Delmarva Settlers

Biographical Profiles
The Indians of the Lower Eastern Shore
by Christine Richardson

The Indians of the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland during the 17th and early 18th centuries were victims of English colonization activities, and were ultimately squeezed off the Shore by the English encroachment and dominance. Delving into the original court records of Maryland from 1636-1731 reveals an attitude of Anglo-Christian supremacy over the Native Americans or Indians of Somerset and Dorchester Counties. Somerset County at that time included the present counties of Wicomico, Worcester and parts of lower Delaware. The individual Indian nations themselves varied in their level of willingness to compromise with the English settlers and their laws, and at all times throughout the court records were designated as either enemies or friends of the Province of Maryland.


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Some of the Indian nation names of the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland that appear in the court records during this time are the Wicomisses (Wiccocomicos), Nanticokes, Choptanks, Pocomokes, Manoakins, Yingoteagues, Nasswattexes, Annamessexes, Acquinticas, Morumscos, Chingoteagues, Mathwasses; and nations all under the Emperor of Assateague including Assateagues, Transquakins (Tresqueques), Chopticos, Moteawaughkins, Quequashkecasquicks, Hatsawaps, Wachetaks, Maraughquaicks, Manasksons, and Capomcos. The records state that the nations of Nanticock (Nanticoke), Babcoes (Ababco) and Ahatchwoops (probably Hatsawaps) were in Dorchester County and the nations of Manoakin and Rockawakinmany were in Somerset County.[1] The records show many of the names of Indian nations that lived on the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland, but unfortunately there is little revelation about the formal structure of tribal organization.

Although the numbers of Indians of the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland dwindled dramatically during the late 16th through early 18th centuries due to diseases such as small pox brought by the English, the wars with the English, and migrations out of the area, what finally destroyed the Indian culture as a whole was the encroachment of the English who were intent on building a plantation society. The settlement of the English on large tracts of land left no room for the Indians who lived on the land for thousands of years. Court cases in Maryland between the English and Indians appear in increased frequency form the 1660s, and the final judgments and orders show a bias in favor of the English. By the end of the 17th century and into the early 18th century, for the Indians that survived, the obvious choice was to find a home elsewhere and migrate out of the area.

In 1608 Captain John Smith, one of the founders of the Virginia Colony, explored the Chesapeake Bay area and produced a map of Virginia which shows the area of what became the Eastern Shore of Maryland (See Exhibit 1). On this map Smith indicated that there was a king's house at Kuskarawaok but only a village at Nantaquack [origin of name Nanticoke], both on the Nanticoke River (Smith's map Kuskarawaok River).[2] A king's house is also shown on the map at Wighcocomoco River or the approximate location of the present day Pocomoke River.[3] Although there was a king's house at Kuskarawaok, the Nanticokes figure prominently in the court records of Maryland during the 17th century, and not the Indian nation name of Kuskarawaok.

Captain John Smith also kept a journal during his explorations and described Indian tribes in the Chesapeake Bay area. Smith's description of the area which is now Somerset, Wicomico and Dorchester Counties along the bay and rivers is reminiscent of the flat, marshy, still waters of the Lower Eastern Shore that exist today.

He related that the east side of the Bay and more to the south is the river of Kuskarawaok where there were "a people of two hundred men." After that was the river of Wighcocomoco where there were "a people with one hundred men." The people of those rivers were of little stature, had another language from the rest, and were very rude.[4] The Wicomisses were declared enemies of the Province of Maryland from at least the 1640s.

Smith wrote that from the Wighcocomoco River all the coast had low, broken islands of morap [marsh] which were a mile or two wide and ten or twelve miles long. The islands were good for gathering hay in the summer, and for catching fish and fowl in the winter. He wrote that the land beyond was low and covered with woods as was the rest of the country. Smith found that the mainland for the most part was without fresh water. He stated that searching for water, "we could fill but three barricoes, and that such puddle [muddy water], that never till then we ever knew the want of good water."[5] Smith describes terrain that would be difficult to cultivate and survive on without the help of experienced natives.

Searching for fresh water brought Smith to the eastern channel of the Wighcocomoco River, and tribes of Indians were encountered who were justifiably afraid and suspicious of his ship and the crew. The Indians at first assaulted them with "great fury," but at last became friendly with songs and dances.[6]

The Kuskarawaoks whose village was on or near the Nanticoke River, probably in the neighborhood of Seaford, Delaware, gave Smith a similar reception, and he handled the situation in imperialistic British fashion.[7] He described how,

The people ran amazed in troups from place to place, and divers got into the tops of trees, they were not sparing of their arrows, nor the greatest passion they could expresse of their anger. Long they shot we still ryding at an anchor without their reatch making all the signes of friendship we could.[8]

Smith continued that the next day the natives came unarmed and dancing, trying a different tactic to draw them ashore, but he discharged a volley of muskets at them charged with pistol shot. After the incident, the Indians all lay tumbling on the ground, creeping into a great cluster of reeds where they lay in "ambuscado."[9] Towards evening Smith landed and saw "much blood." Smith and his crew left some pieces of cooper, beads, belts and looking glasses as presents for the Indians. Early in the morning four "savages" came to Smith's ship in their canoe. According to Smith, two to three thousand Indian men, women and children then came clustering about them with presents.[10] Smith stated,

Here doth inhabite the people of Sarapinagh, Nause, Arseek and Nantaquak [Nanticoke] the best Marchants of all other salvages.[11]

Perhaps because of their merchant skills, the Nanticokes appear in the court records of the 17th and early 18th centuries frequently engaged in negotiating peace treaties with the Government of Maryland.

