Bidwell Lore – The Dispossession of Stockbridge Mohican Land by the Ball Family, Part IV

Welcome to Bidwell Lore number 118! This week we continue with the “Dispossession of Stockbridge Mohican Land by the Ball Family, 1772-1781,” written by Rick Wilcox. He shares the story of Isaac Ball and his role in the Mohicans losing their land in and around Stockbridge.

Dispossession of Stockbridge Mohican Land by the Ball Family 1772-1781, Part IV
Isaac Ball (1744-1784)
Rick Wilcox 2022

From 2018-2020, Harvard University sponsored an ongoing project to digitalize all the Petitions and Resolves of all the indigenous tribes in Massachusetts, most from the 18th century, and post them on one of their websites. The Massachusetts State Archives allowed them to have access. Initially, Harvard set up a review process by providing pdf copies of the documents so the tribes involved could review them and give a thumbs up or thumbs down as to their inclusion on the website. I was asked by Bonney Hartley, Historic Preservation Manager for the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, if I would be willing to transcribe the original documents, as the handwriting and the condition of some of the documents made reading them difficult. As a researcher, my love to dig through old documents made the decision an instant yes. Starting in 2018 and going over several years, I transcribed over 250 Stockbridge Mohican documents. At the same time, Yale University asked me to transcribe documents for them and I did a little over fifty.

To understand the historical value of these documents you only need to read a few to see that it opens up an enormous body of knowledge about 18th century Mohican life. Petitions were addressed to the Governor, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. Most Petitions fell into two categories: a request for help or a complaint. Resolves were the response to the Petition from the governor and legislature, which hopefully would resolve the issue. When you read the Petitions and Resolves involving Isaac Ball further along in this Bidwell Lore series, you will have an appreciation for how much the colonial government and later the Commonwealth of Massachusetts government controlled the lives of people scattered across the state.

In the academic world, in this case Yale, the goal was to have each transcription mirror the actual document. There is a particular process to be learned and the transcribing can be tedious and time-consuming. For Harvard and the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, it was a straight transcription whose value was readability for a tribal committee making decisions about the inclusion of the document on the Harvard website.

For Indian Town, later Stockbridge, and what is now West Stockbridge, you want to find a petition and a resolve connected to the sale of land. If it was done “legally” there should be an entry or entries in the Indian Proprietor Records as well as a deed or deeds recorded at the Registry of Deeds. As it would happen, I had a copy of the Indian Proprietor Records and from that, I created a transcription from which I could pull the supporting documents. A number of years ago I decided to go to the Middle Registry of Deeds in Pittsfield and make copies of all the deeds related to the Stockbridge Mohicans. I located over 250 deeds and then started to pull some resale deeds. Of course, people like Elijah Williams, the youngest son of Ephraim Williams, Sr., probably acquired land without deeds, and checking him for resale of land would likely be promising. I created a chart of land sales (see below) to provide a sense of the dispossession of land from the Stockbridge Mohicans over the course of their time in Stockbridge. Loss of land before and after 1751 does not include the outright theft of land, but only the so-called legally obtained land. Berkshire County was created in 1761 so any land transactions before that date would be in the Hampden County Registry of Deeds in Springfield. Even by that standard, it reflects a deed recording at the Registry of Deeds, but that does not mean the land was acquired legally, and even if that were the case the sale was the necessary outcome of the Mohican’s inability to break into the English economic system, leaving land as their only means of paying off their debt, as well violating the Indian Town Charter.

A image of a chart indicating Indian Proprietor Lots sold from 1751 to 1809.

