The Indians
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THOSE WHO WERE HERE BEFORE US

 From a book written by
 Nesquehoning's Supervisory Principal, A. E. Wagner in 1910.

Two hundred years ago no white people lived in Nesquehoning. It was the home of savage Indians and wild animals that roamed over it. Great forests of giant trees were found in its valleys and on most of its rocky mountains.

What wonderful changes we now see! The forests have been cut down. Humming mills, beautiful homes, and fine churches found in all of its valleys; railroads have taken the place of the Indian path, and its sunny slopes are covered with crops of and fruit. The savage bear and the cruel wolf are no longer seen; in their places we have the useful horse and the much-needed cow. All these wonderful changes, with many more, have taken place in the short space of less than two hundred years. The story of how all this happened is as wonderful as a fairy tale, but it is true.

In many of the rocks may still be seen the holes in which the Indian squaws ground their corn, but the Indian trails through the valleys and across the mountains have long since disappeared. It was not hard for the Indians to live here before the white men came. There were plenty of fish in the streams and lakes. In the woods, with their bows and arrows, they could kill deer, foxes, bears, wild turkeys, and birds. They raised corn, beans, and pumpkins. They ate all kinds of berries and wild fruits. When everything else failed they dug up roots and ate them. They did not look forward very far, so they often suffered for want of -food, and quite often many of them starved. Their meats they roasted over the fire, but some of them had earthenware pots to make stews and cook their mush. Sometimes they heated water by putting into it red-hot stones. When they went on a journey they carried roasted corn for food.

They stripped the bark from birch trees to make boats. Their fishhooks were made of bones, and the lines of wild hemp twisted or the sinews of animals. They used fish bones for needles and sinews for thread. For clothing they used skins of animals, and these they often ornamented with feathers or colored them with mud or the juices of plants.

They built their homes by driving poles into the ground and bending them together at the top, covering them with skins or mud. A bear's skin usually served for a door. The fireplace was a hole in the ground, while the chimney was an opening in the top of this tent; but much of the smoke remained in the room. They started fire by rubbing two sticks together.

The women, or squaws, stayed at home when the men went fishing or hunting; took care of the fields, dressed the skins, and carried the loads when the family moved from place to place. The children, or papooses, were often strapped to boards when they were quite small, and hung from the trees to swing in the air. They never went to school; as the boys grew, they learned to shoot, to fish, to dance, and to fight from their fathers; while the girls learned the Indian ways of housekeeping from their mothers in the wigwam.

Their rude hatchets, made of stone, were called tomahawks, and their spears were tipped with sharp flint stones. They lived in villages, had laws and customs, and from time to time had meetings or councils to decide what the tribe should do.

When an Indian killed an enemy he scalped him. This was done by cutting through the skin around the head just below the hair, and rudely pulling it off. He was considered the bravest warrior who had the greatest number of scalps dangling from his belt.

They were quick runners, able to endure great hardships, and had sharp eyes by which they could find their way through the woods by little marks which the white men would never notice. They were strong and active, and liked to dance and run races.

The Indians lived on fresh meat and green vegetables, which caused a longing for seasonings in his food, especially salt. They would often eat tablespoonfuls at a time, drink a whole glass of vinegar, or walk forty miles to get crabapples, or cranberries, to satisfy their desire for acids. It was this desire for acid things that made them so fond of strong drink; and made it so easy for the white man to make the Indian drunk whenever he wanted to cheat him.

The white men called the leading tribe of Indians by the name of Delawares. These lived chiefly along the Delaware River. They had under them three other tribes: the Minsi, or the wolves, who were the most powerful of all and lived in the mountain regions around Nesquehoning; the Unami, or the people down the river, who lived south of the Lehigh. River on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware; and still farther south in the vicinity of the Chesapeake Bay, the Unalatchigo. Penn bought Pennsylvania from the Unalatchigo and the Unami.  Another branch of the Delawares, the Nanticokes, were living in the valleys of the Susquehanna and Wyoming. All of the Delawares were conquered by the Iroquois, and in 1742 many of them emigrated to the western part of the state. In their journey they passed through the Lehigh Gap; the Moravians saw them going.