In regards to shooting the Indians, John Smith could have established friendly relations with them differently. He could have simply shot into the air or shot some game, which would have effectively subdued and commanded the respect of the Indians, who were probably witnessing the power of firearms for the first time. Sailing up the river in a ship and shooting at the Indians because they were acting suspicious and aggressive, but had no guns, seems excessive. This attitude that they were heathens and of no consequence, is a main characteristic of English relations with the Indians.

Smith fervently believed in the superiority of English culture, yet he acknowledged the Indian command of the American environment and established relations to learn form them.[12] The versatility and yield of Indian corn, for example, was superior to any English grain. The colonists had to learn agriculture from the Indian women, and grew Indian corn by preference.[13]

John Smith realized that relations with the Indians held the key to English survival in America, but also believed, like the English view of the "lower orders," that the Indians must be disciplined and controlled or they would bring ruin on the English settlements.[14] Despite his realization that the English were dependent on the Indians for the knowledge to produce food, Smith aimed always to intimidate his hosts with shows of force and determination.[15] This superior attitude, which was predominant throughout the history of English imperialism, continued through the century, and became more apparent in the court records as the English became less dependent on the Indians for survival.

Initially, the English settled on the Eastern Shore of Virginia in the counties of Accomack and Northampton, and plantation development, to the detriment of the Indians' lifestyle, was later paralleled further north in Maryland. The terrain was thickly wooded on the Eastern Shore. The English established plantations on navigable creeks and on lands that the Indians had cleared or at least partially cleared to cultivate their own crops.[16] This habit brought the English into close proximity with the Indians, and threatened their subsistence economy. A sure sign that they were already drawing too close appeared in 1626 when Indians on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, who kept no domestic animals besides dogs, began killing the hogs of Englishmen, not for food, but because the hogs and later cattle were not penned.[17]

The English practice of building power through land ownership was alien to the Indians migratory way of life. The Indians would cultivate a field and after harvest allow it to replenish by moving onto the next field. The Indians also migrated to other areas during certain times of the year with the intention of returning at a future time. These basic cultural differences caused conflicts and problems between the English and the Indians. The English believed in fences to protect property and form land boundaries. Considering that the Indians did not practice individual property ownership of the land, they had difficulty in accepting the concept of fences around their cultivated fields.

In 1643 Virginia had a fencing law that "in effect gave livestock the run of the land."[18] This law stated that no damages could be recovered in court by anyone who had left their fields unfenced. The penalties for killing the animals of another planter were steep. The justices normally ordered the Indians to pay fines in their own currency if they were guilty of killing animals owned by English.[19]

By the 1660s land on the Eastern Shore of Virginia was claimed, and English settlement moved north of the Pocomoke River into territory of the Proprietors of Maryland.[20] With an increased English population, the presence of the Indians dwindled, and in 1659 Edmund Scarburgh further reduced the Indian population through war. Scarburgh, the unwavering enemy of the Indians who resided on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, planned a major assault against the Assateagues.[21] Prior to the assault, the Virginia governor wrote to the Maryland governor and requested that the Province attack or keep the Nanticokes and confederates at bay while Scarburgh's forces fell upon the Assateague Indians and confederates on the seaside, "their common enemy who soe long triumphed in the ruines of Christian bloud."[22] According to the court records, Scarburgh assembled a company of three hundred men, sixty horses, sloops and other things necessary for war, with equal numbers of each in ready reserve.[23] He intended to march and to settle a garrison on the seaside near the head of the "Wiccocomoko river." Once established in the heart of the Assateague's country, he would systematically destroy the enemy that was "harder to find than conquer."[24] Little is known about the hostilities themselves, or what prompted the war. Scarburgh intended to remain on the seaside to starve the Assateagues by preventing them from hunting, fishing or planting corn.[25] A few later references in the colonial and county court records of Virginia leave no doubt that a sizable operation was carried out.[26] Scarburgh's "military" strategy indicates that even in an attack on the Indians, land was an issue. The Indians wee prevented from cultivating and using the land for survival.

In March 1660 the Assembly ordered tat the inhabitants of Accomack be paid 71,500 pounds of tobacco "for the full charge of the late warr."[27] The same sum was earmarked for soldiers from the Western Shore who had participated alongside Scarburgh's men. After the war, Accomack County experienced financial hardship and may not have been paid the reparation amount.[28]

The Assateagues suffered greater losses than the English. During the next several decades, their territories shrank and they were reduced to pleading for secure title to small tracts of land from colonial authorities in Maryland.[29] That any Assateagues survived may be due to Scarburgh's statement that they were "harder to find." Eventually, during the 18th century they were removed to a site on the Indian River in southern Delaware.[30]

