History of the Brothertown Indians
By Richard L. Williams, Kirkland/Clinton Historian
The Waterville Times, February 3, 2016
The history of the Brothertown Indians, who occupied parts of the towns
of Kirkland and Marshall in Oneida County, is not the ordinary story
about New York Indians.
The Clinton Historical Society has files on Brothertown history and a
land indenture showing transfer of Brothertown lands to Rufus Butler.
In colonial Connecticut many pressures for Indian land by white colonists
plus King Phillips War and disease decimated .various tribes by the
mid-1700s. Parts of different tribes gathered to live aroundFarmington, Connecticut where there were many Tunxis Indians. Some Indian
leaders developed a plan to move remnants of several tribes away from
that area to start anew. The Indian leaders wrote letters to Mohegan,
Niantics, Groton Pequots, Stonington Pequots of Connecticut,
Narragansetts of Rhode Island and Montauks of Long Island urging
migration. Representatives went to Oneida Indians in Central New York,
who granted the Brothertown Indians land some 10 to 15 miles southwest of
Utica. This was in 1773, but the Revolutionary War halted more migration
plans as some who had migrated returned to New England and some spent the
war at Fort Stanwix in today’s Rome.
Leaders of the Brothertown Indians were Rev. Samson Occom, a Mohegan who
was an ordained Presbyterian minister, David Fowler, a Montauk, and Rev.
Joseph Johnson, a Baptist minister and a Mohegan.
In the 1784 period about 200 English-speaking Brothertown Indians settled
and began a community of farmers who practiced Christianity. About 450
lived there at its peak, but NYS reduced the grant in 1796 to 9,000
acres. The state sold off 149 lots to whites who were anxious for the
Quaker missionary Rev. John Dean arrived in 1795 and started a school and
a church. His son, Thomas Dean, became the Indian Agent after his father
died. Deansville was named after him. It became Deansboro in 1894 as U.S.
mail often went to Dansville in Western New York in confusion.
By the 1820s encroachment by whites proved relentless, causing pressure
on the Brothertowns to sell or lease. Thomas Dean traveled west to look
for a new home for the Brothertowns. Between 1830 and 1848 the
Brothertown Indians migrated west again. This time they landed on a
reservation in Calumet County on the east side of Lake Winnebago in
Wisconsin. In 1839 the Indians were granted citizenship and lost their
land and tribal status.
The land transfer showed that state-appointed Indian Agents Samuel Jones,
Ezra L’Hommedieu, and Zina (Zena) Hitchcock sold lot 38 to Rufus Butler
for eight shillings plus 39 pounds and 12 shillings secured on what was
likely a mortgage held by the state. Lot 38 of the Brothertown Patent is
on the east side of Post Street in the Town of Kirkland. Rufus Butler and
wife are buried in the Post Street Cemetery about one quarter of a mile
south past McConnell’s Corners, also on the east side of Post Street.
Witnesses to the Sept. 1, 1795 land transfer were Hugh White and Jonas
Platt. White from Middletown, Conn., settled in Whitestown in 1784 and
became a prominent early settler and later a county judge. He owned 1/4th
of the Sadequada Patent and part of the Oriskany Patent, which consisted
of 3,000 acres on the south side of the Mohawk River between Sauquoit
Creek and Oriskany Creek. Samuel Jones, another Brothertown Agent, had
been a state senator and a judge of the Common Pleas Court in the early I
820s. He was a director of the Western Inland Navigation Lock Co., which
constructed a partial canal around the Little Falls cascades. Ezra
L’Hommedieu was a prominent patriot of Southold, SuHolk County and
circulated in the top political and Federalist circles in the early years
of the republic. After graduating from Yale in 1754 and being admitted
to the bar, he served as a member of the state assembly (1777-83),
Continental Congress (1779-83 and 1788), state senator (1784-92 and
1794-1809), clerk of Suffolk County (1784-1810), and Regent to the
University of the State of New York (1787-1811) . His wife was Charity
Floyd, sister of General William Floyd. L’Hommedieu also speculated in
stock of the Western Lock Navigation Co. and served as a director.
L’Hommedieu was an agent for the State of New York at some treaties with
Mohawk Indians in the 1790s. Platt was later Oneida County’s first clerk
in 1798 and also a member of the state assembly and senate, member of
Congress 1799-1801, and a justice of the State Supreme Court. He ran for
governor in 1810 and was an original trustee of Kirkland’s
Hamilton-Oneida Academy, the forerunner of Hamilton College, in 1793.
By Janet Dangler
The Waterville Times, February 3, 2016
The Last of the Brothertown Indians, Romance Wyatt, who died in 1907, was described as a kindhearted gentleman who had a sense of humor, laughed often and enjoyed a good joke. But to appreciate his story, it’s necessary to understand a little of the history of the Brothertowns.
Around 1774, the remnants of once-mighty tribes, reduced in numbers and driven from their homes in New England, New Jersey and Long Island, united to form a new tribe at the encouragement of the Oneida Indians, part of the Five Nations in New York State. The Oneidas were land-rich at that time, and deeded them land about 10 miles square around the present Town of Marshall, extending from the foot of Sanger Hill northward along Brothertown Road, across Forge Hollow, along the east side of the Deansboro Valley and up to the Dugway at Franklin Springs. Because so many tribes had joined to make a family, and because they were intent on following a path of peace, they decided on the name Brothertown. Due to the fact they had no common language, they adopted the English language. Among the tribes represented were the Pequot, Narragansett, Natnick, Mohegan and Montauk.
Romance Wyatt, by all accounts, was a Montauk. Wyatt was born in 1826 in the Town of Marshall. Here accounts of his very early life differ. Some tell us that the age of 6 months his parents gave him to Cynthia Dick to raise; others state his parents died when he was 6 months old and he was adopted; and others assert that, although he had no memory of his mother, he was seven years old when his father died. However he came to live with Cynthia Dick of Dicksville, the fact remains she nurtured and cared for him, making sure he attended Dicksville school until he was 12 or 13 years old. After that time, he worked for farmers in the area, but decided to start for Green Bay, Wisc, where many of his fellow tribesmen, including Cynthia Dick, had emigrated due to the increasing demand for Brothertown land by the whites. At one time there were 600 members of the tribe and they were said to be industrious farmers. Gradually they gave up and moved. Wyatt stayed in the Northwest only a few years, however, and came back to live in Marshall, where he went to work on the Chenango Canal which opened in 1837. He was at first a driver and then promoted to steersman, at which position he worked for over 30 seasons. In those days a canaller had to fight his way along the towpath and at the locks. It is said that young Wyatt never picked a fight, but when forced into one he always came out on top; when he had a black eye the other fellow had two.