription of each page, provided courtesy of the Stockbridge Library 

1766 Articles of Agreement, William Gregg, Page 1
1766 Articles of Agreement, William Gregg, Page 1

Gregg, William, Articles of Agreement Indented [8] 1766
       ARTICLES OF AGREEMENT Indented [9] and made this
Twenty Ninth Day of May in the six year of the Reign of George
the Third of Great Britain & King & Annoque Domine 1766.
Between William Gregg Junr Esq on the one part and, and Jacob Cheek-
saunkun, Solomon Uhhaunuchwaunuhmut, and John Naun-
auphtaunk, all of Stockbridge in the County of Berkshire
Gentlemen, on the other part, WITNESS That we the said
Jacob, Solomon and John, being hereunto specially directed and
impowered by the Indians of the Mohkeehaunuck Tribe and origi-
nal Natives of Hudson River in his Majesty’s Province of New
York in pursuance of our said Power, do for ourselves, and our
Constituents Covenant and agree to, and with the said William Gregg
 Junr his Heirs, Executors, administrators, or assigns, that we the
 said Solomon, Jacob, and John, will make, and execute to him the
 said William Gregg Jun his Heirs, Executors, Administrators, or As-
signs, a good deed of  Sale or other good, and Lawfull Conveyance
such as Council learned in the Law Shall advise, and direct unto,
of a Tract of Land Twelve Miles Square English measure, the
same to be taken in any place that he the said William thinks proper
out of such Lands as the said Jacob, Solomon, and John, and therefore
constituents at present claim in North America as their lawful
Inheritance. the said William to have , and to hold the same in fee
simple, or a Lease of the same quantity of Lands as aforesaid
for Nine Hundred and Ninety Nine Years from the date hereof, said
William paying unto us said Jacob, Solomon and John, Ten Shillings
Sterling annually as a yearly rent. As we are now intending to
Great Britain where we propose laying our claims to the afore-
said Lands before his Majesty King George the Third the King of Great Bri-
tain &C. We the said Jacob, Solomon, and John in our said Capacity
covenant and agree with the said William Gregg Junr that provided
our claims are confirmed by his Majesty or any of his successors.

1766 Articles of Agreement, William Gregg, Page 2
1766 Articles of Agreement, William Gregg, Page 2

Successors in Conveyances of our intended applications we will give
And Execute to him the said Williams a deed or Lease of said Quanti-
ty of Lands of Twelve miles, square whenever he said William his
Heirs &C please, upon the same Terms as heretofore mentioned, &
to Defend and Possess him of said Lands against all and every
Claim & Demand, and he the said William Gregg Junr on his part
agrees, that he the said William will lay the Claims of the said
Indians to said Land in North America before his Majesty
King George the Third –
            And furthermore as we the said Jacob, Solomon, and John
foresee that our stay in Europe may be Tedious, and expensive, &
the said William hath agreed to support us, as hereafter expressed,
in Consideration thereof we the said Jacob, Solomon, and John, do hereby
Voluntarily Covenant and agree to be at the intire disposal, use
and Command of the said William Gregg, Junr  to Dwell with, and
serve him, his Heirs, Executors, or Administrators for the space of
three years after our arrival in Europe, his secrets keep close,
his Lawful, and Reasonable Commands do, and perform, nor shall
we at any time unlawfully absent ourselves &C during the
full Term aforesaid. –
In Consideration whereof the said William Gregg Junr doth
hereby Covenant, and agree with the said Jacob, Solomon, and
John, †hat he the said William his Heirs &C Shall and will at his
Own Cost and Charges, Provide for them the said Jacob, Solomon, & John
from this time to the End of the three years aforesaid, sufficient Meat,
Drink, apparel, Lodging & washing fitting a Gentleman, and Shall
and will further pay to them the sum of Thirty Pounds New York
Currency each by the year, amounting in the whole, to the three
To the Sum of Ninety Pounds York money by the year, and after
The Expiration of said Term of three years, & his own Cost & Charges
to send them the said Jacob, Solomon and, John, safe home to their
 Their own Native Country, the Dangers of the Seas and extraor-
dinary Casualties in providence allways excepted –
                   For the true and well performance of all the Articles
and Agreements aforesaid we do hereby bind ourselves, our Heirs,
Executors, and Administrators in the Penalty of Ten Thousand
Pounds sterling.
                         In Testimony whereof the said party’s to these
present Articles have hereunto interchangeably Set their hands
and seals on the day, and year first abovementioned –
signed sealed & Delivered             Jacob Cheeksaunkun
in the presence of                           Solomom Uhhaunnauuaunmut
Tim Hierlshy                                     John Naunaukphtaunk
Jas Gray Junr   [10]                            Wm Gregg Junr
Danl. X Nimham [11]

