York Daily Record (York, Pa), 3 Jul 1976, Sat, Pg.32
Page 28 Bicentennial Edition (1776-1976), York Daily Record, Saturday, July 3, 1976 They Ruled The Lower Susquehanna The Mighty Susquehannock Indians Volumes have been written about the prominent role of York Towne in the American Revolution and of the colonial leaders involved in events which shaped the future of the nation and enriched the history of this community. Much less is known, however, about those who ruled the Lower Susquehanna before the European intrusion a nation of Indians Warrior The above drawing of a Susquehannock Indian was made by John White, an artist who accompanied Capt. John Smith on exploration of the lower Susquehanna River in the early 1600s. known as the Susquehannocks. Through the journals of early explorers and traders, among them the famous Capt. John Smith, and more recently uirough archeological findings in York and Lancaster Counties, historians have pieced together a quite accurate if not complete picture of the colorful tribe. diggings confirmed the one site, but the location of the others is notknown. Important discoveries of Susquehannock burial grounds, artifacts and metal objects traded by the early white visitors to America have been made in York County sites near Long Level. 'Well preserved skeletons were among these findings. Although much is still buried that would shed further light on the Susquehannocks, exploration already has shown their presence not only in the lower Susquehanna but also on the North and West Branches of the river, on the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River, and on the South Branch of the Potomac. Dr. Paul A. W. Wallace, in his book Indians in Pennsylvania, writes that the Susquehannocks were established at an early time in the fertile region around the Forks of the Susquehanna (Tioga Point), where the Chemung River joins the North Branch at what is now Athens, Pa. This is in Bradford County near the New York state border. There is historical evidence that a considerable number of the tribe lived around the Fork as late as 1615. Archeological evidence show also that there had been a large community of Susquehannocks in the lower Susquehanna as early as 1580. The Susquehannocks lived in stockaded villages, each headed by a chief. Their typical longhouse was from 30 to 100 or more feet in length, having a door at each end, a corridor down the middle, and bunks lining the sides. Each family lived around a hearth in the corridor with a smoke hole above it. Several families occupied the longhouse, being separated by a bark partition pipes for presents. Such great and well proportioned men are seldome seene, for they seemed like Giants to the English, yea and to the neighbors: yet seemed of an honest and simple disposition, with much adoe restrained from adoring the discoverers as Gods. These are the strangest people of all those Countries, both in language and attire; for their language it may well beseeme their proportions, sounding from them, as it were a great voice in a vault, or cave, as an Eccho. Their attire is the skinnes of Beares and Woolves, some have Cassacks made of Bears heades and skinnes that a mans necke goes through the skinnes neck, and the ears of the beare fasned to his shoulders behind, the nose and teeth hanging downe his breast, and at the end of the nose hung a Beares Pa we: the halfe sleeves comming to the elbowes were the necks of Beares and the armes through the mouth, with pawes hanging at their noses ..." Historians have various theories about who was the first white man to make contact with the Susquehannocks. It could have been either John Cabot or Amerigo Vespucci. Both embarked in May, 1497, Cabot from Bristol, England; Vespucci from Cadiz, Spain. Both sailed up the Chesapeake Bay and both brought goods to trade with natives. Possibly the first white man seen by the Susquehannocks was David Ingraham, who, with two companions, walked all the way from the Gulf of Mexico to Nova Scotia in 1569. They had been put ashore to die by an English admiral. Eventually the shrewd Susquehannocks became a fought many battles with the Senecas and others of the Iroquois Nations over the valuable beaver pelt trade with the insatiable Europeans. The coming of the European put all Indians on the defensive, and the Indian, in order to buy what he needed from the white man, had to devote his best energies to hunting. The Beaver Wars, for the Iroquois, became a war for survival. After their hunting grounds were depleted, they fought and disposed of whole nations, not by massacring their people, but by destroying main centers of resistance and so causing their enemies' dispersion. The Iroquois war with the Susquehannocks was a different matter. With guns and armor from the English in Maryland, with whom they had made a peace treaty, the Susquehannocks were able to repulse the Senecas repeatedly. The Susquehannock Fort was located atop a hill near what is now Long Level in York County. Maryland not only furnished weapons but sent soldiers to help strengthen the fort, which was equipped with bastions and mounted artillery. The Senecas attacked the fort in 1663 with what was then a considerable force of 800 warriors. They were easily repulsed. The next year, Maryland declared war on the Senecas. Further help came to the Susquehannocks from the Delawares and the Shawnees. With renewed strength, the Susquehannocks repeatedly raided the Iroquois country and for years maintained superiority in the endless war. Continuous warfare and the ravages of smallpox took their toll. As a final blow, the Maryland Assembly made peace with the Senecas on June 1, 1674, and at the same time voted to make war on its former ally, the Susquehannocks. Historians presume that the Iroquois attacked in force the following winter, for in 1675 the York County fort, heretofore impregnable, fell and the Susquehannocks ceased to exist as a nation. In February, 1675 some of the Susquehannock chiefs sought refuge in Maryland. Instead of protection, they and their dwindling forces were attacked by Maryland and Virginia troops on the Potomac. Five chiefs were said to have been murdered in cold blood. Many others fled to Virginia and were slaughtered. Longhouse This sketch typifies the longhouse, multi-family shelters used by the Susquehannocks and other Indians. Each family lived around a hearth in the corridor, with hole above to allow smoke to escape. The family living areas were separated by bark partitions.