History of Saratoga County, Chapter V, Indian Occupancy.










Within the territory now comprised in the county of Saratoga once lay the favorite hunting-grounds of the Mohawk branch of the Iroquois or Five Nations, of central New York.

One of the most famous of these hunting-grounds was called by them Sa-ragh-to-ga, from which the county derives its name.

Among the earliest dates in which the name Saratoga appears in history is the year 1684. It was not then the name of a town, nor of a county, neither was it the name of a great watering-place; but it was the name of an old Indian hunting-ground located along both sides of the Hudson river. The Hudson, after it breaks through its last mountain barrier above Glen's Falls, for many miles of its course runs through a wider valley. After winding for a while through this wider valley, it reaches the first series of its bordering hills at a point in the stream nearly opposite Saratoga lake. This old hunting-ground was situated where the outlying hills begin to crowd down to the river-banks, and was called, in the significant Indian tongue, Se-rach-ta-gue, or the "hill-side country of the great river." {Steele's Analysis, p. 13, N.Y. His. Col.}

It has also been said that Saratoga, in the Indian language, means the "place of the swift water," in allusion to the rapids and falls that break the stillness of the stream where the hill-side country begins on the river. {Vide Judge Scott's historical address at Ballston Spa, July 4, 1876; also, Reminiscences of Saratoga, by Wm. L. Stone, p. 5.}

Then, again, an Indian whose name was O-ron-hia-tek-ha, of the Caugh-na-wa-ga on the St. Lawrence, who was well acquainted with the Mohawk dialect, informed Dr. Hough, the historian, that Saratoga was from the Indian Sa-ra-ta-ke, meaning "a place where the track of the heel may be seen," in allusion to a spot near by, where depressions like foot-prints may be seen in the rocks. {Hough's History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties, p. 189. But Morgan, in his League of the Iroquois, says the signification of Saratoga is lost.}

But whether its meaning be this, that, or the other, I am sure it is gratifying to us all that this famous resort, situated as it is on American soil, bears an American name.

As early as 1684, this hill-side country of the Hudson, the ancient Indian Se-rach-ta-gue, was sold by the chiefs of the Mohawks to Peter Philip Schuyler and six other eminent citizens of Albany, and the Indian grant confirmed by the English government. This old hunting-ground then became known in history as the Saratoga patent. This was the Saratoga of the olden time. It is called on some old maps So-roe-to-gos land.

In the year 1687, three years after the Mohawks had sold this hunting-ground, and the patent had been granted, Governor Dongan, of New York, attempted to induce a band of Christian Iroquois that the French missionaries had led to Cach-na-ona-ga to return and settle in ancient Se-rach-ta-gue. {Doc. His. of N.Y., vol. ii. p. 156.} This was done to form a barrier between the then frontier town of Albany and the hostile French and Indians on the north. Some of their descendants still make an annual pilgrimage to the springs, and, encamping in the groves near by, form an interesting part of the great concourse of visitors.

But it will be seen that the ground on which the village of Saratoga Springs is built, and the region in which the famous mineral springs are found, formed no part of the old hunting-ground and patent of Saratoga. The So-roe-to-gos land of the olden time lay along the Hudson, and extended no farther west than Saratoga lake.



The Indian name for the territory in which the famous mineral springs were found was Kay-ad-ros-se-ra. {So written in Claude Joseph Sauthier's map of 1779. Vide Doc. His. of N.Y., vol. i. p. 774.}

It was one of the favorite hunting-grounds of the Iroquois and lay in the angle between the two great rivers, to the south of a line drawn from Glen's Falls on the Hudson westerly to near Amsterdam on the Mohawk.

The forests of ancient Kayadrossera were full of game, and its lakes and streams swarmed with fish. The herring {Vide Annals of Albany, vol. ii. p. 230.} ran up the west side of the Hudson, and through Fish creek, giving rise to its name, into Lake Saratoga in immense numbers. The shad ran up on the east side of the river, and lay in vast schools in the falls and rapids above and below Fort Edward. The sturgeon frequented the sprouts of the Mohawk, and sunned themselves in the basin below Cohoes {The Indian name for Cohoes Falls was Ga-ha-oose, meaning the "shipwrecked canoe." Vide Morgan's League of the Iroquois.} Falls.

Even whales sometimes came up the Hudson river in the early colonial times as far as this old hunting-ground.

