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

Welcome to Bidwell Lore number 121! This week we continue with the story of Isaac Ball and the dispossession of Mohican land around Stockbridge, written by Rick Wilcox. 

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

Town Meeting Record Book [1]

At the annual Town Meeting on March 30, 1809, a committee made up of Oliver Partridge, Selectmen John F. Hopkins, Joseph Woodbridge, and Luther Plumb were appointed to enquire into and make a report of the state of the records respecting Indian Grants. They reported the following:

That we in the present Town Clerk’s office have an old book nearly worn out in which a record is made of the Indian Proprietors grants and but a few, or much smaller number of surveys of grants; that Timothy Woodbridge, Esq., was chosen Proprietors’ clerk June 11, 1750, and Mr. Enoch Woodbridge was chosen Proprietors’ clerk March 23, 1774. Jahleel Woodbridge was chosen Proprietors’ clerk March 20th 1780; – that from the best information we can obtain from the oldest inhabitants of this Town who are now living and have been acquainted with said Timothy Woodbridge during the twenty-four years he served as Clerk of the Proprietors, that by reason of infirmities and inattention to business, we have reason to believe that many surveys of Grants returned to him were never recorded, but left in loose files. That after the death of said Timothy Woodbridge, Esq., and the removal of Mr. Enoch Woodbridge [2] out of town, Major William Goodrich [3] administered on the estate of Timy Woodbridge and took his care of the effects of the family, about the time of the tumults of the revolutionary war; that a chest containing the Indian Proprietors’ papers was at Decn Stephen Nash’s when widow Nash was married to him and probably was taken into his custody sometime during his serving as Selectman in the above mentioned tumultuous times of the revolutionary war, or about the time of Major Goodrich’s removal from Town; – that the widow Nash now says that the said chest was in the chamber when she first came to live with Deacon Nash, that it contained about a bushel of loose papers that after the death of her husband people came to find account of the Indian Proprietors’ doings from said papers, and from all that she did collect from those who looked them over, she induced to think them of little or no value; and as the papers were often scattered about by the children & she was much troubled with them, she committed them to the flames & burnt them all so that is the probable number of said surveys were destroyed;- We are informed that among the loose papers left by Jahleel Woodbridge, Esq. there may probably be found a few papers belonging to said proprietors and we have not been able to look them over, we would beg leave to recommend that someone be appointed to assist Mr. Woodbridge to sort said loose papers his father left, and file all of any consequence and deliver them into the care of the Town Clerk. We would also recommend that the cover of the said old book of Indian Proprietors’ records be so repaired as may be necessary to preserve it. Olive Partridge, Jos. Woodbridge, John L. Hopkins. May 10, 1809 [4]

It would seem likely that the committee was pure of heart and diligent in its undertaking, but the story told to them seems a little unlikely, especially since destruction of land records would likely benefit the English colonists and newly minted American citizens. Whatever happened to the documents, it leaves a significant gap in the history of the Mohican presence in Stockbridge and West Stockbridge.

An image of Joe Pye Weed, also known as Eutrochium purpureum in Latin. It has a tall reddish stalk, green leaves and small clusters of purple flowers at the top
Joe Pye Weed, also known as Eutrochium purpureum in Latin.

So far in this series, Joseph Shauquethqueat has been mentioned a number of times in relation to Isaac Ball and the land sales from the Mohicans. But, if you are of a gardening bend, then it is likely you have heard of Joseph Shauquethqueat as he often used the name Joe Pye. From the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Mohican Miles Exhibit we learn that Joe-Pye-Weed is called Pkuwiimakw in Munsee. The Latin name for Joe Pye Weed is Eutrochium purpureum.

The exhibition relates that: “Joe-Pye-Weed is a medicine of great historical significance to the Stockbridge-Munsee Community. This medicine was used to treat Typhoid fever in the 18th century. The preparation and dosage of this medicine is no longer known to the Community, but it has a rich history relating to the Stockbridge-Munsee People. The common name of this medicine is linked to Joseph Shauquethqueat, a Mohican sachem who was among the first generation of Mohican people who lived on the Town of Stockbridge, MA. Shauquethqueat was born in 1722 and was the son of sachem Benjamin Kokhkewenaunaunt. [5] According to the greater Ashinaabe tradition, Joe Pye is the anglicized spelling of Zhopai, a medicine man who helped cure a community of Indigenous People and European settlers from Typhoid fever. When his Tribe was forcibly removed from New York State, he remained behind, some say he was forced to by settlers. He is said to have gifted his grandchildren a bag of Joe-Pye-Weed seeds, asking them to spread them on their journey so he could eventually follow their tracks and be reunited with his Tribe.”