Despite Scarburgh's declaration, there is no evidence in the court records from 136 on that the Indians on the Eastern Shore of Maryland were responsible for mass killings of the English. Only the murders of individuals and a family are actual cases in the court records. In 1642 the murder of Roland Williams of Accomack by the Nanticoke Indians is an early reference of Indian hostility against e English on the Eastern Shore.[31] Although the records do not reveal mass murders by the Indians, in the same year the court declared the Susquehanas, Wicomisses and the Nanticoke Indians as enemies of the Province of Maryland.[32] The Nanticokes subsequently made peace with the Government and this proclamation was revoked. The English were then forbidden to shoot an Indian unless first assaulted, except the Susquehannas and the Wicomisses.[33]

The order to not shoot an Indian unless assaulted is an example of orders concerning the Indians that gave the English settlers room for interpretation. An assault situation could easily have resulted in Englishman's word against the Indian's word. This order also assumes tat the English settlers could distinguish between a Wicomiss enemy and a Nanticoke friend.

Other orders are more specific, for example, "no inhabitant is to go over to any river on the Eastern Shore to trade with Indians without license."[34] In 1662 Captain John Savage accused Randall Revell of trading with the Indians without license and testified that "corne was found on the shore in a boat."[35] A 1649 act stated that there be no transporting, selling or disposing of any Indians out of the Province without lcense.[36] The use of the word "selling" indicates that there were circumstances when the Indians were viewed as chattel. In 1654 there was an act against the stealing of any Indians, and no Englishman was allowed to entertain an Indian in the home.[37] Of course in the interest of the Province, there was an act against selling guns, powder or shot to an Indian, and the law also mandated that English settlers take any arms found in the possession of Indians.[38] Friendship between the English settlers and the Indians was not exactly encouraged by the Government of Maryland.

In 1672 there were accusations against Captain Thomas Jones of misusing his power as "Sole Indian Trader of the Province."[39] By court order Jones had the authority t seize any persons and their vessels who were trading with the Indians without license. Jones went with six or seven men to Whorekill, tied up a group of Dutchmen and seized their beaver, otter, mink, wolf, raccoon and muskrat skins among other items.[40] The Provincial Court determined that Whorekill (currently located in Delaware) was not in the jurisdiction of Maryland. Jones was ordered to reimburse Herman Cornelison the amount of 15 pounds, 11 shillings sterling, Otho Woolegast 1 pound, 6 shillings sterling and Peter Gronendick 87 pounds, 11 shillings sterling.[41] Jones was also judged unfavorable on a number of other cases, and he was ordered t vacate his commission.[42] In December of 1672 he was again allowed to trade, but this time he was only one of several traders on the Eastern Shore.[43] The significance of this case is the extent of the power and authority that Captain Thomas Jones held as "Sole Trader." The Province created a monopoly, obviously t the disadvantage of the Indians.

Some of the acts restricting the Indians were incorporated in the numerous peace treaties with the English. Articles of peace were agreed upon in 1678 with Amoungus, the Emperor of Assateague. In 1678 there were articles of peace with Unnacokessimon, the Emperor of Nanticoke, and again with the Emperor of Assateague along with the Kings of Pocomoke, Yingoteague, Nasswattex, Annamessex, Acquintica, Morumsco and all the Indians under their subjection. Articles of peace were renewed again in 1687 and 1700 with the Emperor of the Nanticokes and adjacent Indians.[44] These peace treaties contained restrictive "boiler plate" language with some variations for each Indian nation.

The Indians signed the treaties and examples of what they agreed to are as follows:

As the English cannot distinguish one Indian from another and that no Indians shall come into any English plantation painted, and that all Indians shall be bound to call aloud before they come within three hundred paces of any Englishmen's clear ground and lay down their arms, and call aloud to give notice of his nearer approach. If an Indian refuses to throw down his arms upon meeting an Englishmen, he shall be deemed as an enemy.[45]

The Indians were granted the privilege in these treaty agreements of crabbing, and fowl hunting and fishing.[46] They agreed to undergo punishment under English law for killing or stealing a hog, calf or other animal.[47] The Indians were bound to return to the nearest English plantation any runaway servants or slaves hiding in the Indian towns.[48] The Emperors agreed to not make any new peace with the enemies of the English or make any war without the consent of the Lord Proprietary of Maryland.[49] The treaties stated that killing Ababco, the Indian King who turned in enemy Indians to the English, was the same as killing an Englishman.[50] All of these statements were standard language in every agreement.

Why the Indians would go along with these articles of peace, which were agreements of subjugation to the English, can only be surmised. The Indians agreeing to the peace treaties were trying to save their remaining numbers. This assumption can be made considering the fact that Edmund Scarburgh was permitted to enter the Province of Maryland and nearly wipe out the Assateague Indians without major opposition. Also in 1647, there was an order for Captain John Price to take thirty or forty men with arms, ammunition and vessels over to the towns of the Nanticoke and Wicomiss Indians situated to the eastward of the Province. They were to destroy these nations by killing, taking prisoners, burning houses and destroying corn.[51] According to the English this order was the result of, "insolencis, rapines, murthers and other cruelties committed by Indians."[52]

The English also had a strong enough hand to use one group of Indians to play a role in the ruin of another less cooperative group. Article two of the peace treaty with Emperor Amoungus of the Assateagues dated June 16, 1678 states that the Emperor shall deliver up the whole nation of Wicomisses, and all those Indians that protected the murders of Captain Odber who lived at Chicacoane.[53]