"I cannot forbear," says Vanderdonck, "to mention that in the year 1647, in the month of March, when, by a great freshet the water was fresh almost to the great bay, there were two whales of tolerable size up the river; the one turned back, but the other stranded and stuck not far from the great fall of the Cohoes." {Judge Benson, in Mansell's Annals of Albany, vol. ii. p. 226.}

The wild animals of Kayadrossera were attracted in immense numbers by the saline properties of the mineral springs that then bubbled up in its deepest shades, all unknown save to them and its Indian owners. In this "paradise of sportsmen" the Mohawks and their nearer sister tribes of the Iroquois, the Oneidas and Onondagas, and sometimes the farther off Cayugas and Senecas, built their hunting-lodges every summer around its springs and on the banks of its lakes and rivers. It will be seen that wild ancient Kayadrossera was as famous in the old time to the red man as modern Saratoga is to-day to the white man.

But Samuel SheIton Broughton, attorney-general of the province, obtained a license from the governor, in behalf of himself and company, to purchase from the Indians a tract of land known by the Indian name of Kayadrossera. This license is dated April 22, 1703. In pursuance of this license a purchase was effected of Kayadrossera, and an Indian deed given the 6th of October, 1704, signed by the sachems of the tribe.

On the 2d day of November, 1708, a patent was granted by Queen Anne to "her loving subjects Nanning Hermance, Johannes Beekman, Rip Von Dam," and ten others, of the whole of Kayadrossera. But it was not until the year 1768 that the deed given by the Indians in 1704 was confirmed by the tribe, and then only through the powerful influence of Sir William Johnson.

On the 24th day of March, 1772, three years before the War of the Revolution broke out, and about the time the first white settler was building his rude cabin at the springs, these two patents of Kayadrossera and Saratoga were united by the colonial government into a district. The name Kayadrossera was dropped, and the district named after the smaller patent, and called the district of Saratoga. Since then the grand old Indian name Kayadrossera, so far as territory is concerned, has fallen out of human speech, and is only heard in connection with the principal stream and mountain chain of the great hunting-ground so famous in Indian story.

The old hunting-ground, the beautiful lake, and the famous spring have all, since the act of the 24th of March, 1772, borne the name of Saratoga.



Besides these two famous hunting-grounds, the Five Nations had in common four great beaver-hunting countries.

1st. One of these was called by them Couch-sach-ra-ge, "the dismal wilderness."

On Governor Pownal's map of the northern British colonies of 1776, across the region that comprises the wilderness, is written the following inscription:









So this great wilderness was the old Indian hunting-ground - Couch-sach-ra-ge - of the Iroquois, which, like the ocean and the desert, refuses to be subdued by man.

2d. Another was called by them O-hee-o, "the beautiful country," and lay to the south and east of Lake Erie, now part of the State of Ohio.

3d. The third was called by them Tieuck-souck-rond-ite, and lay between Lake Erie and the Illinois.

4th. The last was called by them Scaniad-eri-ada, meaning "beyond the lake." It lay to the northwest of Lake Ontario.

In 1684 the Mohawks and Oneidas, by a treaty held in Albany, sold to the English king their right of sovereignty to these hunting-grounds.

On Nov. 14, 1726, the Senecas, Cayugas, and Onondagas, by deed, also conveyed their interest in the sovereignty of these grounds to the British king, which was the foundation of England's claim to the country against France.



It has been seen that at the time of its first exploration by Europeans, in the early years of the seventeenth century, the county of Saratoga formed a part of the territory and hunting-grounds of the great Indian league or confederacy, called by the English the Five Nations, by the French the Iroquois, and by themselves the Ho-de-no-sau-nee, or the "people of the long house."

Their country, called by them Ho-de-no-sau-nee-ga, {See Morgan's League of the Iroquois.} and extending from the Hudson to Lake Erie, from the St. Lawrence to the valleys of the Delaware, the Susquehanna, and the Alleghany, embraced the whole of central, of northern, and large parts of southern and western New York. It was divided between the several nations by well-defined boundary-lines, running north and south, which they called "lines of property."

The territory of northern New York belonged principally to the Mohawks and the Oneidas, the Onondagas owning a narrow strip of land along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario.

The line of property between the Mohawks and the Oneidas began on the St. Lawrence river at the present town of Waddington, and running south nearly coincident with the line between Lewis and Herkimer counties, struck the Mohawk river at Utica.

