Mohawk Indian Villages and Towns
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There are but three villages in the Mohawk territory which can be called prehistoric, one each for the Turtle, Bear, and Wolf clans. All these show signs of a knowledge of Europeans prior to 1642; and one, at least, of direct but slight contact. Being refugees, and in fear of their enemies, they placed their first villages quite remote from the Mohawk River, from four to ten miles. As soon as they possessed firearms, and the power secured by these, they built their dwellings along the river.
All the early Mohawk towns of the historic period in New York are in Montgomery county, three earlier ones lying north and west. The Mahican boundary line followed the hilltops east of Schoharie creek and near the line of Albany county, and at one time the western Mohawk boundary was at Little Falls. The sites of the towns were often changed, and several names might be given to one, or some small village might have none on record. In a few instances the name followed the town in its removals.
The Mohawks, the first and the most easterly situated of the Five Nations, at the time of Father Jogues’ visit in 1642, had three large villages located in the beautiful valley of the Mohawk, on the south bank of the Mohawk River, and west of the Schoharie River. Ossernenon was situated on an eminence a little west of the junction of the Schoharie with the Mohawk, near the present Auriesville. Andagaron was about ten miles west of Ossernenon. Tionnontoguen, the capital, was about twelve miles west of Andagaron, directly east of Flat Creek, near the site of the present town of Sprakers. There was also a fourth village located some miles west of Tionnontoguen, at the time of the captivity of Father Jogues.
Small pox wrought great havoc in these towns about the years 1660-61, and the inhabitants moved westward from the plague spots.
The names of the following Mohawk villages have been preserved:
The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents By Jesuits, Reuben Gold Thwaites, vol. 8, p. 300 states the village was on the south side of Mohawk River, between the villages of Ossernenon and Tionnontoguen. Another name given by the Jesuits is Gandagaron. Vol. 51, p.295 further states that it was called the Middle Castle in 1642, near Fultonville.
An-da-ra-gue or Andaraque, the town where De Tracy caused proclamation to be made, October 17, 1666, of taking possession of this Mohawk fort and four others, with all the lands around them. The name is contracted from Teandarague, often written Teon-doroge. It is closely related to the name of Ticonderoga, lacking only the prefix.
As-ser-u-e was the first castle and that of the Turtles in 1644, according to Megapolensis. It was a little west of Schoharie creek, and the name was a variant of another. It might refer to good axes owned there, but more probably to putting something into the water, to cross the creek or river.
At-he-clagh-que was a place at St Johnsville in 1733
The Catholic Encyclopedia claims that this town, also known as Ossernenon, Gandawaga and Caughnawaga, was on the present site of the Town of Auriesville, and took its name from the last known Mohawk to have resided there, Auries. Since it is claimed that it took its name from the last known Mohawk to have resided there, then it is not a Mohawk Village, but a white man’s village name. The most often used name to describe this village during the Mohawk times is the Castle of Ossernenon.
Ca-ha-ni-a-ga was mentioned, as the first town on the river in 1677. Though this suggests the national name it was intended for Caugh-na-wa-ga, on the rapids.
Wentworth Greenhalgh, who made a journey through the Iroquois country in May and June, 1677 stated that “Cahaniaga is double stockaded,…. and is situate upon the edge of an hill, about a bow shott from the river side.” This is probably the same as Canienga.
Ca-na-ge-re may be the later Canagora in another place, being the second castle and south of the river in 1634. It may be derived from Gannagare, a great pole. It was west of some great flats and was also called Wetdashet by Van Corlaer.
Ca-na-go-ra was on the north side of the river in 1677, and was the Banagiro of 1644 (an error for Kanagiro), the castle of the Dears. The French gave this the name of Gandagaro in 1669. At first sight it suggests a large Tillage as a meaning, but this can not be sustained. Bruyas, however, says of one of his Mohawk words, ” Ganniagwari, a she bear. This is the name of the Mohawk,” and a word derived from this may well have been applied to a town peopled by the Bear clan. It seems the same town as Canagere in a new situation.