The English fear of the Indians is evident in the records and prompted an exaggerated response on the part of the English to any Indian offenses. An act concerning trade with the Indians and a 1676 act "touching pagans," which licensed inhabitants and prohibited foreigners from trading with the Indians, was repealed in 1682 because of a complaint against the Delaware Indians.[54] The Province decided that it was dangerous to allow every inhabitant to trade with the Indians except at official places. In Somerset County trade was allowed at the residences of Col. William Stevens or Captain John Winder.[55]

Although the terms of orders, acts and licenses varied through time, they all restricted the activities of the Indians with the English settlers. On Sept. 14, 1687 the Nanticokes, through their interpreter, Christopher Nutter, renewed a peace agreement with the English and requested free trade.[56] On Sept. 15 1687, a Government order gave a general license to the inhabitants of Maryland to trade freely with the Indians for one year, except flesh (not including deer and wildfowl) and strong drink.[57]

Through the years the acts consistently prevented the Indians from reaping profits through trade. By the 1690s there was again an act prohibiting trade with the Indians for deer, elk, skins, and furs without license with a penalty for violation of ten thousand pounds of tobacco.[58] A 1694 act restricted the exportation of the leather and raw hides of deer and elk out of the Province to encourage the "shoemakers and tanners" industry.[59]

The acts and orders established the official Government view of the Indians. The following are actual court cases involving relations between the Indians. The following are actual court cases involving relations between the Indians and English settlers on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

In 1669 the Ababco Indians from the Eastern Shore brought to the General Assembly at St. Mary's on the Western Shore, a prisoner named Anatchcom alias Wianamon for the murder of Captain Odber at Chicacone.[60] Anatchcom was a Wicomiss Indian and he affirmed that the Wicomisses lived "a small days journey" from the head of the Nanticoke River.[61] He denied committing the murder of Captain Odber, and further asserted that his wife was killed at the home of William Hemsley in Talbot County.[62] The court found "diverse storeys" concerning the captive and relied on the statement of Wimacaponas, "a little Indian" who testified that Anatchcom was the murder.[63]

The story of the death of Anatchcom's wife was unjustly not addressed by the court, and the records do not clarify if there was a connection between her death and the death of Captain Odber. The evidence against Anatchcom appears to be inconclusive. Considering that his execution was already scheduled before there was a hearing, he did not receive a fair trial. As enemies of the Province, however, the Wicomisses were most likely not entitled to a fair trial under English law.

King Ababco, who was well regarded by the Government throughout the court records, was interested in the preservation of his nation. In April of 1669, Ababco, Tequassino, Hatsawap and the rest of the kings near the Choptank River on the Eastern Shore, made requests to the Lower House of the General Assembly. These Choptank area Indians requested a considerable present or reward for their fidelity because they delivered up the murderer of Captain Odber, as they had done with other Wicomiss enemies.[64] They requested protection from the Government because they believed that they would be destroyed by the Wicomiss Nation who also drew into their league the Mathwas Indians.[65] Ababco, Hatsawap and Tequassino and other Indian confederates also requested that Captain Carr in Delaware give a present to and renew the league with the Mathwas Indians.[66]

Another one of their requests took the form of a complaint that the English were encroaching on their land. They insisted that they never sold any land, or gave permission to the English to occupy any lands, on the south side of the Choptank River north of William Stephens Creek.[67] This area was that of the present-day Slaughter Creek which is south of Cambridge in Dorchester County. They stated that the English occupied their cleared fields and allowed cattle and hogs to destroy their corn, which was their subsistence.[68] They requested that land be laid out and patented for them above William Stephens Creek as far north as Secretary Seawalls Creek.[69]

In response to their requests, the Government of Maryland recognized the need for the Choptank area Indians to have their own land and be free from the "incroachment and oppression" of the English.[70] The Government gave the Indians the land on the south side of the Choptank River bound to the west by the freehold of William Dorrington and to the east by Secretary Sewalls Creek, and from the Choptank River three miles into the woods.[71] This tract of land was given to the Indians and their heirs for the yearly rent of six beaver skins.[72] The Government also agreed to pursue a league with the Mathwas and to include Ababco, Hatsawap and Tequassino and their people.[73]

The land that the Choptank area Indians received appears to be a smaller tract than the requested. Stephens Creek as shown on the 1673 map of Augustine Herman (see Exhibit 2) is located more than three miles form the Choptank River. Receiving three miles of land into the woods from the Choptank River is a small tract considering that the Indians used all of the land prior to arrival of the English. The phrase "into the woods" probably indicates the Indians were not given land that they had already cleared. Finally, the records do not state that the land was patented to the Indians. The land was given to the Indians through an act, "for the continuance of peace with and protection of our neighbors and confederate Indians in Choptanke River."[74] This act could be reversed at any time if the Choptank area Indians fell out of favor with the Government of Maryland.

