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Stories of New Jersey
The Story Of A Peacemaker
An Indian Woman's Friendly Act. (Period, 1632.)

By Frank R. Stockton

Originally published in 1896
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

AFTER the outside boundaries of New Jersey had been pretty thoroughly discovered, it was quite natural that some nations who laid claim to the State should desire to find out something in regard to its interior, and make settlements upon its soil.

This was not done by the English, who had made the first claim to the land, but by the Dutch. In the early part of the seventeenth century, the West India Company of Holland sent out a ship containing the foundation for a little colony, – men, provisions, and all things necessary. They sailed into Delaware Bay; and the commander, Cornelius Jacobsen Mey, gave his name to Cape May. The expedition went up the Delaware River till they reached Timber Creek, probably not much more than ten miles from the spot where Philadelphia now stands. There they settled, and built a fort, which they called Fort Nassau. But this was not looked upon with favor by the Indians, and it was not long before the whole colony was destroyed.

This unfortunate beginning of the white settlement of New Jersey did not deter the Dutch, who are a persevering and dogged people. About twelve years later, another Dutch commander, De Vries, sailed up the Delaware River, or, as the Dutch called it, the South his main object being to catch whales, very different from the Delaware fisheries of the present He set up a little colony on shore ; but it appears the Indians were very much opposed to this of thing, and this settlement was destroyed before long.

But De Vries still kept up the whaling business: and in the course of time, getting out provisions, he left his vessel, and sailed up river in a small craft which was called the Squirrel." He went up as far as the deserted Fort Nassau, and there anchored to trade with the Indians. It is quite plain that the Indians of New Jersey ire now greatly concerned about the visits of white people to their shore ; for they perceived that these newcomers were inclined to settle and occupy such places as pleased their fancy, without asking permission, or proposing to buy or to pay rent. All this was very disagreeable to the red men, who had never shown any disposition to open up their country to foreign immigration.

When De Vries anchored, he was very well received; and about forty Indians came on board his yacht, and made a call upon him. They were dressed in their best, and, in order to make the visit more agreeable, they brought some of their musical instruments with them, and gave the Dutchmen a taste of Indian music.

The dress of some of these visitors was a surprise to De Vries and his men, of whom there were only seven on the yacht. It was winter time, and most of the Indians were arrayed in furs, but several of them wore jackets made in the English fashion. The visitors were very friendly, and urged De Vries to sail his vessel up a stream, now known as Big Timber Creek, which, they declared, was a much better place for trading.

Now, according to some of the old histories, a woman appeared in the double character of peacemaker and guardian angel. Among the Lenni-Lenape, as well as the other tribes of North America, women often had a peculiar part to play in national and social affairs. If ever the services of a peacemaker were desired, that position was always given to a woman. It was considered derogatory to the dignity of a male Indian that he should at any time, of his own accord, desire peace. He and his enemy might both be thoroughly tired of fighting; but neither of them would lower himself in his own estimation, and in the estimation of his countrymen, by allowing any man to know the state of his mind.

But he did not in the least object to tell his wife that he wanted to stop fighting; and she, very gladly in most cases, would confer with the wife of the other brave; and when they had concluded peace, the two men would immediately sit down together, smoke the calumet, and be good friends; and all this without the slightest loss of dignity.


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