Wentworth Greenhalgh, who made a journey through the Iroquois country in May and June, 1677 stated that “Canagora is situated upon a flatt, a stone’s throw from ye water side.”
Canajoharie (‘it, the kettle, is fixed on the end of it’).
An important Mohawk village, known as the Upper Mohawk Castle, formerly situated on the east bank of Otsquago Creek, nearly opposite Fort Plain, Montgomery Co., N. Y. The community of this name occupied both banks of Mohawk River for some distance above and below the village. It was also known as Middle Mohawk Castle.
Ca-na-jo-ha-rie is rendered Ga-na-jo-hí-e by Morgan, and defined washing the basin. This should be kettle, which the first three syllables signify. Mr Morgan made a note on his interpretation: ” In the bed of the Canajoharie creek there is said to be a basin, several feet in diameter, with a symmetrical concavity, washed out in the rock. Hence the name Ca-na-jó-ha-e. One would naturally have expected to have found the Indian village upon this creek, instead of the Ot-squa-go.” There was an Indian village just west of the creek, but he mistook the location of the Canajoharie of King Hendrick’s day, which was at Indian Castle in Danube, and not at Fort Plain. There may have been several towns of the name.
Spafford said: “This name is of Indigene origin. Canajoharie, as spoken by the Mohawk Indians, signifies the pot or kettle that washes itself. The name was first applied to a whirlpool at the foot of one of the falls of the creek that now bears the name.” French said that the name of the town was ” Canajoxharie in the act of incorporation. Indian name, Ga-na-jo-hi-e, said to signify ‘ a kettle- shaped hole in the rock.’ or ‘ the pot that washes itself,’ and refers to a deep hole worn in the rock at the foot of the falls.”
Perhaps the best early account is that of Professor Dwight, written about 2 centuries since:
We all visited the Canajoharoo, (so the word is spelt by Mr Kirkland), or great boiling pot, as it is called by the Six Nations. This pot is a vast cavity in a mass of limestone, forming the bed of the mill stream to which it gives its name. . . When the water is high, it pours furiously down the ledge of the same rock, crossing the stream just above, into the Canajoharoo, and causing it to boil with a singular violence, and to exhibit the appearance of a caldron, foaming with vehement agitation over its brim.
Whatever the origin or connection there is no doubt as to the general correctness of the interpretation. In his early list of Mohawk words Bruyas had Gannatsiohare, to wash the kettle. The Canajorha of 1677, on the north side of the Mohawk, suggests this name. In 1700 the middle castle had the name, but it eventually belonged to the most western of all, and to the lands around. It was written Canaedsishore or Canijoharie in 1700, and Connatchocari by the French in 1757.
Ca-na-jor-ha was a village on the north side of the river in 1677.
Wentworth Greenhalgh, who made a journey through the Iroquois country in May and June, 1677 stated that “Canajorha is situated upon a flatt, about two miles distant from the water.”
A former Mohawk village on the north side of Mohawk River, just above Cohoes Falls, N. Y.
Aren Akweks indicates in his Monuments To Six Nation Indians that this village was located on the south side of Mohawk River near present Auriesville. This is the only known mention of this tribal village by this name. The Catholic Encyclopedia claims that Kateri Tekakwitha was born in the Turtle Castle of Ossernenon, and placed that Castle on the present location of Auriesville.
Canienga (‘at the place of the flint’).
A former Mohawk castle situated at the distance of a bow-shot from the north side of Mohawk River, N. Y. The Mohawk name for themselves is derived from this place. In 1677 it had a double palisade with 4 ports enclosing 24 lodges. This is likely the same as Cahaniaga.
Ca-ni-yeu-ke or Teyeondarago was the lowest Mohawk castle in 1756. The first word may be a corruption of the national name.
Ca-no-ho-go was a name for the third Mohawk castle in 1700, being an abbreviation of Decanohoge.