The threat of falling out of favor with the Government was ever present with the Indians on the Eastern Shore. In 1677 David Williams and members of his family in Somerset County were murdered.[75] The details of the murder are not in the court records, but the English believed that an Indian named Krawacom and two other unknown Indians were the murderers.[76] A theme that persists in the records is the great hue and cry that erupted over any offense by the Indians. In the case of the murder of David Williams and his family, Col. William Burgess was ordered to command a party form St. Mary's, Calvert and Charles Counties and sail over to the Nanticoke River.[77] As they passed the mouth of Wicomico River, he was to send an order to Col. William Colebourne to meet them up the Nanticoke River at Chicacone, the resident town of the Emperor of Nanticoke.[78]

At Chicacone, Burgess was also to meet forces from Dorchester, Talbot, Kent and Cecil Counties.[79] Arms and supplies that were immediately needed were to come from Somerset and Dorchester Counties and secondarily from the more distant counties.[80]

Burgess was ordered to assure the Indians, including the Indians at Choptank, the Assateagues and the Nanticokes, that they would not be harmed provided that the Nanticoke Emperor Unnacokassimon delivered Krawacom, a Gascoway Indian, and the two other murderers to the Government of Maryland.[81] Krawacom was an Indian belonging to the King of Checonesseck at Whorekill who went among the Nanticokes in the summer of 1676 to trade.[82]

The order specifically states that Burgess was to make the Indians understand that the English wanted prisoners who actually committed or assisted in the murders, and not a "like number."[83] The Indians were to understand that the peace of the Province was contingent upon being delivered the murderers and that the English did not fear them. The English were clearly mobilizing for war, and at the same time wanted Burgess to renew peace treaties with each Indian nation. Col. Burgess had the advice and assistance of Col. Henry Coursey, Mr. Christopher Rousby, Col. William Colebourne, Mr. William Stevens and Mr. John White.[84]

As in the case of the death of Captain Odber at Chicacoane, the records do not indicate the reason for the murder of David Williams and his family, and there was no mention of a trial for the alleged murderers. The records give the impression that these were arbitrary and unprovoked murders by "savages." The sense is that the Government believed that if even one Indian was not punished for an offense, all of the Indians would go on a rampage against the English. This fear may have stemmed from the fact that the Indians were non-Christian and culturally different from the English, but also because the English gave the Indians cause to be hostile.

In March of 1677 several great men of the Nanticoke Indians came with Col. Henry Coursey to speak with the Governor about the David Williams murders.[85] They brought with them an Indian that they decided was one of the murderers because he could not account for two matchcoates [coat or robe of fur], two pairs of shoes, two pair of "F." stockings, one shirt and one pair of breeches that were all in his possession after the murders.[86] The Nanticoke Indians declared that they were ashamed of the murders committed on the English, and attempted to appease the English, and attempted to appease the English with an Indian custom. They brought with them two additional Indians to be sacrificed for the murders.[87] The great men were also ready to lose their lives in sacrifice to the English.[88]

The English communicated to the Indians that it was not their custom to put innocent people to death, but that Col. Coursey would keep the two Indians in custody.[89] The English hoped to exchange the two Indians for two English children of the Dickinson and Watts families who were taken by the Wicomisses and had lived with the Nanticokes.[90] There was apparently no knowledge among the Nanticokes of the whereabouts of the children, and the two Indians in custody were returned to the Eastern Shore.

The conclusion of this incident is that the Indians were no fools in offering up volunteers to be sacrificed in place of the real murderers. The gesture diffused the fear and wrath of the English, and peace treaties with the Indian nations were renewed and consolidated. The Nanticoke Indian prisoner who possessed the English items was held in custody for the murder of David Williams and his family, and in this case not immediately executed. In August of 1678 the prisoner escaped from the high sheriff of St. Mary's County and was among the Rappahannock Indians of Virginia. A warrant was issued for his execution as soon as he was recaptured.[91] In June of 1687 a similar scenario took place, but this time there were three Englishmen who killed a Nanticoke Indian at Bush River in Baltimore County.[92] The Emperor of the Nanticokes demanded that the three Englishmen be delivered over to him to be put to death.[93] In this case the murderers were known men, and two were "Mrs. Stanbyes servant and a freeman in the same house."[94] According to the records, not less than fifty Indians had gone to find the murderers. The records state that two families were cut off and there were eight hundred in arms, but there is no mention of additional deaths.[95]

Again the Province called a general muster to be ready at an hour's warning. The officers and soldiers of Baltimore, Calvert, Charles, Ann Arundel, Cecil, Kent, Talbot, Dorchester and Somerset Counties were called to arms.[96] The chief militia officers in Somerset County were Col. William Stevens and Col. William Colebourne, and Stevens was sent to negotiate with the Emperor of the Nanticokes. He was instructed to try to renew the peace treaty made in 1678 with the old Emperor Unnacokessimon.[97]

In a July 1687 letter to Col. Stevens from the Governor's Council, there is an admitted fear of the Indians. The letter further states, whether founded on truth or not, that the late Emperor was poisoned by Indians who did not wish well to the English, and that the new Emperor was a usurper.[98]

In August of 1687 a meeting of peace was held at the house of Captain John Winder on the Wicomico River and included Col. William Stevens, Col. William Colebourne, Mr. Francis Jenkins, and Mr. Christopher Nutter and John Mallet as Indian interpreters.[99] The Nanticoke Indians included Opeter (Ohopperoon), the brother of the late Emperor Unnacokessimon, and the great men, Cotah, Omapatoe, Wannamah, Hamatoh War Captain, Pacemaker and Chinopah.[100]