“The  purpose of their trip eventually came to the attention of George III, who according to Frazier, apparently did grant them an audience. The king was concerned, though, that they had come to England without his consent or a recommending letter from any colonial governor. ‘At the end of August the Lord of Trade reported their findings to the King, focusing on the Wappinger claim. In their opinion there were grounds for further investigation into the facts, especially since ‘frauds and abuses in respect to Indian lands….have so notoriously prevailed and been complained of in the American colonies in general and in this colony in particular.’” [12]

For those wondering if Bidwell Lore can find a connection beyond Captain Binney… when scanning ‘The Articles of Agreement’ to the end, the reader will notice the witness signature of a James Gray, Jr. Later Colonel Gray, he was the father of Mary Gray Bidwell, wife of Barnabas Bidwell. His death during the Revolutionary War left his wife, Sarah Spring Gray, without any means of support. She moved in with her daughter Mary and son-in-law Barnabas. Sarah Spring Gray, and therefore Mary Gray Bidwell, constitute the Binney cousin connection.

This article was written by Rick Wilcox and edited by Heather Kowalski

[1] The Mohicans of Stockbridge, Patrick Frazier, 1975, University of Nebraska Press.
[2] The Mohicans of Stockbridge, Page 147.
[3] Sheffield, Mount Washington, and Egremont area.
[4] Van Gilders and Descendants in the Berkshires, Debra Winchell (A Van Gilder descendant).
[5] Indian Town, made up of what is now Stockbridge and West Stockbridge was six miles square or 36 square miles.
[6] Nimham likely knew that Gregg needed him more than Nimham needed Gregg. Gregg may have chosen not to insist on his signing the agreement. Nimham was a witness to the document.
[7] The Mohicans of Stockbridge, Patrick Frazier, 1975, University of Nebraska Press.
[8] Indenture. Notice the cut across the top of the original document indicating it was indentured or cut between two exact copies of the agreement so the two pieces could be brought together and matched if there was a later dispute about the language of the agreement.
[9] Indenture Defined “I am not aware of any distinction between a 19th century indenture and a deed.  The word ‘indenture’ refers to the fact that, well before xerography and other means of copying documents, a contract (whether for the conveyance of land or otherwise) was written in longhand twice on the same parchment.  The parties then signed both the top and bottom documents, which were identical.  Then a zigzag cut was made to separate the two (indented, thus the name), which could then be put back together like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.  The term ‘indentured servant’ refers to the same type of duplicate contract. Why go through this tedious process?  If any issue arose as to the validity of the contract that either party produced, the other party would produce the corresponding original.  If the documents fit together like two jigsaw puzzle pieces, validity was established.” Attorney Stewart Edelstein.
[10] Colonel James Gray, Jr., was the husband of Sarah Spring Gray and father of Mary Gray Bidwell, wife of Barnabas Bidwell.
[11] Daniel Nimham, sachem of the Wappingers who merged with the Mohican tribe and moved with 200 Wappingers to live in Stockbridge during the French & Indian war (1754-1763). He stayed with the Mohicans of Stockbridge after the war. Nimham’s mother was Mohican.
[12] The Mohicans of Stockbridge, Frazier.