Sunday, November 23, 2008

Brothertown, New York, 1785-1796

Although Samson Occom is the most famous of the Brothertown Indians, he was not their most powerful leader, in fact, in the last year or two of his life he moved to New Stockbridge (about six miles from Brothertown). Brothertown would not have been established if David Fowler, a Montauk, had not established a relationshhip with the Oneidas in central New York State. After that, Joseph Johnson, a Mohegan, was the most influential in bringing the amalgamated nation of Algonkian remnants together. Few historians have taken the time to focus on the Brothertown Indians, which makes an article I located in New York History (vol 81, no.4, October, 2000, pages 457-492) particularly valuable. "Brothertown, New York, 1785-1796," was written by Anthony Wonderly and its title is perhaps modest, because Wonderly gives some ink to who the Brothertowners were before they came together and finishes up with a brief discussion of their emmigration to what is now Wisconsin.

The Brothertown Indians came from at least six different tribes, including Montauketts, Narrangansetts, Niantics, Pequots, Mohegans, and Tunxis (the "Farmington Indians").
The challenges that Wonderly identifies, include 1) dealing with white encroachment, 2) adjusting to an agricultural economy from an economy that was still based to a large extent on gathering clams and oysters, and finally 3) the "sectarian competition" between tribal subgroups who were either Methodist, Baptist, Separatist, or Presbyterian (476).

Wonderly's impression, and he is probably correct, is that the challenge of growing their food as whites did was particularly significant. He suggests that the Brothertown Indians often went hungry and it was their poverty that gave white farmers from New England an opening to move in and lease the Indians' land. Please read the article if you want to know how things unravelled from there. (I suggest you ask your library to get it for you as an interlibrary loan, I don't think it is on the web.)

2 comments :

John Umland said...

Is the article online? Thanks for the Occam link. It was very interesting.
God is good
jpu

Myron said...

Narra gan sette
Narrow gang sitting :located at the narrow passage (entrance to Rhode Island Bay.

Pe quoit
Tan skinned: One group was darker than the rest. In 1631 the Puritans burned up over 600 women and children. The act created "savages," who had long memories.