The Indians agreed to meet with the Governor's Council and did so in September of 1687. At this meeting the English and the Indians made friendly comments to each other, and then the Indians proceeded to request a patent for their land, because the English took their land and had not paid them any "coates."[101] The Indians also stated that the English took four beaver from them.[102] The next day Samuel Cooper, a deputy surveyor of Somerset County was ordered to survey and layout land for the Indians.[103]

The court records show that there were repeated complaints of English encroachment on Indian land well into the 18th century. In May, 1686 the Kings of Pocomoke and Assateague with great men of other Indian nations on the Eastern Shore presented themselves to the Governor's Council with John Townsend and an Indian called Tom as interpreters.[104]

The five nations of Pocomoke, Annamessex, Manoakin, Nasswattex and Aquintica cohabited at a place called Askiminokonson Neck, and these Indians complained that Charles Scarborough and others, including Mr. Whittington and Captain Osbourne, moved onto "their land."[105] They informed the court that encroachment of the English had already driven them from Pocomoke and Acquintica and from there to Askiminokonson.[106]

They also complained of damage to their corn fields caused by cattle and horses crossing two bridges over the head of the Pocomoke River and Askiminokonson Creek.[107] They requested that all the land to the westward of Askiminokonson Creek, (also called Nassawango Creek which divided Askiminokonson Neck from Nasswattex), not inhabited by the English be added to their Neck.[108]

The order was issued concerning the boundaries of land for the five nations. The land included,

The northwest side of the Pocomoke River in a neck called Askinemeconson bounded on another side by a creek called Nassiongo Creek, from the northe of the creek up two miles above the horse bridge and up the river one mile above Edward Hamon's house.[109]

Swinging gates were ordered to be installed on each bridge that would shut automatically to keep out the horses and cattle.[110] John Kelmne was ordered to make four swinging gates, James Round to do the iron work for the gates and Mr. Samuel Cooper, the surveyor, to layout the land.[111] The Indians desired more land than was allotted to them, but the Board maintained that "noe land taken up by patent by any person can be ascertained to the Indians."[112]

Next on the agenda of the court the King of Assateague complained that Mr. William Brown, Edward Hammond, William Bowen, John Fossett, Henry Bishop and others encroached on the Indians in the town where they lived.[113] The nations under the Emperor of Assateague, were Assateagues, Transquakins, Chopticos, Moteawaughkins, Quequashkecasquicks, Hatsawaps, Wachetaks, Maraughquaicks and Manasksons and they requested land where Ambroise White formerly lived. They stated, "the place where they now live being all swampy and barren sandy ground and that no encroachments on them be permitted."[114] They particularly complained that Edward Hammond desecrated the tomb of one of their kings. After the death of an Indian king, it was a custom to,

save his bones and make a case with skinns where they inclose the bones and fill it up with ronoke and other their riches. Hammond stole skins and Roanoke from a kings burial place. Epimore, a great man of Assateague saw the items at Hammond's house and Manassen, an Indian that lived with Hammond saw him bring them home.[115]

It was ordered that the complaints of the Indians be handled by Col. William Stevens, Mr. Francis Jenkins, Col. William Colebourne, Mr. Thomas Newbold, Captain John Osbourne, Mr. James Round and Mr. John Townsend. The commission's conclusions were clearly biased towards the English. The found "noe cause for the complaint against Edward Hammond."[116]

The King of Assateague also complained that Edward Hammond had not paid the matchcoate promised the King of Capomco and yet had occupied Capomco. Thomas Poynter then made an oath that, "he heard the King of Capomco declare that he received a matchcoate of Edward Hamon in consideration of his seating there."[117]

Mr. Jones Round, a member of the commission who represented his neighbors at Nasswattex Neck and on the seaside, petitioned for a new law because the Indians were, "a people soe sly and private in their evill actions and laugh at the English, and they daily kill great numbers of hogges and several horses in their town."[118] The law he had in mind would have allowed taking prisoner any Indian king or chief if hogs, horses, or cattle were found killed, until the guilty Indian was delivered to the English or satisfaction was made to the aggrieved party.[119]

Six months later in November 1686, the petition of James Round was answered by the Council. Mr. Round was told that the Council cannot give orders for the taking of Indian Kings and great men unless there was proof that they themselves had killed animals owned by the English.[120]

Also at this time, Indians belonging to the Kings of Pocomoke, Annamessex, Nasswattex, Quandanquan and Aquintica came to the Council and made it known that they were not satisfied with the land as laid out by Col. Stevens and the others. They complained that it was, "barren and good for nothing," and wanted some of the land occupied by Bennitt Smith and "Osborn."[121] The Board told the Indians that they could not grant land that was already claimed by the English. The Indians wee dissatisfied with this reply, and the Board promised that they could have more land if they would fence in their corn fields. The Indians did not like this stipulation and were "very much discontented."[122] As a conciliatory gesture the Council ordered thirty matchcoates to be delivered to Col. Stevens to present, at his discretion, to the several Indian Kings on the Eastern Shore.[123]