The country lying to the east of this line of property, embracing what is now the greater part of Saratoga County, formed a part of Ga-ne-a-ga-o-no-ga, the land of the Mohawks. The territory lying westerly of this line, including the fertile valley of the Black river and the highlands of the Lesser Wilderness, which lies between the upper valley of the Black river and Lake Ontario, belonged to O-na-yote-ka-o-no-ga, the country of the Oneidas.

It was the custom of the Indians, whenever the hunting-grounds of a nation bordered on a lake, to include the whole of it, if possible; so the line of property between the Oneidas and the Onondagas bent westerly around the Oneida lake, giving the whole of that to the Oneidas, and deflected easterly again around Lake Ontario in favor of the Onondagas.

These three nations claimed the whole of the territory of northern New York. But the northern part of the great wilderness was also claimed by the Adirondacks, a Canadian nation of Algonquin lineage, and, being disputed territory, was the "dark and bloody ground" of the old Indian traditions, as it afterwards became in the French and English colonial history.



The Indians who inhabited the Atlantic slope and the basin of the great lakes were divided into two great families of nations. These two great families were known as the Iroquois and the Algonquin families. {See Morgan's League of the Iroquois, and Parkman's Pioneers of France in the New World.} They differed radically in both language and lineage, as well as in many of their manners and customs.

The principal nations of the Iroquois family were grouped around the lower lakes. The Five Nations of central New York - the Iroquois proper - were the leading people of this family. To the south of the Five Nations, on the banks of the Susquehanna, were the Andastes, and to the westward, along the southern shore of Lake Erie, were the Eries. To the north of Lake Erie lay the Neutral Nation and the Tobacco Nation, while the Hurons dwelt along the eastern shore of the lake that still bears their name. There was also a branch of the Iroquois family in the Carolinas, - the Tuscaroras, - who united with the Five Nations in 1715, after which the confederacy was known as the Six Nations. {See Colden's Five Nations.}

Surrounding these few bands of Iroquois were the much more numerous tribes of the great Algonquin family. To the people of Algonquin speech and lineage belonged the Horicons and the Mohicans and other tribes of river Indians who dwelt along the Hudson, and the Pequots, Wampanoags, Narragansetts, and all the other New England tribes. {After the defeat of King Philip, of Pocanokett, in 1675-76, a part of the Wampanoags and Narragansetts fled from their ancient hunting-grounds and settled at Schaghticoke, on the Hudson, and were afterwards known as the Schaghticoke Indians. See paper by John Fitch, in "Historical Magazine" for June, 1870.}

Northward of the Iroquois were the Nippisings, La Petite Nation, and La Nation de l'Isle, and the other tribes of the Ottawa. Along the valley of the St. Lawrence were the Algonquins proper - called Adirondacks by the Iroquois, - the Abenaquis, the Montagnais, and other roving bands around and beyond the Saguenay.

Thus were the Indian nations situated with respect to each other when Samuel de Champlain, in the early summer of 1609, entered the territory of northern New York from the north, and Henry Hudson, in the beginning of the coming autumn, approached it from the south.



Among all the Indians of the New World, there were none so politic and intelligent, none so fierce and brave, none with so many germs of heroic virtues mingled with their savage vices, as the true Iroquois, - the people of the Five Nations. They were a terror to all the surrounding tribes, whether of their own or of Algonquin speech. In 1650 they overran the country of the Hurons; in 1651 they destroyed the Neutral Nation; in 1652 they exterminated the Eries; in 1672 they conquered the Andastes and reduced them to the most abject submission. They followed the war-path, and their war-cry was heard westward to the Mississippi and southward to the great gulf. The New England nations, as well as the river tribes along the Hudson, whose warriors trembled at the name of Mohawk, all paid them tribute. The poor Montagnais on the far-off Saguenay would start from their midnight sleep and run terror-stricken from their wigwams into the forest when dreaming of the dreadful Iroquois. They were truly the conquerors of the New World, and were justly styled the "Romans of the West." "My pen," wrote the Jesuit Father Ragueneau, in 1650, in his Relations des Hurons, - "My pen has no ink black enough to describe the fury of the Iroquois."

