imeline: Some of the events of the 1600s
involving disputes between Delmarva natives and Europeans



From Charles Frakes, Scotts Valley, CA (cefrakes@sbcglobal.net)
15 Aug 2005

The events of 1677-78 are recorded in the Maryland Archives, but only in the broadest of terms. What is known is that English colonists formed militia to war on the Nanticoke Indians for various grievances and trespass.

When looked at in the historical context of the European settlement of the Delmarva, from the south to the north over time, it is clear the root issue was really over the settlement of the native lands by the Europeans. As the Europeans intruded further and further into the native lands, each negative response by the natives to this intrusion was met by Europeans as further justification for punitive expeditions, such as the one of 1677. We know about the militia of 1677 simply because the militiamen were paid by the Provincial Assembly for their efforts, and these payments were recorded, and these records survived in present day Archives.

Here is a brief, and admittedly woefully incomplete, timeline of some of the events of the 1600s involving disputes between the natives and Europeans. Despite its shortcomings, this sampling of the historical events will help you get the idea....


1608: From "Indians of the Lower Eastern Shore", by Gail M. Walczyk, on the GHOTES (Genealogy & History Of The Eastern Shore) of Virginia website at URL http://www.ghotes.net: "It was the second of June in 1608 when Captain John Smith left Jamestown to explore the Chesapeake Bay with 29 men. The search for fresh water took them up the east side or Tangier Sound. At the Wighcomoco River (now Pocomoke,) he met other Indians; these Indians were hostile and rude. The explorers found a great pond of fresh water, refreshed themselves and collected some for their journey up and around the Bay. These encounters and the settlements to shortly come impacted the lives of the Indians forever. There were many small tribes on the Eastern Shore. In lower Somerset County Maryland there were the Pocomokes; including the Pocomokes near Pocomoke, the Annamessex near Crisfield, and the Manokin near Revell's Neck."

[CF Note: 1. This is often alleged to be the first English sortie into the Delmarva peninsula. 2. The Indians to the north of Manokin were the Nanticokes, they were predominantly on the Nanticoke River and its tributary stream Broad Creek. 3. These Delmarva tribes were most closely related to the Delaware and Shawnee, speakers of the linguistically-related Algonquin languages. In many historical references you will see all of the various Indian tribes of the Delmarva collectively referred to as Nanticokes, however inaccurate this is. 4. Bear in mind that the Delmarva peninsula was settled over time from the south (Virginia) to the north (Delaware), so the Indian tribes of the Delmarva were constantly pushed northwards towards the Nanticokes area in the region of future Sussex county, Delaware.]


1632: From the book "The Handy Book for Genealogists", and from "The Nanticoke People" website at URL http://www.graydovetrading.com/Nanticoke.html, paraphrasing:

In 1632 King Charles I of England granted land to George Calvert, Lord Baltimore, to form a colony north of the established Virginia Colony, named Maryland. The boundary of the grant included all of present day Maryland and Delaware, and encompassed the entire homeland of the Nanticoke Indians on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake. In April 15, 1632 the first Lord Baltimore, George Calvert died before completing his dream of setting up a colony in the New World that would allow religious freedom for Protestants
and Catholics.

His son Cecelius Calvert inherited his father's title--and his dream. The Calverts were a Catholic family, but recognized religious toleration in their colony would work to aid in attracting settlers. Two months after his father died, he received the charter from King Charles, granting him the second Lord Baltimore, with almost regal powers and ownership of all the land of the colony he had named Maryland. Lord Calvert used the promise of land ownership to attract settlers to the new colony. Those who would pay their own way to Maryland were granted 100 acres of land, and if they transported servants-men and women who agreed to indentured service for seven years to pay for their passage-they could obtain 100 more acres. Later, that amount was reduced to 50 acres of land, and the servants, after their term of servitude was over, would also be granted 50 acres of land.

When the Maryland Colony was established, it included all the land between the fortieth parallel and the southern bank of the Potomac River. The first settlement was about nine miles up the St. George's River, which empties into the Potomac River, near its mouth. The Maryland Colony grew rapidly due to the pronouncement, by its founder the second Lord Baltimore, extending religious toleration and protection to all Christians.


1633: From the book "The Handy Book for Genealogists", and from "The Nanticoke People" website at URL http://www.graydovetrading.com/Nanticoke.html, paraphrasing:

"Lord Baltimore planned to be peaceful with the Indians and to treat them fairly. He sent his brother Leonard Calvert on the ships Ark and Dove in 1633. The two ships had over 200 settlers (men, women, and children), both Catholic and Protestant. The settlers bought part of the town of Yowaccomoco from the local Powahatan Indians. They traded axes, hoes, cloth, and hatchets. The tribes abandoned their territory through trade, treaty, and force. Yowaccomoco was renamed St. Mary's City. It became the first English colony in the area now known as Maryland. It is located on the western side of the Chesapeake Bay. The settlers built a fort like the ones at Roanoke and Jamestown colonies. Most of the houses and communities were located on the water. Before the streets and roads where laid out, the colonists used Indian paths or boats to get to places. St. Mary's City was the capital of the colony.