By the 1690s and into the 18th century, officials were designated in each county to reside over hearings of local differences between the Indians and the English.[124] By 1697 a meeting and consultation was held at the new State house in Annapolis about Indian affairs.[125] In spite of decreased Indian numbers English suspicion of the Indians did not wane. The designated officials to reside over disputes were ordered to visit the Indians in their jurisdictions once or twice a week to look for "strange" or suspicious Indians. If such persons were found, they were to alert the militia.[126]

In 1698 King Nicanoughtough, a Choptank Indian above Cambridge and five of his great men, complained that Major Taylor, Henry Thomas, Mr. John Anderson and three others established plantations on "their land."[127] The Governor told the Indians that as long as they behaved themselves they would be protected. Contrary to this assurance, the Indians stated that about one hundred Indian men were dead on the Eastern Shore, and complained that some of the English "forwarne them from hunting upon their land."[128]

In the same year land differences again appear in the records when King Panquas and Armaulauquan of the Nanticokes complained that Col. Charles Hutchins, Nehemiah Covington, John Hans and Christopher Nutter each established a plantation on their lands at Nanticoke.[129] The Indians explained that the officials designated to settle these matters, Thomas Ennals and Thomas Hicks, paid no attention to their complaints.[130] As a friendly gesture, the Nanticoke Indians then presented the Governor with a piece of wampum [beads used as currency among North American Indians and white settlers], and he took a small piece.[131]

At this time the nations of the Nanticokes consisted of ten towns, and the English were not certain of their exact numbers. The Governor's Council recorded in 1697 that,

the Eastern Shore Indians remover very often into Virginia and Pensilvania; sot tis almost impossible to have the exact number of men or towns; but some of those which are called so, have not twenty families in them. The number of the Indians in these parts decrease very much by reason of the small pox, a distemper they had not before the Europeans came amongst them, and by their old way of poisoning, which they are very expert in; but the greatest cause of all is their being so devilishly given to drinking, especially of rum, for procuring which they will even sell or pawn all they have.[132]

This statement does not address the fact that the Indians were being pushed off the land, and that the English had destroyed most of the Assateagues and probably the Wicomisses.

Towards the end of the 17th century encroachment became all the more devastating to the Indians as the numbers of English increased. A list of inhabitants in Somerset County in 1701 showed a population of 5,404 of taxables and untaxed, and the largest population of any county in the Province at that time.[133]

As late as 1723, complaints continued about English encroachment on Indian land on the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland, and the English appeared to have little or no respect for the Indians and their culture. The Nanticoke Indians complained in 1723 that the English took possession of their lands contrary to the faith of the treaties. The complaint was made against Captain John Rider of Dorchester County and Mr. William Ennals and others.[134] John Rider and the other intruders were forbidden to disturb or injure the Indians, and Rider petitioned the court to prove his innocence.[135] He claimed his right to the land because the Indians deserted the land for twelve months.[136] Aside from the fact that "squatters rights" did not apply after only one year, by 1723 the English were familiar with the Indians' migratory customs, and that they would return to their lands. The matter, however, was referred by the Council to the Upper and Lower Houses of the Assembly to interpret the meaning of the act by which the Nanticoke Indians held their land.[137]

In conclusion, the court records of the Province of Maryland during the 17th and early 18th centuries document relations between the English and the Indians form the English perspective. The many orders and acts concerning the Indians, such as those pertaining to trade, show a Government that did not foster friendship. Although there were probably many instances of friendly relations between the colonial English and the Indians on the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland, the predominant theme in the court records, as was demonstrated by John Rider in Dorchester County, reveals the English attitude of superiority over the Indians. This attitude was present at the onset of English settlement when Captain John Smith shot at the Kuskarawaoks to establish his dominance. The attitude of superiority was characteristic of British imperialism, and on the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland led to the long term pattern of encroachment of the English settlers on the land of the Indians. The repeated cases of encroachment in the court records documents the permanent destruction of the Indian culture through time, rather than the more immediate destruction through wars. The records show some evidence of war, as with Edmund Scarburgh, but also show that the English were more interested in the quiet subjugation of the Indians.

Disputes, however, did emerge between the English and the Indians. The English habit of patenting the land for ownership versus the Indians' migratory and non-ownership approach to the land led to conflict. Settlement of the disputes was typically in favor of the English as was seen in the complaints against Edward Hammond. As the English encroached on the land, they disregarded the Indian culture and means for survival. If animals owned by the English were ruining the crops growing on the meager and allotted to the Indians, the Indians were responsible for putting up fences. The Indians were also pushed onto smaller and less desirable tracts of land. The Indians became disgruntled and even hostile over the aggression of the English. The English then typically attempted to work with the Indians in a friendly manner, as with the peace treaties, while also feeling fearful and suspicious of the Indians. Intermittently, the English succumbed to an ever present fear of the Indians and amassed the entire militia against them for the safety of the Province.

In an attempt at survival, the Indians consummated peace treaties with the Government of Maryland. The success of the treaties was contingent on total subjugation and loyalty to the Proprietary Government. Indians consenting to the terms of the peace treaties were expected to betray Indians who were enemies of the Government of Maryland. The Assateagues, the Nanticokes and various smaller groups such as the Ababcos assisted in a two year punitive war against the Wicomiss Indians, who lived just north of the Nanticokes.[138] King Ababcos was the most willing of the kings in the court records to turn in enemy Indians.