Ca-no-wa-ro-de was a small village west of the first castle in 1634, and on the south side of the river, as all villages of that date were.
The ancient capital of the Mohawk tribe, situated in 1667 on the north side of Mohawk River, at the present site of Fonda, N. Y. The town was destroyed by the French in 1693. The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 edition, claimed that Caughnawaga was located on the south side of Mohawk River. Was this actually the case, or were they confusing the village with the site called by Aren Akweks, Candaouga?
Hodge in his Handbook of American Indians claimed that the Jesuit maintained there for a time the mission of St Pierre, when providing a description of Caughawaga. The St. Pierre mission was in Canada, probably at the Mohawk Village of Caughnawaga there, not the one in New York.
The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents By Jesuits, Reuben Gold Thwaites, vol. 8, p. 300 states that Caughnawaga, was near the present station of Auriesville. He also said the village went by the name Cahniago. In earlier days it went by the names: Ossernenon (Osserinon, Agnié, Oneougiouré, or Asserua).
Caugh-na-wa’-ga is written Ga-na-wá-da, on the rapids, by Morgan, who gives it also as Ga-nó-wau-ga, which on the whole is better. In 1667 Bruyas spoke of the first Mohawk castle as Gandawagué and there Jogues was killed. In 1674 Kaghnewage was also mentioned as the first castle. The more recent location was at Fonda, where the name was applied to a large tract of land.
Spafford said: “Caughnawaga, it is well known, was once an Indian village, a principal town of the Mohawk Indians. The name signifies a coffin, which it receives from the circumstance of there being, in the river opposite that place, a large black stone, (still to be seen) resembling a coffin, and projecting from the surface at low water.”
The Rev. John Taylor (1802) defined this as cook the kettle, probably thinking of Canajoharie.
Gallatin derived it from Caghnuhwohherleh, a rapid.
J. R. Simms objected to interpreting Caughnawaga at the rapids, but forgot that the village of this name was not always at one spot. He said: “It meant, literally,stone in the water. In the river, opposite to the ancient village of Caughnawaga, and, perhaps, 25 feet from the southern or Fultonville shore is a large boulder, which is the last stone seen when the water is rising, and after a freshet, the first one visible when the water is falling.” This seems the stone alluded to in the name Cayadutta.
It is sufficient to say that the name followed the town in its removals, could not have referred to this stone, and was used before the Indians knew much of coffins. When some of the Mohawks removed to the rapids near Montreal they took the old name as an appropriate one for their new home, where it still remains.
Caugh-ne-was-sa was placed by Schoolcraft in the Mohawk valley, but it does not otherwise appear. He may have meant Caughnawaga.
Ca-wa-o-ge or Na-wa-a-ge was a village east of the fourth castle in 1634. Van Corlaer often gave two names to the Mohawk towns.
Located on the south side of Mohawk River-named from a band.
De-ka-nó-ge or Decanohoge was the third castle in 1756, and A. Cusick defined the name as where I live.
Eastern village in 1677, or earlier, when all the towns had been removed to the north side of the Mohawk. At Fonda, on the west side of Cayadutta Creek. The other villages lay a few miles farther west, Tionontoguen being about 10 miles from Gandaouague.
Kanagaro (‘a pole in the water’).
A Mohawk town situated in 1677 on the north side of the Mohawk River, in Montgomery or Herkimer Co., N. Y. In the year named it had a single stockade, with four ports, and contained 16 houses. Megapolensis mentions it as early as 1644, but no reference is made to it after 1693.
A former Mohawk village on the south bank of the Mohawk River, at the mouth of the Nowadaga Creek, on the site of Danube, Herkimer Co., N. Y. It was the principal Mohawk settlement about 1750. A part of the band here had another village a little lower down the stream, opposite the mouth of East Canada Creek. Nowadaga was the home of Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea).
Och-ni-on-da-ge was a name for the first castle in 1700, being the variant of a frequent name. The first Mohawk church was built there.
