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Brotherton & Weekping Indian Communities of NJ

Brotherton in 1761 & 1795

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Tennent's Account of Move from Cranbury (Bethel) to Brotherton
1759 Map of Proposed Layout of Brotherton
Pictures of Brotherton
Primary Documents Related to Brotherton Indians
Native Men in the French & Indian War
Brotherton in 1761 & 1795
Message from the Brothertons to the Ohio Indians, 1767
Removal to New York, 1793 - 1803
Robert Skikkit - And Indian Soldiers of the Revolution
Weekping or Coaxen
Pictures of Weekping/Coaxen
Indian Rules of Descent of Lands
The Will of Charles Moolis & Legal Action to Stop It
The Court Battle over Moolis's Will
Court Action in Trenton
Confused Tenants & Powers of Attorney
State Control of Weekping
Efforts at Compromise at Weekping
Petition of the Indians, 1817
1819 Letter to the President
Federal Court Action
The Loss of Weekping
Miscellaneous Documents
Occum, Quakers, Moravian Texts & More
Books for sale
Guest Book

Descriptions of Brotherton in 1761 & 1795:

John Brainerd's letter to Mrs. Elizabeth Smith, August 24, 1761 (abstract):

     Madam, according to my promise, I here send an account of the Indian mission in this province, which is for some years has been the object of my care.  On this spot, which is a fine, tract of land, and very commodiously situated for their settlement, there is something upward of an hundred, old and young.

      Above twelve miles distant there is a small settlement of them, perhaps near forty [the Weekping or Coaxen group].  About seventeen miles farther there is a third, [possibly the Indian community opposite Bordentown, NJ; another group was at Juliustown, near Mt. Holly, but this is only 8 miles from Coaxen]; and there are yet some few scattering ones still about Crossweeksung.  And if all were collected, there might possibly make two hundred.  I spend something more than half of my Sabbaths here at Brotherton; the rest are divided.  At this place I have but few white people: the reason is because this is near central between Delaware and the sea, and the English settlements are chiefly on them. 

     At this place, where most of the Indians are settled, we greatly want a school for the children.  When I built the meeting-house last year, I provided some materials for a schoolhouse, and in the fall addressed the legislature of this province for some assistance, not only for the support of a school, but for the erecting of a small grist-mill, a blacksmith's shop, and a small trading store to furnish the Indians with necessaries in exchange for their produce, and so prevent their running twelve or fifteen miles to the inhabitants for every thing they want; whereby they not only consume much time, but often fall into the temptation of calling at dram-houses (too frequent in the country), where they intoxicate themselves with spiritous liquors, and after some days, perhaps, instead of hours, return home wholly unfit for anything relating either to this or a future world.

     The Governor, the Council, and the Speaker of the House of Assembly, and several other members, thought well of the motion, and recommended it; but the Quakers, and others in that interest, made opposition, and being the greater part of the house, it finally went against us.  If the same could be done some other way, it would be the best step towards the end proposed, and the most likely to invite not only the Indians at these other small settlements above mentioned, but those also who live in more distant parts of the country.

     Thus I have touched upon the most material things relative to this mission, and, I fear, tired your patience with my long epistle.  And now, that all needed provision may be made for the promotion and perfecting of this good work among the Indians, and you, among others, be made an happy instrument of the same; that many faithful laborers may be thrust forth, and all vacant parts of the harvest be supplied; that this wilderness in particular may be turned into a fruitful field, and even the whole earth be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, is the fervant prayer of, Madam, your most obediant, humble servant, John Brainerd.

P.S.  Since my settlement here, I have been obliged to advance above 200 pounds for the building of the meetinghouse, for some necessary repairs of an old piece of a house that was on the spot, and for my support and other necessary expences.

Note:  Brainerd began to shift his attention away from Brotherton to nearby Mount Holly where he acquired land and lived in a house with his new wife as of 1768.  With the coming of war, Brainerd moved back to Brotherton, where he wrote to the Mission Board:

"The Mission house at Brotherton, which I believe is near about 30 pounds in my Debt, has no more done to it than was necessary to make it Some how tolerable for Worship, is very cold and uncomfortable in Winter, and has only a wooden foundation, or in other words is suspended with wooden blocks, stone being not to be had without Some Expense, having now stood more than 15 years, Stands in need of some other repairs.  The dwelling house, which is a Parsonage [this was originally the Springer house, belonging to the man who sold the property to New Jersey in 1758], is so ruinous as not to be habitable in the Winter Season, and dangerous in every high wind at any other time.  This obliges us to move every fall with very considerable Trouble and Loss, besides the Detriment to the Mission."

A German observer's description of Brotherton, 1795:

From Johann Ferdinand H. Autenrieith's account, appearing in Description of a Short Walking Tour in the Province of New Jersey.

The land already belonged to the Indians and was less sandy and of better quality than what we had seen up to this point.  Nice winding paths like in an English park led to the individual residences of the Indians [see the 1759 map for the layout of the Indian cabins].  On a tilled, fenced-in field, just like the loghouse standing on it was entirely European-American in manner, even having fruit trees, resided their leader, whose name was Skiket [Jacob Skeket, who would lead his people to New Stockbridge in 1802].

