Saturday, February 14, 2009

Crime and Punishment

The event that Deacon John Metoxen would later describe as what set the Stockbridge Mohicans down the wrong path (Marsh to Green, May 28, 1838 in the ABCFM Papers) occurred either on July 3rd or July 4th of 1836. A Brothertown Indian was brutally murdered by two intoxicated Stockbridges. Rev. Cutting Marsh, having audited some medical classes back east, was the closest thing to a doctor in the area and was called on the scene immediately. (I will spare you his graphic description of the murder itself, I only include it in Algonkian Church History because of the events that followed it.)

Not long after the crime was committed, the father of one of the murderers approached missionary Cutting Marsh and brought up the story of the adulterous woman from the Gospel of John, in which Jesus declared: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her"(King James Version). The man's point, of course, was that the tribe should also forgive the two murderers. But Marsh, a strict, stern Presbyterian (see post about Roger Nichols thesis) was unmoved by the Biblical proof.

James Oberly's research shows that the Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians went to white authorities but none of them felt it their responsibility to try the two accused Stockbridges. Instead the tribal governments attended to the issue.

The two nations met in Council.... The councils were characterized by a spirit of harmony, coolness, and deliberation which reflected the highest honor upon them.... [the accused] were there declared guilty by every voter, which were about forty, except two and in the same manner declared worthy of death by a very large majority and sentenced to be executed upon the gallows... (Cutting Marsh in a letter to David Green, 8/18/1836 in the ABCFM Papers).
Here's something that illustrates the lack of separation between church and state at Stockbridge, Wisconsin: Marsh also reported to the ABCFM that the two assailants were brought into his church in chains and shackles to hear him preach a sermon on "crime and punishment."

Both Rev. Marsh and Chauncey Hall (the schoolteacher to the Stockbridge Mohicans), wrote to the ABCFM saying they were disappointed that the white man who sold whiskey to the murderers was not brought to justice as an accomplice in the crime. According to Hall, at least one of the murderers "would never have raised his hand to shed his brother's blood had not a white man furnished [them with] whiskey" (letter to Green, 9/8/1836, ABCFM Papers).

The murder would have lasting political ramifications for the Stockbridge Mohicans as Robert Konkapot and Thomas Hendricks emerged as leaders of a faction that rallied to get both prisoners released. The regular tribal officials, of course, wouldn't hear of it.

Somehow both prisoners escaped.

1 comment :

Jeff Siemers said...

My thinking on the emergence of R. Konkapot and T. Hendricks as leaders of the "disaffected party" is consistent with that of Roger Nichols in his unpublished thesis on the ministry of Cutting Marsh. James Oberly seems not to see any connection between the murder and its aftermath in the formation of this new political faction.