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The Story Of A Peacemaker


Chapter 02
Page 18

After the outside boundaries of New Jersey had been pretty thoroughly discovered, it was quite natural that some nations who laid claim to the State should desire to find out something in regard to its interior, and make settlements upon its soil.

This was not done by the English, who had made the first claim to the land, but by the Dutch. In the early part of the seventeenth century, the West India Company of Holland sent out a ship containing the foundation for a little colony,-men, provisions, and all things necessary. They sailed into Delaware Bay; and the commander, Cornelius Jacobsen Mey, gave his name to Cape May. The expedition went up the Delaware River till they reached Timber Creek, probably not much more than ten miles from the spot where Philadelphia now stands. There they settled, and built a fort, which they called Fort Nassau. But this was not looked upon with favor by the Indians, and it was not long before the whole colony was destroyed.

This unfortunate beginning of the white settlement of New Jersey did not deter the Dutch, who are a persevering and dogged people. About twelve years later, another Dutch commander, De Vries, sailed up the

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Page 19

Delaware River, or, as the Dutch called it, the South River; his main object being to catch whales, very different from the Delaware fisheries of the present day. He set up a little colony on shore; but it appears that the Indians were very much opposed to this sort of thing, and this settlement was destroyed before long.

But De Vries still kept up the whaling business; and in the course of time, getting out of provisions, he left his vessel, and sailed up the river in a small craft which was called the "Squirrel." He went up as far as the deserted Fort Nassau, and there anchored to trade with the Indians.

Indian Rattle. Indian Flute. It is quite plain that the Indians of New Jersey were now greatly concerned about the visits of white people to their shore; for they perceived that these newcomers were inclined to settle and occupy such places as pleased their fancy, without asking permission, or proposing to buy or to pay rent. All this was very disagreeable to the red men, who had never shown any disposition to open up their country to foreign immigration.

When De Vries anchored, he was very well received; and about forty Indians came on board his yacht, and made a call upon him. They were dressed in their best, and, in order to make the visit more agreeable, they brought some of their musical instruments with them, and gave the Dutchmen a taste of Indian music.

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Page 20

The dress of some of these visitors was a surprise to De Vries and his men, of whom there were only seven on the yacht. It was winter time, and most of the Indians were arrayed in furs, but several of them wore jackets made in the English fashion. The visitors were very friendly, and urged De Vries to sail his vessel up a stream, now known as Big Timber Creek, which, they declared, was a much better place for trading.

Now, according to some of the old histories, a woman appeared in the double character of peacemaker and guardian angel.

Indian Tam-tam. Among the Lenni-Lenape, as well as the other tribes of North America, women often had a peculiar part to play in national and social affairs. If ever the services of a peacemaker were desired, that position was always given to a woman. It was considered derogatory to the dignity of a male Indian that he should at any time, of his own accord, desire peace. He and his enemy might both be thoroughly tired of fighting; but neither of them would lower himself in his own estimation, and in the estimation of his countrymen, by allowing any man to know the state of his mind.

But he did not in the least object to tell his wife that he wanted to stop fighting; and she, very gladly in most cases, would confer with the wife of the other brave; and when they had concluded peace, the two men would immediately sit down together, smoke the calumet, and be good friends; and all this without the slightest loss of dignity.

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This method of making peace was pursued not only by individuals, but by nations. Very often women had this important political duty thrust upon them,-a duty for which they were probably very well qualified, for it is seldom that the women of a nation desire war.

This national disposition in regard to peacemaking was once the occasion of a serious misfortune to the tribe of Lenni-Lenape. The tribes to the north, who had formed themselves into a powerful body called the Five Nations, had long been jealous of their neighbors the Lenni-Lenape, and contrived a plan to humiliate them, and render them less important in the eyes of the Indian world. Being at war with some other tribes, these Five Nations came to the Lenni-Lenape and pretended to desire peace, but stated that this was too important a case to be managed by women. They declared that this was a great work, which should be given only into the hands of a quiet, dignified, and honorable tribe, such as their great neighbors, and urged the Lenape to undertake negotiations for the cessation of hostilities.

As all this seemed reasonable enough, the Lenape were at last persuaded to become peacemakers, and, as might be supposed, they were entirely successful; but they suffered for their kindness and good feeling. Ever afterwards they were looked upon by other Indian tribes as no better than women. In Cooper's novels there are references to the fact that the noble Lenape were sneered at as peacemakers and squaws.

But we will now return to our guardian angel. It was after a visit of the Indians to the vessel of

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Page 22

DeVries, that the peacemaking instinct took possession of the wife of one of the Indian chiefs; and quietly and stealthily, unperceived by her people, she managed to get on board the "Squirrel," when she informed the commander of the real object of his visitors, who had invited him to sail up Timber Creek. It was the desire of the Indians to destroy this company of white men; and the narrow stream where they wished to make the attempt was much better adapted for their purpose than the broad waters of the river.

Wishing to prevent an encounter in which the sturdy Dutchmen would probably kill some of her countrymen before they themselves were destroyed, she had come to implore the whites not to run into the trap which had been set for them. She told them that the crew of an English shallop, which not long before had come to visit the place, probably from a ship afraid to venture higher up the river, had all been slaughtered, and that it was the jackets of these men that some of her countrymen were wearing.

Like a sensible man, De Vries paid attention to this story, and did not venture into Timber Creek. Whether or not he rewarded the good woman who came to warn him of his danger, is not known; but his account of

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the affair places her in the position of one worthy of a monument by the women of the State.

When the Indians came again to De Vries, he declared to them that his Great Spirit, or "Maneto," had revealed their wicked purposes, and that he would not sail up the Timber Creek, nor would he allow one of them upon his vessel; and, having ordered them all on shore, he dropped some distance down the river.

This conduct doubtless inspired the Indians with great respect for the brave Dutchmen, and shortly afterwards the chiefs from nine different tribes came on board the "Squirrel" for the purpose of making a treaty of peace and commerce with the Dutch. All of these were now dressed in furs, which were their ordinary garments; but some of them were recognized as the same men who had formerly worn the jackets of the murdered English sailors. These, however, were just as cordial and friendly as any of the others, and there is no reason to suppose that they now intended treachery. The visitors sat down on the deck of the yacht, and held a regular council, and, with appropriate ceremonies, made presents of beaver skins to the whites, and solemnly concluded a treaty of friendship.

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