Few sources survive today to learn about the Indians and their culture on the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland in the 17th and early 18th centuries. After analyzing the court records, the plight of the Indians on the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland can easily be seen and related generally to the plight of the Indians to contemporary times.


1 Archives of Maryland, Vol. XXXVIII, p. 104.

2 John Smith, The Genrall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, Inc., 1966), p. 41.

3 Ibid.

4 Philip L. Barbour, Editor, The Complete Works of Captain John Smith (1580-1631), Volume I (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1986), p. 150.

5 Ibid., Volume II, p. 164.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid., p. 165.

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid.

12 Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Captain John Smith: A Select Edition of His Writings (Chapel Hill: University of North Caro lina Press, 1988), p. 7.

13 Ibid.

14 Ibid., pp. 7-8.

15 Ibid., p. 8.

16 J. Douglas Deal, Race and Class in Colonial Virginia: Indians, Englishmen, and Africans on the Eastern Shore During the Seventeenth Century (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1993), p. 19.

17 Ibid., p. 14.

18 Ibid., pp. 14 and 23.

19 Ibid., p. 23.

20 Ibid.

21 Ibid.

22 Ibid., p. 31.

23 Archives of Maryland, Volume III, p. 379.

24 Ibid.

25 Ibid.

26 Ibid.

27 Deal, p. 32.

28 Ibid.

29 Ibid.

30 Ibid., p. 33.

31 Ibid.

32 Ibid., p. 106.

33 Ibid., p. 116.

34 Ibid., p. 129.

35 Ibid., Volume XLI, p. 593.

36 Ibid., Volume I, p. 250.

37 Ibid., p. 348.

38 Ibid.

39 Ibid., Volume LXV, p. xxiv.

40 Ibid. , pp. 37 and 40.

41 Ibid., p. 55.

42 Ibid. , p.54.

43 Ibid., p. xxvi.

44 Ibid., Volume XV, pp. 170, 173, and 213; Volume V, p. 558 and Volume XXV, p. 103.

45 Ibid., Volume V, p. 559.

46 Ibid.

47 Ibid.

48 Ibid.

49 Ibid., p. 560.

50 Ibid.

51 Ibid., Volume III, p. 191.

52 Ibid.

53 Ibid., Volume XV, P. 170.

54 Ibid., Volume VII, p. 381.

55 Ibid., p. 382.

56 Ibid., Volume V, p. 556.

57 Ibid., p. 557.

58 Ibid., Volume XIII, p. 560.

59 Ibid., Volume XXXVIII, p. 5.

60 Ibid., Volume II, p. 195.

61 Ibid.

62 Ibid.

63 Ibid.

64 Ibid., p. 197.

65 Ibid., p. 196.

66 Ibid., p. 197.

67 Ibid., p. 196.

68 Ibid.

69 Ibid.

70 Ibid., p. 200.

71 Ibid.

72 Ibid.

73 Ibid.

74 Ibid.

75 Ibid., Volume XV, p. 142.

76 Ibid.

77 Ibid.

78 Ibid.

79 Ibid.

80 Ibid.

81 Ibid.

82 Ibid., Volume XV, p. 146.

83 Ibid., p. 142.

84 Ibid., p. 143.

85 Ibid., p. 145.

86 Helen C. Roundtree, The Powhatan Indians of Virginia: Their Traditional Culture (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989), p. 170 and Ibid.

87 Ibid., pp.145-146.

88 Ibid., p. 146.

89 Ibid., p. 147.

90 Ibid.

91 Ibid., p. 191.

92 Ibid., Volume V, p. 548-549.

93 Ibid.

94 Ibid., p. 548.

95 Ibid.

96 Ibid., pp. 548-549.

97 Ibid., pp. 551-552.

98 Ibid., p. 553.

99 Ibid., p. 555.

100 Ibid.

101 Ibid., p. 556.

102 Ibid.

103 Ibid., p. 557.

104 Ibid., p. 479.

105 Ibid.

106 Ibid.

107 Ibid.

108 Ibid., p. 480.

109 Ibid., p. 518.

110 Ibid.

111 Ibid.

112 Ibid., p. 519.

113 Ibid., p. 480.

114 Ibid.

115 Ibid.

116 Ibid., pp. 483-517.

117 Ibid., p. 517.

118 Ibid., p. 519.

119 Ibid.

120 Ibid., p.525.

121 Ibid., p.520.

122 Ibid.

123 Ibid., p. 525-526.

124 Ibid., Volume XXXVIII, p. 104.

125 Ibid., Volume XXIII, p. 242.

126 Ibid., p. 246.

127 Ibid., p. 456.

128 Ibid., p. 457.

129 Ibid. p. 456.

130 Ibid.

131 Ibid., p. 457 and Charles Earle Funk, Editor, Funk and Wagnalls New College Standard Dictionary (New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1947) p. 1318.

132 Ibid., Volume XXV, p. 256.

133 Ibid., p. 255.

134 Ibid., p. 420.

135 Ibid., pp. 420 and 423.

136 Ibid.

137 Ibid.

138 Deal, p. 38.

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