Og-sa-da-go, at the mouth of Schoharie creek, was mentioned as the first Mohawk castle in 1700. It had many names.
A former Mohawk town, situated on the left bank of the Mohawk River, at its confluence with Schoharie River, near the site of the present Fort Hunter, Montgomery Co., N. Y. It was visited in 1634 by Arent Van Corlaer, who referred to it as the first castle, built on a high hill and consisting of “36 houses, in rows like streets… The houses were made and covered with bark of trees, and most are flat at the top. Some are 100, 90, or 80 paces long and 22 and 23 ft. high… the houses were full of corn that they lay in store, and we saw maize; yes, in some of the houses more then 300 bushels… We lived a quarter of a mile from the fort in a small house, because a good many savages in the cast died of smallpox.” Speaking of Adriochten, the principal chief of the Onekagoncka castle, Van Corlaer adds: “The chief showed me his idol; it was a head, with the teeth sticking out; it was dressed in red cloth. Others have a snake, a turtle, a swan, a crane, a pigeon, or the like for their idols, to tell their fortune; they think they will always have luck in doing so.”
Onoalagona (‘big head’ – Hewitt).
A Mohawk village, about 1620, on the site of Schenectady, Schenectady Co., N. Y. A band, taking its name from the village, occupied the immediate vicinity in more modern times. It is said by Macauley, with little foundation in fact, that the village was built on the site of a still older one, which had been the principal village of tribe that was called Connoharriegoharrie.
Osquake (from Otsquago, ‘under the rock,’ Mohawk name of the creek. – Hewitt).
A Mohawk band and village formerly at Fort Plain and on Osquake Creek, Montgomery Co., N. Y. (Macauley, N. Y., II 296, 1829). Cf. Osguage.
Os-qua-ge or Oh-qua-ge, place of hulled corn soup, according to A. Cusick, was a village west of the third castle in 1634. It suggests the latter Oquaga.
The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents By Jesuits, Reuben Gold Thwaites, vol. 29, p. 293 states that Ossernenon was South East of the present site of Auriesville. Vol. 51, p.295 further states that it lay 1/4 mile south of Mohawk River, that it was the Eastern Castle of 1642 and was called the mission of the Martyrs.
Os-se-ru-e-non, Osserrion, Asserue and Oneugioure were early names of the first castle. The first three are synonymous.
Hewitt claims the meaning of Saratoga to be ‘the place where ashes or alkaline substances float.’ However, in a letter of Sir William Johnson to Arthur Lee, of the Philosophical Society, upon the Language of the Six Nations, Feb. 28, 1771, he claimed the origination of the word Saratoga to be ‘The name Saratoga, Kayaderoga , or Saraghora and, in view of the great confusion existing in regard to it, the fact should be duly remembered means The Place of the Swift Water “saragh” signifying “swift water,” “aga” or “oga” in the Iroquois dialect meaning “the place of” or “the people of.”‘
According to Macauley, the name of a Mohawk band (village?) formerly occupying the west bank of the Hudson, about Saratoga and Stillwater, in Saratoga Co., N. Y.
Schan-a-tis-sa was a village near the middle Mohawk castle on a map of 1655. The odd interpretation given me was little long short village. That is, in the Indian way of speaking, not a very long, in fact a very short village.
Schaunactada (Schenectady) (‘on that side of the pinery’, referring to the large number of pines formerly growing between Albany and Schenectady).
According to Macauley, the Ohnowalagantles, whom he calls a clan of the Mohawk, lived at Schenectady, which was situated about 17 m. w. of Albany, N. Y. He adds that the Schaunactadas, apparently only another form of the name Schenectady, whom he calls a clan of the Mohawk, dwelt along the Hudson at Albany and southwardly. The lands of Schenectady were purchased from the Mohawk by Arent Van Corlaer and others in 1662, and the present city founded. It suffered severely during the later Indian wars, and in 1690 it was attacked by French and Indians and many of its inhabitants were massacred.
