Onaquaga Exhibit Reinterpreted
Since 1971 there has been a small exhibit at the Colesville/Windsor museum at St.
Luke’s Church in Harpursville that deals with the former Native American
villages in the Onaquaga (On-a-qua-ga) Valley. Onaquaga is located near the Broome
County village of Windsor.
This spring the Onaquaga museum exhibit has been reinterpreted by Marge Hinman, a
founder of the Old Onaquaga Historical Society which spent many years in the
1960’s promoting the idea of establishing a State Historic Site at Onaquaga.
The exhibit outlines the importance of 18th century Onaquaga.
Onaquaga was especially important because there was major interaction there between
Indians and white men for half a century before the American Revolution. The new
exhibit, with illustrations, lists 14 reasons why Onaquaga was important:
- Two Iroquois Nations lived at Onaquaga; an Oneida village was located around
the island in the Susquehanna and Tuscarora villages were to the north and south
along the river.
- The settlement was the southernmost village of the Six Nations and so closest
to many white settlements, the destinations of trading and raiding expeditions.
- It was on the "Old Warriors Trail" from Capouse Meadows (North
Scranton) to Onaquaga and north and east.
- It is the closest place where the Susquehanna River comes to the Delaware River
so there was a carrying place between the two (perhaps Mount Carmel Road off of the
East Windsor Road or present Rt 17.)
- In 1736, before Sir William Johnson became Indian Agent for the Crown, he set
up a trading post at Onaquaga.
- In 1756 a fort was built there during the French and Indian War to protect the
families of the men so they would go to war with the British. It was destroyed in
1762 at the request of the Indians.
- From 1748 to 1777 missionaries ministered to the people living there. Those who
lived there before the Revolution were Rev. Elihu Spencer (1748), Rev. Gideon
Hawley (1753-1757) who left a map and diaries that contain invaluable information
on the settlement (his interpreter was Rebecca Ashley), Mr. Bowman (1761), Eli
Forbes & Asaph Rice (1762), Rev. Charles Jeffrey Smith (1763), Joseph Wooley, a
teacher (1764-65), Rev. Theophilus Chamberlin & Titus Smith (1765), Rev.
Ebenezer Moseley (1765-73), and Aaron Crosby (1774-1777.)
- Rebecca Kellogg Ashley, probably the only white woman living there, died in
1757. The Tuscarora Chapter, D.A.R., remembered her with a marker on Dutchtown Road
- Many at Onaquaga became Christians and chose to stay on the side of the
Americans during the Revolution, much to the credit of Rev. Samuel Kirkland.
- The residents of Onaquaga adopted many of the white man’s ways by
building log houses with stone chimneys and glass windows, and using farming
techniques (plows and planted hayfields). Mr. Gunn was a blacksmith there.
- Chief Joseph Brant had a farm and cattle at Onaquaga and married the daughter
of an Onaquaga chief. He chose to fight with the British and used Onaquaga as a
base of operations.
- In 1778 Gov. George Clinton requested Gen. Washington to have Onaquaga and
neighboring Unadilla destroyed because they were being used as bases of operation
by the British and their Indian allies. So, in October, 1778 the 4th Pennsylvania
Regiment came from Schoharie and destroyed the towns. No lives were lost, but in
retaliation Cherry Valley was raided.
- In August, 1779 Gen. James Clinton’s army camped at the burned out
Onaquaga Village on their way to meet Gen Sullivan’s army at Tioga Point.
- In 1883 the Revolutionary War ended and in 1886 some of the first settlers in
Broome County began their homesteads on lands that earlier had been cleared by the
residents of Onaquaga.
Colin G. Calloway, in his book, The American Revolution in Indian Country:
Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities, included Onaquaga as one
of the eight most important Indian communities of the Revolutionary period.
You can see this exhibit at St. Luke’s in Harpursville on the 2nd and 4th
Sunday afternoons, 2-5, during June through October, or by appointment by calling
Marge Hinman at (607) 655-3174.
Otsiningo In The 18th Century
Otsiningo was a neighboring settlement that was contemporary with Onaquaga. Both
settlements were composed of several villages that were spread out along the river.
Both areas served as resettlement areas for Indian people who were feeling pressure
from white settlement in the south and east who were invited to take shelter under
the Iroquois Tree of Peace. You can learn more about Onaquaga in a book written by
Marge Hinman, Onaquaga: Hub of the Border Wars and Dolores Elliott’s
Otsiningo: An Example of an 18th Century Settlement Pattern in Current
Perspectives in Northeastern Archeology edited by Funk and Hayes will give you
more information on Otsiningo.
Contributed by Marjorie Hinman
and Dolores Elliott