They dwelt in palisaded villages upon the fertile banks of the lakes and streams that watered their country. Their villages were surrounded with rudely-cultivated fields, in which they raised an abundance of corn, beans, squashes, and tobacco. Their houses were built within the protecting circle of palisades, and, like all the tribes of the Iroquois family, were made long and narrow. They were not more than twelve or fifteen feet in width, but often exceeded a hundred and fifty feet in length. They were made of two parallel rows of poles stuck upright in the ground, sufficiently wide apart at the bottom to form the floor, and bent together at the top to form the roof, the whole being nicely covered with strips of peeled bark. At each end of the wigwam was a strip of bark, or a bear-skin, hung loosely for a door. Within they built their fires at intervals along the centre of the floor, the smoke passing out through openings in the top, which served as well to let in the light. In every house were many fires and many families, every family having its own fire within the space allotted to it.

From this custom of having many fires and many families strung through a long and narrow house comes the signification of their name for the league, "the people of the long house." They likened their confederacy of Five Nations, stretched along a narrow valley for more than two hundred miles through central New York, to one of their long wigwams. The Mohawks guarded the eastern door of this long house, while the Senecas kept watch at the western door. Between these doors of their country dwelt the Oneidas, Onondagas, and Cayugas, each nation around its own fire, while the great central council fire was always kept brightly burning in the country of the Onondagas. Thus they were in fact, as well as in name, the people of the long house.

Below are given, in the order of their rank therein, the Indian names of the several nations of the league: {See Morgan's League of the Iroquois}

Mohawks - Ga-ne-a-ga-o-no. "People possessors of the flint."

Onondagas - O-nun-do-ga-o-no. "People on the hills."

Senecas - Nun-da-wa-o-no. "Great hill people."

Oneidas - O-na-yote-ka-o-no. "Granite people."

Cayugas - Gwe-u-gweh-o-no. "People at the mucky land."

Tuscaroras - Dus-ga-o-weh-o-no. "Shirt-wearing people."



It may of a truth be said that this wild Indian league of the old savage wilderness, if it did not suggest, in many respects it formed the mode after which was fashioned our more perfect union of many States in one republic. The government of this "league of the Iroquois" was vested in a general council composed of fifty hereditary sachems, but the order of succession was always in the female and never in the male line; that is to say, when a sachem died, his successor was chosen from his mother's descendants, and never from his own children. The new sachem must he either the brother of the old one, or a son of his sister; so in all cases the status of the children followed the mother, and never the father. Each nation was divided into eight clans or tribes, which bore the following names: Wolf, Deer, Bear, Snipe, Beaver, Heron, Turtle, and Hawk. The spirit of the animal or bird after which the clan was named, called its totem, was the guardian spirit of the clan, and every member used its figure in his signature as his device.

It was the rule among them that no two of the same clan could intermarry. If the husband belonged to the clan of the Wolf, the wife must belong to the clan of the Bear, the Deer, and so on, while the children belonged to the clan of the mother, and never to the father's clan. In this manner their relationship always interlocked, and the people of the whole league were forever joined in the closest ties of consanguinity.

The name of each sachem was permanent. It was the name of the office, and descended with it to each successor. When a sachem died, the people of the league selected the most competent brave from among those of his family, who by right inherited the title, and the one so chosen was raised in solemn council to the high honor, and, dropping his own, received the name of the sachemship. There were two sachemships, however, that, after the death of the first sachems of the name, forever remained vacant.

These sachemships were Da-ga-no-we-da of the Onondagas and Ha-yo-went-ha (Hi-a-wat-ha) of the Mohawks. Da-ga-no-we-da was the founder of the league. His head was represented as covered with tangled serpents, and Hi-a-wat-ha, meaning "he who combs," straightened them out, and assisted in forming the league. In honor of their great services their sachemships were afterwards held vacant.

There was another class of chiefs, of inferior rank to the sachems, among whom were the war chiefs, whose title was not hereditary, but who were chosen on account of their bravery or personal prowess, their achievements on the warpath, or their eloquence in council. Among this latter were found the most renowned warriors and orators of the league, such as King Hendrick and Red Jacket, but they could never rise to the rank of sachem.

The whole body of sachems formed the council league. Their authority was entirely civil, and confined to the affairs of peace. But, after all, the power of the sachems and chiefs was advisory rather than mandatory. Every savage, to a great extent, followed the dictates of his own wild will, controlled only by the customs of his people, and a public sentiment that ran through their whole system of affairs, which was as inflexible as iron.