W. DeLoss Love in his book Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England, 1899, Pilgrim Press, quotes from Occom’s journal of July 14, 1787: “Some [time] in the morning went to see Joe Pye, alias Joseph Shauqueathquat [sic], and had a very agreable [sic] conversation with him, his wife & another woman about their Heart Exercises, and they asked some questions and I answered them, and after a while I went back.”  [6]

Joseph Shauquethqueat served as a selectman for the Town of Stockbridge. He was first voted and chosen on 10 March 1777 [Joseph Sanguesquot] [7] and then elected again on 23 March 1778 as selectman [8]. On 22 March 1779 Town Meeting voted and chose Joe Pye as selectman [9]; then again on 21 March 1780 he was elected selectman [10] and finally on 14 March 1781 the town chose Joe Pye for selectmen. [11] The last year members of the Tribe were chosen as selectmen was 1783, when they voted and chose Hendrick Ompaumet [Aupaumut] Indian Selectman and Jehoiakim Naunampetonk Indian Selectman. [12]

“As the Revolution drew to a close, some Indian groups were rewarded for backing the winners and another piece was added to the puzzle of Indian population in Vermont. A company of Indian from Stockbridge, Massachusetts, fought with the Americans at the Battle of Bennington (you can read more about that on our post from January 2022 HERE), and in 1782 Stockbridge Indians were granted lands in Vermont in recognition of their services. Requesting a tract of land near ‘the Great River’ and ‘the ponds of Dunmore,’ Joseph Shausesqueth, sachem of the ‘Moheakunnocks,’ or Mahicans of Stockbridge, reminded his ‘Brothers of the Great Green Mountains’ that Vermont was once Indian country:

‘WE and our fathers were once the rightful possessors of all of your Country, it was the Gift of the Great GOD to us and them; but when the belt of Friendship was interchanged with our American brethren, we became one people with them, and possessed and enjoyed freely our Lands, since which we have grown smaller & smaller until we are become very small, but we would have you call to mind brothers, how big we were once, and not hear us altogether as though we was Small.’

Instead of the lands that Shausequeth requested, The Stockbridges received land several miles east of Montpelier. They later sold these lands to Captain Isaac Marsh, who founded the town Marshfield.” [13]

Captain Isaac Marsh’s acquisition was one of the more blatant examples of dispossession of Mohican land (scroll to the bottom of THIS Bidwell Lore from June for more about Marsh). Marsh owned a tavern at the southwest corner of the Red Lion Inn intersection on Main Street in Stockbridge. Eighteenth-century New England taverns were not taverns in the traditional sense: they rented rooms and sold a large selection of hardware and food supplies. William Goodrich, Timothy Woodbridge’s son-in-law, sold the land and tavern to Marsh during the Revolutionary War, at a time when he was more interested in soldiering than running a business. Goodrich spent a great deal of his war time with a company of Stockbridge Mohicans. Marsh gave everyone credit to buy items from his store, including the Stockbridge Mohicans, very likely knowing they would be unable to pay.

Colonel Isaac Marsh’s five ledgers and two index books from 1775-1790 reside in the Stockbridge Library Museum & Archives. The ledgers are broken down as follows: 1775-1782, 1782-1783, 1784-1785, 1785-1789, and 1788-1790. The entries for the Mohicans covering that time period filled nine pages on a word document. September 22, 1775, Joe Pye purchased a hat, and 1 bushel of wheat. Another note says that Peter Indian was paid one shilling, three pence for haying. In 1782, Marsh makes an entry: Stockbridge tribe of Indian, by my note hand 100/0/0 (one hundred pounds) intent on first payment due in 1783. On October 23, 1782, Capt. Hendrick Jehoiakim & the Indian Proprietors offer the Township land in Vermont. He also noted: 1786 (Jacob Indian) five days of work and two small jobs was paid by Marsh 12 pounds, 9 shillings.

Most of the entries are for items on credit, which again the Mohicans were unable to pay off, except by selling land to meet their obligation. People unable to pay their debt often ended up in jail, sometimes as far away as Albany, New York.

Next week we will bring Isaac Ball back into the conversation.

1. Located at the Stockbridge Town Clerk’s Office, 50 Main Street.
2. Enoch schemed with Goodrich and others to steal Mohican land.
3. Goodrich married Timothy Woodbridge’s daughter, purchased large tracts of Mohican land, and was probably involved in thefts of the land as well. Goodrich was generally considered untrustworthy. You can read more about him in a series of Bidwell Lore articles from June, starting HERE
4. Town Meeting Book, Stockbridge Town Clerk’s Office. Jahleel was Joseph Woodbridge’s son and Enoch was the son of Timothy Woodbridge.
5. The Moravians claimed that King Ben was the “uncle” of the Schaghticoke (Kent, CT) sachem Joshua Mauwee (AKA Mauwehu). Lucianne Lavin, Ph.D. Director of Research & Collections Emeritus.
6. The encounter took place in New Stockbridge, New York. Samson Occom was Mohegan and attended what was later to be Dartmouth College. The college was funded by money raised by Occom on a fund-raising tour in Britain, which Wheelock had promised would be used to educate indigenous people, but reneged on his promise. Exercises of the Heart were religious in nature, not medical.
7. Town Book 1760-1825, Stockbridge Town Clerk’s Office, 50 Main Street, Stockbridge, pp 100-101.
8. Town Book 1760-1825, Stockbridge Town Clerk’s Office, 50 Main Street, Stockbridge, p 108.
9. Town Book 1760-1825, Stockbridge Town Clerk’s Office, 50 Main Street, Stockbridge, p 114.
10. Town Book 1760-1825, Stockbridge Town Clerk’s Office, 50 Main Street, Stockbridge, p 119.
11. Town Book 1760-1825, Stockbridge Town Clerk’s Office, 50 Main Street, Stockbridge, p 123.
12. Stockbridge consistently had seven selectmen, four white and three Mohican. The term Indian Selectmen suggests they were reduced to figurehead status.
13. Western Abenakis of Vermont, 1600-1800, War, Migration, and the Survival of an Indian People, Colin G. Calloway, 1994, University of Oklahoma Press, pp 220-221.