Part I: The Stockbridges Attempt a Move to Indiana
The John C. Adams Papers at the State Historical Society in Madison, Wisconsin, includes a hand-copied letter from President Thomas Jefferson to "Whom it may Concern," dated December 21, 1808. Captain Hendrick Aupaumut had asked the President to acknowledge a longstanding oral agreement between tribes. The letter was Jefferson's approval of the Stockbridge Mohicans' plan to move from New Stockbridge, New York, to live amongst the Delawares and other tribes at Indiana's White River. If the Stockbridges had moved when Jefferson was still president, I believe he would have kept his promise.
However, the Stockbridge Mohicans remained at New Stockbridge, New York, until the presidency of James Monroe. Monroe's administration included men like Andrew Jackson, and John C. Calhoun, who were in favor of "vigorous measures" when it came to Indian policy.
About 70 Stockbridges left New York State for Indiana's White River in August, 1818. Along the way, they learned from a Boston newspaper of a treaty being negotiated for the lands that were referred to in Jefferson's letter. The traveling Indians immediately wrote the Delawares for confirmation or denial of the report. The Delawares replied that the Stockbridges should continue on their way. But, tragically, the treaty of St. Mary's was signed on October 6th. John Sergeant [Jr], the Stockbridge missionary, wrote to Rev. Jedidiah Morse (on 12/15/1818) of the sad news:
We have had direct information of the Treaty with the Indians, and it is reported that 'the Delawares were forced to sell, and to sign the Treaty;' and that 'the poor Delawares had not a friend to support their cause!!'
Captain Hendrick Aupaumut sent his son, Solomon U. Hendricks, to Washington over the winter to make their grievance to Congress. Rev. Morse had worked with the older Captain Hendrick and now he supported the son. However, as you may have guessed, Congress made no efforts to alter the Treaty of St. Mary's - no matter that it broke the promise of a former President.
It was clear that the Stockbridge Indians, some remaining in New York State, and others temporarily in the Midwest, would have to find a homeland somewhere else.
Meanwhile, Rev. Morse managed to pass in and out of the fuzzy line that didn't really divide church and state when it came to U.S. Indian policy. He made a personal appeal to President Monroe, "urging that a tract in the Northwest Territory [now Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and part of Minnesota] be given to the Stockbridges, in compensation for the one they had lost"(Abel, pages 310-311).
The story of the removal of the New York Indians has been called a conspiracy of interests. One thread of interest began with Morse's collaboration with Captain Hendrick, Solomon U. Hendricks, and John Sergeant [Jr.]. In upcoming posts, I'll be writing about them, but also about other major players, including Eleazar Williams, John Schermerhorn, and others.