Schoharie (‘the driftwood’, or ‘the floating driftwood.’ – Hewitt).
A Mohawk village formerly near the present Scoharie, Scoharie Co., N. Y.
Sen-at-sy-cros-sy was the second small village west of the first castle in 1634.
Si-et-i-os-ten-rah-re. Bruyas mentioned a Mohawk village of this name, which was partly derived from ostenra, a rock.
So-ha-ni-dis-se was the third castle in 1634, there being then four. It seems a name already given, but Van Corlaer wrote it Rehanadisse on his return.
Teatontaloga (‘two mountains apart’).
A Mohawk village existing at different periods in New York. The oldest one known by that name was the principal village of the tribe until it was destroyed by the French in 1666. It was rebuilt a mile above the former site and was for a time the site of the Jesuit mission of St. Mary, but was again destroyed by the French in 1693. Both villages were on the north side of the Mohawk River, close to water, and probably near the mouth of Scoharie Creek in Montgomery Co., N. Y. On this spot, on the west side of the creek, was the last village of that name, better known in the 18th century as the Lower Mohawk Castle. It was also called Icanderago. Macauley applies this name to the Mohawk band in the vicinity of the village.
Te-no-to-ge ad Tenotogehatage are Van Corlaer’s names for the fourth castle in 1634. As but three castles are usually reckoned this is the name of the last. Megapolensis called it Thenondiogo, the castle of the Wolf clan. It was a large town and had many houses on the north side of Mohawk River in 1634, the fort being then on the south side.
Teondalóga (‘two streams coming together’)
Te-on-da-ló-ga is Morgan’s name for Fort Hunter. It has been written Te-ah´-ton-ta-ló-ga, and the name appears in so many forms that other meanings might be suggested. This was the site of the first or lower Mohawk castle.
A former Mohawk village, situated, according to the Brion de la Tour map of 1781, in the peninsula formed by the outlet of Otsego Lake and Shenivas Creek, N. Y. In 1753 Rev. Gideon Hawley found in it 3 wigwams and about 30 people.
Teyeondaroge (‘meeting of waters’)
Te-ye-on-da-ro-ge is the same as Teondalóga, appearing as the name of the first castle in 1756, near Fort Hunter. It was not far from that site when first known, but had many names, some coming from slight changes in location and referring to a hill. A few variants of this name follow. It was written Tionondoroge in 1691, Trenondroge in 1693, Tiononderoga in 1733, and Ticonderoga and Tinnandora in 1768. That this name and that of the historic Ticonderoga had the same origin hardly admits of a doubt. At first it referred to the meeting of waters, sometimes near a hill.
Ti-on-on-do-gue in 1677, Thenondiogo in 1644, Tionontoguen in 1670, and Tionondoge in 1693, are variants of the name of the third castle, much resembling that of the first. Though once on the south side of the Mohawk it was removed to the north bank, and the name was appropriate to its situation on a hill.
Wentworth Greenhalgh, who made a journey through the Iroquois country in May and June, 1677 stated that “Tionondogue is situated on an hill, a bow shott from ye river. The small village lyes close by the river side, on the north side.”
On a hill just south of Spraker’s Basin, about 13 miles west of Ossernenon. The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents By Jesuits, Reuben Gold Thwaites, vol. 51, p.295 further states that it was called the Western Castle of 1642. At Spraker’s Basin, 4 miles south east of Canajoharie. There were other villages, about the same time.
Thomas Donahoe, in his The Iroquois and the Jesuits, p. 13 states that Tionnontoguen, the capital, was about twelve miles west of Andagaron, directly east of Flat Creek, near the site of the present town of Sprakers
Wet-da-shet is one of Van Colaer’s names for the second castle. This had no palisades at that time, and he saw little except numerous graves. There were but 16 houses and these were not of the largest size. This castle is not in the later lists. For a long time there were three and then but two castles. In the French act of possession in 1666, however, mention is made of Andaraque and four other forts. These appear to have been merely villages and are unnamed.