The Indian was a believer in spirits. Every object in nature was spiritualized by him, while over all things, in dim and shadowy majesty, ruled the one great spirit, the supreme object of his fear and adoration, whom he called Ha-wen-ne-ya. There was likewise an evil spirit, born at the same time as the great spirit, which he called Ha-ne-go-ate-ga, "the evil minded." There was also He-no, "the thunderer," and Ga-oh, "the spirit of the winds." Every mountain, lake, stream, tree, shrub, flower, stone, and fountain had its own spirit.

Among his objects of worship were the three sister spirits, - the spirit of corn, the spirit of beans, and the spirit of squashes. This triad was called De-oha-ko, {See Morgan's League of the Iroquois.} meaning "our life," "our supporters." Upon the festal days sacred to the three sisters they were represented by three beautiful maidens, each one gayly dressed in the leaves of the plant whose spirit she represented.

The Ho-de-no-sau-nee observed six great feasts every year. There was the new year's festival, or the "sacrifice of the white dog," which was celebrated with great pomp for seven days early in February. Then, as soon as the snow began to melt, and the sap to flow from the maple-trees, and the sugar-boiling began in earnest, came the maple-feast.

The next great festival was the A-yent-wa-ta, or "planting festival," which came on as soon as the leaves on the butternut-trees were as big as squirrels' ears, indicating the time for planting corn. The fourth feast was Ha-nan-da-yo, the "feast of strawberries," which came in the moon of roses. The fifth was Ah-dake-wa-o, the "feast of the green corn moon," and the last was the "harvest festival,' observed at the gathering of the crops in autumn.

Dwelling forever among the wildest scones of nature, - himself nature's own wildest child - believing in an unseen world of spirits in perpetual play around him on every hand, his soul was filled with unutterable awe. The flight or cry of a bird, the humming of a bee, the crawling of an insect, the turning of a leaf, the whisper of a breeze, were to him mystic signals of good or evil import, by which he was guided in the most important affairs of life.

The mysterious about him he did not attempt to unravel, but bowed submissively before it with what crude ideas he had of religion and worship. To his mind everything, whether animate or inanimate, in the whole domain of nature is immortal. In the happy hunting-grounds of the dead the shades of hunters will follow the shades of animals with the shades of bows and arrows, among the shades of trees and rocks, in the shades of immortal forests, or glide in the shades of bark canoes over shadowy lakes and streams, and carry them around the shades of dashing waterfalls. {See Charlevoix's Voyage to North America.}

In dreams he placed the most implicit confidence. They were to him revelations from the spirit world, guiding him to the places where his game lurked and to the haunts of his enemies. He invoked their aid upon all occasions. They taught him how to cure the sick, and revealed to him his guardian spirit, as well as all the secrets of his good or evil destiny.



The Iroquois were extremely social in their daily intercourse. When not engaged in their almost continual public feasting and dancing, they spent the most of their time in their neighbors' wigwams, playing games of chance, of which they were extremely fond, or in chatting, joking, and rudely bantering each other. On such occasions their witticisms and jokes were often more sharp than delicate, as they were "echoed by tho shrill laugh of young squaws untaught to blush. {Francis Parkman.}

In times of distress and danger they were always prompt to aid each other. Were a family without shelter, the men of the village at once built them a wigwam. When a young squaw was married, the older ones, each gathering a load of sticks in the forest, carried her wood enough for a year. In their intercourse with each other, as well as with strangers, their code of courtesy was exact and rigid to the last degree.

But the Indian is still the untamed child of nature. "He will not," says Parkman, "learn the arts of civilization, and he and his forest must perish together. The stern, unchanging features of his mind excite our admiration from their very immutability, and we look with deep interest on the fate of this irreclaimable son of the wilderness, the child who will not be weaned from the breast of his rugged mother. . . . The imprisoned lion in the showman's cage differs not more widely from the lord of the desert than the beggarly frequenter of frontier garrisons and dram-shops differs from the proud denizen of the woods. It is in his native wilds alone that the Indian must be seen and studied." {Parkman's Conspiracy of Pontiac, vol. i. p. 44. Consult, also, Schoolcraft's works, Clark's History of Onondaga, Heckewelder's History of Indian Nations, The Iroquois, by Anna C. Johnson, Documentary History of New York, Cusick's History of the Five Nations, Charlevoix's Letters to the Duchess de Lesdiguières, and Jesuit Relations of 1656-57 and 1659-60.}



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