[CF Note: This passage speaks of the initial settlement of the western shore of the Chesapeake in Maryland. The eastern shore, the land east of the Chesapeake Bay, and nowadays known as the Delmarva peninsula, was barely settled before 1660. As soon as St. Mary's was settled it is clear traders and explorers moved about from there to evaluate the prospects on the eastern shore. Similarly traders and explorers from Accomac, Virginia to the south were moving up the Delmarve peninsula and interacting with the natives.]


1642-47: From "The Nanticoke People" website at URL http://www.graydovetrading.com/Nanticoke.html:

"The European invaders soon overran the Nanticoke land. The Europeans livestock was allowed to run free, invading the Nanticoke crops, and the European settlers considered disturbance of their livestock by the Indians a crime. The Europeans also encroached on Nanticoke hunting grounds. When the Nanticokes left their villages for seasonal camps the whites would move onto their lands and take them for their own. The Nanticoke frequently raided the colony on both sides of the Chesapeake in an attempt to drive back the invaders or in retaliation for the wanton killing of the people, as well as the unfair practices of many traders that amounted to little more than thievery. In 1642 and again in 1647 the Nanticoke were at full scale war with the Maryland Colony."


From "The Nanticoke Indian Tribe", at URL http://www.nanticokeindians.org/history.cfm:

"Records show that colonists complained that the Nanticoke and other tribes tried to add to their diet by stealing a few hogs and cattle from the settlers. However, the increase of colonists and the decrease in forests had severely depleted game. Although colonial authorities tried at first to protect the Indians traditional existence, both the settlers and traders ignored the local government's suggestions for co-existence with the native people. Unfairly treated, and their way of life severely restricted, Nanticoke and other Indians tried to protect themselves through raids and threats of war. Unfortunately, in 1642 and again in 1647, Maryland Governor Thomas Greene ordered Capt. John Pike of the militia, to attack and destroy the Nanticoke villages and gardens to force them out of the area."


1660: From "Indians of the Lower Eastern Shore", by Gail M. Walczyk, on the GHOTES (Genealogy & Historie Of The Eastern Shore) of Virginia website at URL http://www.ghotes.net:

"The dealings of the Indians and early settlers can be found in the Court records of the three Counties; Northampton and Accomack in Virginia and Somerset in Maryland. The Indians traded with both the English there and the Dutch from New Amsterdam. In 1660, which was before Somerset County was formed, Randall Revel, who represented Maryland at the plantation at Manokin, made an agreement with his Indian neighbors the Nanticoke. It said that every plantation owner was to pay the Indians 6 match coats, neither the English nor the Indians should murder or steal from one another, and the Indians were not to trade with the Dutch. At the time there were 50 persons (males over the age of 16,) living with their families at Manokin and Annamessex."


1668: From "The Nanticoke People" website at URL http://www.graydovetrading.com/Nanticoke.html.

"On May 1, 1668 tayac (head chief) Unnacokasimmon signed the first official peace treaty between the Nanticoke people and the Colony of Maryland. But the treaty did little to stop the theft of the Nanticoke land."


From "The Nanticoke Indian Tribe", at URL http://www.nanticokeindians.org/history.cfm:

".The first of five treaties were signed in 1668 by Chief Unnacokasimmon to establish peace between Maryland and the Nanticoke. Yet, the treaties were unfair to the Nanticoke. Settlers continued to illegally seize the lands of the Nanticoke and other tidewater tribes. Eventually, the Nanticoke and the Choptank asked Maryland authorities to grant them specific tracts of land."


From the Archives of Maryland Online web site at
Various URLs for multiple HTML pages.

The following is paraphrased: "Various entries for the Maryland General Assembly allude to troubles with the Nanticoke Indians this year. Specifically Nanticoke complaints of encroachments by English settlers onto or near their traditional lands, and problems between the Indians and the English settlers over livestock, crops, land, murders, etc. Mostly this is over lands between the Choptank and Nanticoke rivers, west of the Broad Creek area, in what was to become Dorchester County, MD. The legislature enacts a policy that settlers shall not move onto lands within 3 miles of Indian settlements, but this is often ignored in ensuing years."


1677: From the website http://www.graydovetrading.com/Nanticoke.html:

"The Nanticoke again took up arms against the whites in 1677-78."

From various records in the Maryland Archives Online, for the Proceedings of the General Assembly. The records indicate troubles arising again this year over the issue of English settlers moving onto or near Nanticoke lands. Once again these conflicts seem to be occurring in the area between the Choptank and Nanticoke rivers, west of Broad Creek. Once again the prior act restricting settlers from within 3 miles of Indian settlements is reiterated by the proceedings of the Assembly.


