Marshall Historical Society
by Ted Townsend
A couple of columns ago we mentioned Romance Wyatt, an Indian who resided over Oriskany Falls way many years ago. Unbeknown to us a story about Romance appeared in the one-time Utica Saturday Globe just a half century ago. We are indebted to George H. Town, 708 Parkway East, for a copy of this article. Here it is:
"Last of the Brothertowns. The daily papers tell us that he has passed away in the person of Romance Wyatt, who died at his home on the Deansboro road, near Oriskany Falls.
"It was the first that some folks ever heard of such a tribe which occupied a unique place in Indian annals, being composed of the remnants of various tribes who had resided in New Jersey, upon Long Island and along the northern shore of Long Island Sound.
"Some of these tribes were at one time powerful, but all of them had become, about the close of the French-Indian war, mere wrecks and remnants. They included the Naragansetts, the Nantocokes, the Montauks, the Mohagans, the Pequots, the Nehantics, the Conays, the Tutecoes, the Saponeys and a few others, some of them descendants of King Phillip.
"Some of the New England colonial governments had given them aid, but they were degenerating badly when the Oneidas invited them to come and reside upon their territory prior to the Revolution.
"A tract of land along the Oriskany Creek, in the town of Marshall, was set aside for them and they took the name of Brothertown because of their composite character. They had no common language, but early adopted the English.
"Baptist missionaries worked among them and they gave early promise of turning toward the peaceful arts of citizenship. As they numbered several thousand this was a matter for congratulation with the white settlers of the Oriskany Valley, and when, after the installation of a state government, the Legislature confirmed the grant which the Oneidas had given the Brothertowns, efforts were made to induce them to cultivate and improve the land.
"It was in 1826, a few years before the emigration, that Romance Wyatt was born of Indian blood. His father and mother died when he was a child, and a woman named Cynthia Dick, adopted him. At 13 he went out to work among farmers, and when he grew older he obtained employment on the Chenango Canal. For 30 years he was a boatman on the Chenango and Erie.
"About the breaking out of the Civil war, he took up his residence in Utica and enlisted in the Twenty-sixth regiment, and after its service ended, fought with the Eighty-third, seeing service at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Fredericksburg and other important battles.
"From his earnings as a boatman and a soldier, he saved enough money to buy a little cabin by the roadside, with a garden attached. There he lived from 1866 until his death. He married and had a child, but wife and daughter long since passed away and he grew old in loneliness.
"For a time, another Brothertown Indian lived with him, but for the greater part he had no companion, keeping house himself. He was entitled to enter the Soldier's Home at Bath, but preferred to be on his own premises.
"He was a Christian, did not drink in later life, and led an upright life. Yet he was an Indian with an Indian's "gifts" as the Leatherstocking would say, even though he preferred gardening to hunting and fishing.
"Romance was a picturesque figure, and he will be missed in the Oriskany valley, where he was known by nearly every man, woman and child."
The article from the Saturday Globe of 50 years ago was entitled, "The Last Brothertown."
Following the publication of our story about Romance Wyatt a few columns ago, Mrs. Oliver Allen, furnished us a picture of the Indian. Mr. Oliver said that he used to live north of Oriskany Falls, and he remembered Romance. well. Mrs. Wyatt used to make resin gum and sell it to the boys attending school. The teacher used to stand at the door to see if any boy had gum in his mouth. "Oliver, is that gum in your mouth"" she used to say and then would say, "Throw it in the stove." And away would go a whole penny's worth of gum.
Romance was very popular with the young folks. When he caught fish he brought them to the various homes for sale.
The baskets he made were of white ash trees. They resembled a clothes basket. These were sold in the villages. He also made chair seats.
Mrs. Wyatt used to borrow tea from the neighbors. Later she would return it, and one housewife would put the tea into a jar. Then when another borrowing was made, she would give back the tea from the jar. The Indian was known as "Matt" among his friends both old and young.
Caption to photograph of an Romance Wyatt
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