Marshall Historical Society

History of the Brothertown Indians.
By Richard L. Williams, Kirkland/Clinton Historian
The Waterville Times, February 3, 2016

The history of the Brothertown Indians, who occupied parts of the towns of Kirkland and Marshall in Oneida County, is not the ordinary story about New York Indians.

The Clinton Historical Society has files on Brothertown history and a land indenture showing transfer of Brothertown lands to Rufus Butler.

In colonial Connecticut many pressures for Indian land by white colonists plus King Phillips War and disease decimated .various tribes by the mid-1700s. Parts of different tribes gathered to live around Farmington, Connecticut where there were many Tunxis Indians. Some Indian leaders developed a plan to move remnants of several tribes away from that area to start anew. The Indian leaders wrote letters to Mohegan, Niantics, Groton Pequots, Stonington Pequots of Connecticut, Narragansetts of Rhode Island and Montauks of Long Island urging migration. Representatives went to Oneida Indians in Central New York, who granted the Brothertown Indians land some 10 to 15 miles southwest of Utica. This was in 1773, but the Revolutionary War halted more migration plans as some who had migrated returned to New England and some spent the war at Fort Stanwix in today's Rome.

Leaders of the Brothertown Indians were Rev. Samson Occom, a Mohegan who was an ordained Presbyterian minister, David Fowler, a Montauk, and Rev. Joseph Johnson, a Baptist minister and a Mohegan.

In the 1784 period about 200 English-speaking Brothertown Indians settled and began a community of farmers who practiced Christianity. About 450 lived there at its peak, but NYS reduced the grant in 1796 to 9,000 acres. The state sold off 149 lots to whites who were anxious for the rich land.

Quaker missionary Rev. John Dean arrived in 1795 and started a school and a church. His son, Thomas Dean, became the Indian Agent after his father died. Deansville was named after him. It became Deansboro in 1894 as U.S. mail often went to Dansville in Western New York in confusion.

By the 1820s encroachment by whites proved relentless, causing pressure on the Brothertowns to sell or lease. Thomas Dean traveled west to look for a new home for the Brothertowns. Between 1830 and 1848 the Brothertown Indians migrated west again. This time they landed on a reservation in Calumet County on the east side of Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin. In 1839 the Indians were granted citizenship and lost their land and tribal status.

The land transfer showed that state-appointed Indian Agents Samuel Jones, Ezra L'Hommedieu, and Zina (Zena) Hitchcock sold lot 38 to Rufus Butler for eight shillings plus 39 pounds and 12 shillings secured on what was likely a mortgage held by the state. Lot 38 of the Brothertown Patent is on the east side of Post Street in the Town of Kirkland. Rufus Butler and wife are buried in the Post Street Cemetery about one quarter of a mile south past McConnell's Corners, also on the east side of Post Street. Witnesses to the Sept. 1, 1795 land transfer were Hugh White and Jonas Platt. White from Middletown, Conn., settled in Whitestown in 1784 and became a prominent early settler and later a county judge. He owned 1/4th of the Sadequada Patent and part of the Oriskany Patent, which consisted of 3,000 acres on the south side of the Mohawk River between Sauquoit Creek and Oriskany Creek. Samuel Jones, another Brothertown Agent, had been a state senator and a judge of the Common Pleas Court in the early I 820s. He was a director of the Western Inland Navigation Lock Co., which constructed a partial canal around the Little Falls cascades. Ezra L'Hommedieu was a prominent patriot of Southold, SuHolk County and circulated in the top political and Federalist circles in the early years of the republic. After graduating from Yale in 1754 and being admitted to the bar, he served as a member of the state assembly (1777-83), Continental Congress (1779-83 and 1788), state senator (1784-92 and 1794-1809), clerk of Suffolk County (1784-1810), and Regent to the University of the State of New York (1787-1811) . His wife was Charity Floyd, sister of General William Floyd. L'Hommedieu also speculated in stock of the Western Lock Navigation Co. and served as a director. L'Hommedieu was an agent for the State of New York at some treaties with Mohawk Indians in the 1790s. Platt was later Oneida County's first clerk in 1798 and also a member of the state assembly and senate, member of Congress 1799-1801, and a justice of the State Supreme Court. He ran for governor in 1810 and was an original trustee of Kirkland's Hamilton-Oneida Academy, the forerunner of Hamilton College, in 1793.

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