In 1765, at the request of the Stockbridge Mohicans, the legislature allowed the tribe to sell land to pay off their debt. In the above chart, looking at the years 1765 to 1768 shows a significant loss of land. By 1781 the impact of the Revolutionary War came to be measured by another series of land dispossessions. A large portion of the male members of the tribe had served for the entire length of the Revolutionary War and came back to be confronted with debt. In addition, the swelling white population of the town squeezed the Mohican people to a smaller and smaller land area. By 1783, they had been invited by the Oneida tribe to move to western New York some 160 miles from Stockbridge. During the war the Oneida were the only tribe of the Six Nations to side with the Patriots and were, for their safety at the time, invited by the Mohicans to live in what is now West Stockbridge. Between 1781 and 1785 a significant number of tracts of land were being sold by the tribal sachems serving as proprietors, including Joseph Shauquethqueat, who the newly branded Americans called the Chief of the Mohicans. In 1809, when the Mohicans signed a land agreement with Dr. Oliver Partridge for the burial ground’s safekeeping, that deed was recorded in Albany County, New York, after being before Oneida County Judge James Dean of the Court of Common Pleas. Dean, originally a missionary with the Oneida had, only a few years before, been present at an ox roast presented by George Washington at the home site of Solomon Uhhaunnuhwaunnuhmut to celebrate the Mohicans’ contribution during the Revolutionary War. 
Perhaps the best way to understand the relationship between Dr. Partridge and the Mohican Community is to share the deed. I will place in bold portions of the deed to show the depth of trust between the Mohicans and Oliver Partridge. Given how many times the Mohicans were lied to or had promises broken, for them to write the words “trust and confidence” in the deed, was truly a sign goodness of Dr. Partridge. As this article is written, the transfer of the deed to a grantee of Dr. Partridge’s choice has not been located. There is some evidence to suggest he gave the Burying Ground to the Town of Stockbridge. If so, he failed to record the deed at the Registry of Deeds. As the town hopes to transfer ownership back to the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, hopefully more information will eventually be uncovered.


JOSEPH SHAUQUEATHQUEAT et als)             DATE Feb. 8th 1809
                           TO                                                Ack. Feb. 28, 1809    
              OLIVER PARTRIDGE                            REC. Aug. 9th 1811


          Know all men by these presents that we, Joseph Shauqueatheat, Hendrick Aupaumut, Solomon Q. Hendrick, Joseph Quinney, and John Metoxen, Sachems and Counsellors of the Muhhuonnut tribe of Indians who formerly were proprietors of the Town of Stockbridge in the County of Berkshire and Commonwealth of Massachusetts and some years since removed therefrom and who now reside in New Stockbridge in the State of New York. In consideration of ten dollars in certain services rendered our tribe by and the trust and confidence we place in our friend Oliver Partridge of Stockbridge aforesaid we do for ourselves and for our whole tribe 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 and is fully described on their Town records reference thereto to be had which ground never has before by any of us or our forefathers been sold or any ways relinquished; we hereby acknowledge the receipt of the services aforesaid and do by these presents quit claim, release and transfer to him the said Oliver Partridge our right and title to the aforesaid premises for the following uses and purposes, viz: That he may fence the same that he may in every way prevent the soil from being removed that the bones of our Ancestors may there lie undisturbed that he may plant trees round and over the same which trees are ever to be considered as the property of said Oliver his heirs or assigns and improve the same in any way except tilling or breaking up the sod or turf; we do hereby impower him as fully in his own right to sue for and recover as if held the premises by deed of warrantee for any strip waste or damage committed in any ways on the said premises; and we do hereby fully impower him to assign and transfer to others in trust and for the purposes and uses aforesaid the same right, and title to the said premises.
       IN WITNESS WHEREOF we have hereunto set our hands and seals the 8th day of February in the year of the Lord one thousand eight hundred and nine.
      Signed, sealed and delivered
      In the presence of
      Rastus Calvins
Joseph Shauqueathqueat and seal
Solomon Q. Hendrick and seal
Joseph Quinney and seal
John Metoxen and seal
—————— and seal

State of New York County of Albany ss Be it remembered that on this 28th day of February 1809 before me, James Dean one of the judges of the Court of Common Pleas in and for the County of Oneida personally appeared Bartholomew Colin who is known to me being duly sworn as the holy Evangelists deposeth and saith that he knows the several signers and sealers of the within conveyance that he saw them severally execute the same excepting Joseph Quinney and that he also the deponent did likewise sign it as a subscribing witness; having examined said deed and finding therein no material erasure or interlineation I do allow same to be recorded.
James Dean
BERKSHIRE SS June 6, 1811 We the subscribers in pursuance of the trust and powers repose in us by an act of this Commonwealth entitled “An act for impowering certain persons to examine the sales that have been by the Mohoekunnuck tribe of Indians and for regulating the future sales and leases of all lands from said tribe of Indians.” Do approve of the sale of the lands described in the within or foregoing deed.
John Bacon
John Sergeant
Witness our hands
Eliza Bacon
Mary A. Edwards
BERKSHIRE SS. August 9, 1811 Received and Recorded from the original
Attest, Joseph Tucker Register [1] 

1. Berkshire Middle Registry of Deeds, Pittsfield, Mass: Book 50, page 47

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