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Stories of New Jersey
How Scheyichbi Really Became New Jersey
(Period, 1609- 1758)

By Frank R. Stockton

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

A POINT in the history of New Jersey, more important in a moral point of view than that of its European ownership, was that of the purchase of the lands from the first and true owners, the Indians. As has been said, Berkeley and Carteret issued an injunction that the settlers should purchase their land from the tribes which had lived upon them. This system was subsequently carried out until every foot of the land of the whole State was bought and paid for, – the first transactions of the kind, having taken place several years before Penn's treaty with the Indians in Pennsylvania.

Up to the time when the country finally passed into the hands of the English, the Indians had resisted the attempts of the whites to settle among them; but now, finding that they were to be fairly dealt with, a better feeling arose, and the red men were content to dwell with the whites as friends and neighbors. Of course, all the settlers did not promptly pay for their lands, and there were some minor disputes from this cause; but in general the whites regularly purchased the land upon which they intended to make their homes, and in time all were obliged to do so. As may be supposed, very large prices were not paid for these lands; but the transactions were strictly honorable, because the parties on each side gave what they had, and all were satisfied with what they got.

The payments for land frequently consisted partly of ready-made coats, kettles, and in some cases of jew's-harps. Tracts of land large enough for a town were sometimes sold for a barrel of cider. Now, this might appear rather a hard bargain for the Indians; but it must be considered that they had more land than they wanted, and no ready-made coats, or kettles, or jew's-harps, or cider.

But it was not to be expected that the Indians would always be satisfied with their treatment; and in fact they had a good many grievances. As has been said, a settler sometimes established himself on a good piece of land without consulting the Indians of the neighborhood, or offering them payment, and in such cases there would be remonstrances from the red men. Then, again, the whites could not always understand the nature of Indian bargains. A man would buy a piece of land, and think that he owned not only the ground, but all that grew upon it, all that flew in the air above it, and everything that swam in its waters ; and when the Indians, after having received payment for the farm, came there to hunt and fish, and strip the bark off the trees, the purchaser was apt to object.

A notable difficulty of this kind occurred on Sandy Hook, where a man named Hartshorne had bought a tract of land from the Indians, and afterwards found, that, according to their ideas, he had no exclusive right to the fish, game, and timber of his new purchase; and he was especially made to understand that he had not bought the wild plums. This matter of the ownership of the plums afterwards became a source of considerable trouble, and was settled by Hartshorne paying to the chief of the neighboring tribe the sum of thirteen shillings, by which he acquired the entire right to the plums and all the other things on his land.

The Indians had also a grievance of a different kind. There was a conference held in Burlington, between the Indians and the whites, in 1678, which was convened on account of a complaint by the Indians that the English, in selling them some ready-made coats, had also sold them the smallpox. The temper of the Indians may be shown by one of their speeches on this occasion. A leading chief declared: "We are willing to have a broad path for you and us to walk in ; and if an Indian is asleep in this path, the Englishman shall pass by him and do him no harm ; and if an Englishman is asleep in the path, the Indian shall pass him by and say, 'He is an Englishman; he is asleep; let him alone; he loves to sleep !' It shall be a plain path. There must not be in this path a stump to hurt our feet. And as for the smallpox, it was once in my grandfather's time, and it could not he the English that could send it to us then, there being no English in the country. And it was once in my father's time, they could not send it to us then, neither. And now it is in my time, I do not believe that they have sent it to us now. I do believe it is the man above who has sent it to us." Soon after this, the two parties exchanged presents, and went away satisfied.

For many years after this, there seem to have been few or no troubles between the Indians and the settlers of New Jersey. But matters changed about the middle of the next century; and when the Indian wars began in Pennsylvania, the red men of New Jersey showed symptoms of hostility to the whites. Matters grew worse and worse; and the Indians began to murder families, burn buildings, and carry away prisoners.

This state of affairs grew so alarming that the Legislature took the matter in hand. They appointed commissioners to examine into the treatment of the Indians, and see if there were any good cause for their sudden enmity; and, after a conference with some of the chiefs, a bill was passed by the Legislature to put an end to a good many of the impositions of which the Indians complained. Among these was a habit of the whites of giving the Indians spirits, and then making bargains with them when they were not at all in a condition to do business of that kind. The Indians also complained of the practice of trapping deer, thus decreasing the game in the forests, and the occupation of land, without payment, by the settlers who were continually coming into the country.

Another bill was passed appropriating 1600 to buy from the Indians the entire right to all the lands which they yet held in New Jersey. But as there was no desire to banish the Indians from their native land, one half of this sum was reserved as payment for a large tract of land, or reservation, which should be their home, and on which no white man would have any right to settle, whether he was willing to buy the land or not. When this had been done, it was necessary to submit the matter to the Indians; and a council was called at Burlington, at which were present the governor of the Province, and. some of the most prominent Indian chiefs.


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