1678: From the Combs & Co. pages at US GenWeb, at URL http://www.combs-families.org/combs/records/md/1678.htm

"Province of Maryland, Publick Levy & Payments of 1678, An Act for payment and assessing the Publick Charges of this Province... Enacted at a session of the General Assembly held at St. Mary's October 20 to November 14, 1678...

The following is not a list of taxables, but of those to whom payments were due for goods and services rendered to the province. Some payments were for the cost of the Assembly itself, and miscellaneous governmental expenses, but the majority of those listed below were probably receiving payment for militia duty (other than by statutory exception, all "able-bodied" men between the ages of sixteen and sixty were required to be available for militia training and duty... Whereas There hath been Eight hundred twenty five thousand Nyne hundred Seventy Nyne pounds of Tobacco Expended layd out & disbursed by severall of the Inhabitants of this Province in the late Expedicon against the Nanticoke Indians and other the necessary Charges of this Province which hath been Examined stated and allowed by the upper and lower houses of this present Generall Assembly...


1686: From "Indians of the Lower Eastern Shore", by Gail M. Walczyk, on the GHOTES (Genealogy & Historie Of The Eastern Shore) of Virginia website at URL http://www.ghotes.net:

"In 1686 Ned, an Annamessex Indian, and others traveled to St. Mary's to register grievances against the colonists. Ned's complaint was that both John Kirk and John Carter did not let him or any other Indian hunt beaver on their lands. Also he stated that Col. Coleburne would not let them keep the skins that they did have."


1698: From "The Nanticoke People" at URL http://www.graydovetrading.com/Nanticoke.html.

It was during this time that under fear of another Nanticoke uprising and under pressure from all sides that the Maryland Assembly voted to create a reservation in 1698 for the Nanticokes living in Dorchester County. However, this act was later repealed because of a dispute with a settler about the reservations boundaries.


From the Golden Lyon Genealogical Research website, "Wright Family", at URL http://users.erols.com/rariggin/wright.html:

"From: The early Settlers of Dorchester County and their Lands, Vol. 2, by Calvin W. Mombray and Mary L. Mowbray, 1981.

"In 1698, almost thirty years after the Maryland Assembly set aside land for the Choptank Indian Reservation, it established the Nanticoke Indian Reservation. According to Chapter 15 of the 1698 laws the boundaries were as follows:

"Beginning at the mouth of Chicone Creek and running up the said Creek bounded therewith to the head of the main branch of the same and from the head of the said main branch with a.line drawn to the head of a branch issueing out of the Northwest Fork of the Nanticoke known by the name of Francis Andertons Branch and from the head of the said branch down the said Andertons Branch, bounded therewith3 to the mouth of the same where it falls into the said Northwest Fork and from thence down the said Northwest Fork, bounded therewith, to the main River and so down the main River to the mouth of the aforesaid Chicone Creek...."


1704: From "The Nanticoke People" at URL http://www.graydovetrading.com/Nanticoke.html.

The Chiconi Reservation was created near the present Delaware/Maryland border along the Chicawan Creek, a tributary of the Nanticoke River. This was situated on the lands between the Choptank and Nanticoke rivers.

[CF Note: Both the Nanticoke (Choptank)Reservation and the Chicone/Chicacoan Reservation were situated along the Nanticoke river and its tributaries in the are of present day Dorchester county MD.]


1710: To shorten this up, by 1710 my Ancestor Henry Freakes was being given 3000 pounds tobacco to reimburse him for "improvements" made on land he occupied that were desired for a Broad Creek Indian Reservation. Freakes land probably amounted to about 150 acres or so. The Reservation was 3000 acres on Broad Creek. Most of it was located on the north side of Broad Creek between present day Bethel and Laurel, DE, both of which did not exist at the time. The Nanticokes claimed they needed these lands because the English settlers were encroaching on their lands at the Choptank and Chicacoan reservations.

Another factor in all of this was the Nanticokes practiced a lifestyle involving a semi-migratory "seasonal round". At times their main villages would be unoccupied, giving unscrupulous European settlers the idea the land was free for the taking. Part of the Nanticoke seasonal round involved hunting. The European settlers practiced "free-range farming" of a sort, allowing their cattle and hogs to graze unfenced and unrestrained. The Indians thought this meant the animals were free for the taking, leading to
all manner of disputes over hunting ranges, ownership of stock, etc.

By the 1740s most of the Nanticoke Indians had died, or left the reservations and migrated far to the north, outside of Maryland and into Pennsylvania, to be assimilated with the Iroquois nations. By the 1760s the remaining lands of the Nanticoke Indian reservations were carved up and the sold to English settlers. I have abbreviated this last part because the story can go on for pages. But much of it is there in the Maryland Archives Online, ready for the reading.


Also see Winnesoccum Disaster










"The History and Genealogy of the
Native American Isolate Communities
of Kent County, Delaware, and
Surrounding Areas on the Delmarva Peninsula
and Southern New Jersey"



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