In him we found a tall, well proportioned, old man with black hair, small blackish-brown eyes, and with a complexion that was not coppery-red (as seldom was the case with some Iroquois I had the chance to see in Philadelphia) but yellow or mulatto colored, but not having the blackish shade present among those.  He had some red of old age on his cheeks.  His physiognomy did not deviate much from the European one, his cranium was large, the thick brow of his forehead protruded strongly and therefore made the not so large nose appear indented at its beginning.  His wife was of the same height.  She might have been approximately 40 years old or more.  She too, had the same complexion, but without the slightest red on her cheeks, shiny black hair, small black eyes; her forehead narrowed upwardly, her cheekbones were prominent and, through this and through her chin, her face in a way had a quadrangular appearance.  This Asiatic trace struck me all the more, as I already had noticed it in the skull of a Wabash Indian woman.  Men never have this feature, but always a more rounded, bigger, more strongly projected in the middle of the sides and in the back of their skulls.

Soon afterwards, in another house in the neighborhood we saw a boy of about 13 years, this one had the same yellow complexion without red color, black hair, a broad face, small black eyes, with distinctly slanting, close-set eyes, consequently like among North America's almost adjacent neighbors, the Asiatic peoples.  In addition, in the boy's house we saw two old women of much darker, as if smoked, complexion.  In this same house, were two young Indian women, who hid themselves upon our arrival, so we couldn't set eyes upon them.  All those Indians we saw were dressed like white Americans.  Even the old man no longer tore his beard out and had begun to shave his still growing beard in European fashion.  We conversed with the principal person, who spoke English as all of them did.  Their own language is pronounced entirely through the throat, like the German of the Swiss, and is very rough; this one they still use among themselves, by the way.  Although he was able to read and write and seemed to be a reasonable man, his conversation was very poor, though he spoke slowly and only a little, and when not asked, he was sat there as if in deep contemplation.

Already having been far removed from their natural ways of living for so many years, all activity seemed to have died away among these Indians, still cultivated too little, and not out of idleness (like among the old Germans, which the woods people of North America resemble so closely and, who knows, also will resemble in their later history) began to scorn agriculture, they often lease their land for cultivation; at best they weave baskets and make brooms which they carry to market in Philadelphia.  They have entirely forgotten their old occupations; they do not even wield the tomahawk anymore.  This lack of mental stimulation and their totally inactive way of life is probably the main reason that their numbers are obviously dwindling.  Only about nine families are said to remain, among which there is also a family of a New England Indian, whose tongue they themselves do not understand and with whom they have to speak English [Daniel Simon, former Indian missionary and married to a Calvin daughter, was from Rhode Island; or this might refer to William Holmes who had relations at New Stockbridge, New York.  In any event, the presence of a New England Indian family shows the inter-relationships amongst native groups.]

The Whites living at some distance and who no longer see as many Indians as before, maintain their younger people desert to the warring Indians of the backlands [the western Delawares fought aggressively to protect their homelands and to revenge injustices like the Gnadenhutten Massacre of 1782 - it is likely that younger Brothertons moved to be with their western relations].  Out of envy for their possessions, on the whole, they have a treacherous spite against this remainder of rightful owners.  The land transferred to them for their settlement is called Edgepillock and is said to comprise 3,000 acres.  Except for not being allowed to sell it, they have complete command over it; they can sell lumber and even lease the land, if they so choose.  It does not seem as if they have divided the land into certain allotments among themselves.

The common authorities judge their quarrels with Whites.  Their own disputes they do not sue for, and none takes them into account.  Many people remember that some years ago an Indian, whose father had been murdered, took revenge in a manner that was law amongst them.  All of a sudden he took a knife and stabbed his enemy, with whom he was drinking in a local pub, pursued him as he escaped and knocked his brain out with a stone.

The are all nominally Christians.  They have a wooden chapel where an itinerent preacher still preached to them a year ago.

We started out again after our Indian and his wife had drunken up the greater part of the bottle of rum with as much indifference as others would have done with a glass of water.  I would have liked receiving anything special of some kind from him, but neither a stone axe nor a chisel nor any other kind of antiquity was possible to obtain from these people.  Neither songs nor even their former war chant did this headman know?  [or not willing to share this cultural material with a passing stranger]  I only found a trace of an old tradition of their sacrifices with him.  At the change of moon, it is said, a long hut was constructed and three deer were slaughtered around which the people danced.

Note:  In 1761, the population of Brotherton was about 100; in 1795, it was nine families within the grouping of cabins.  There were likely other scattered homes within the 3000 acre reservation in addition to the other Indian communities throughout the Pine Barrens (one on Oldman's Creek has been identified through the Rev. War pension application of Cato Grieger).  When the Brothertons moved to New Stockbridge, about 100 made the trip.  Others, like Job Moore and Elisha Ashatama (father of the famous Indian Ann) chose to live at and nearby the old reservation land. 

 

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