The Shwanese were driven from the south and went to the western part of the state, where they lived with the Saquehannocks and the Andestes. The Juniatas were driven from the central part of the state before the white man appeared, and when the Tuscaroras were driven from the south they were allowed to occupy the hunting grounds, which had been held by the Juniatas.  The Iroquois lived east of Lake Erie and in New York, and the Eries south of the lake, which now bears their name.

Who the Indians are, or where they first came from to America, no one can tell. When the white man first came to America they were most numerous in the vicinity of the Delaware  River, but there is no way of finding out how many of them there were.

The Indian would usually leave at breakfast, and when he returned with a deer or a bear, his squaw was proud of him and served him well. She cut and brought the firewood, pounded the corn with stones, and baked his bread in the ashes.

 

THEIR MARRIAGE CUSTOMS

The marriage customs of the Indians were peculiar. When a young Indian decided that he wanted a particular girl his mother went to her home with a leg of venison or bear meat, telling the girl that her son killed it. If the girl and her family were willing that the marriage should take place the girl’s mother would take a fish to the young man’s home with a piece of the venison and say, “This is from my daughter who prepared it.” After this they worked and fished together for days, during which the happy lover wooed his dusky mate of the forest, each being dressed in robes of feathers and the skins of wild animals. When the Indian had no mother, he himself told the girl of his wish; and if she was willing she went with him.

They remained married only as long as they pleased each other. The man would leave rather than quarrel with his squaw. He would usually not remain away long enough to have his neighbors notice his absence. He seldom returned, if he left the second time.

The aged were always favored by the young who sought their company and advice. In travel the older ones always went on horseback or in a canoe. They assembled annually, that the aged ones might tell to the grandchildren the things that had happened to the tribe, and of the treaties that had been made. 

No spot in all the County is better known or more admired than Glen Onoko. Nature has made other falls that are higher and more awe inspiring; but rare are the waterfalls that are as romantically beautiful. The name is Indian in its origin; and, as the storytellers say, thereby hangs a tale.

The top of Locust Mountain, to the rear of Nesquehoning, is capped with large rocks composed of smoothly worn pebbles and fine-grained sand cemented together so firmly that the storms and frosts of centuries have striven in vain in trying to separate them. In the topmost one is the basin wherein Onoko’s mother ground her corn; nearby is another wherein with heated stones she warmed her water, or broiled her wild turkey, fish, or venison. In the Nesquehoning Valley below wild roamed the happy Opachee. Often he climbed the rocky ravines to the top of Broad Mountain, where he angled the silvery trout from its sand bottomed springs, or followed the sparkling waters in their descent as they gurgled and tumbled over the moss-covered boulders, and then all of a sudden dash themselves into spray as they leaped into the abyss of the then nameless falls.

Here at these falls Opachee sat one day radiant but silent. Fleet of foot had he been that afternoon. Eye more keen or hand more true had never sent an arrow more swift or sure than that which felled the deer he was carrying down the mountain. Now he had the venison he was looking for. Tomorrow his mother should pass up the narrow valley bearing some of it to Onoko’s folks, who would smoke a pipe of peace; and then, indeed, what joy might not be his. In his bright visions he saw himself and Onoko sport through love’s sunny morning, and live happily through life’s golden afternoon. Alas, the illusions of hope! It might not be. No delicious venison, prepared by the hand of his betrothed, was ever to be returned. No happy rambles for fish to the sand springs, no blissful journeys with his chosen sweetheart to the glorious mountain tops to gather its sun-kissed berries. Her parents refused and Onoko was heartbroken. In her wild anguish, to live without her brave, Opachee, seemed agonizing, hopeless, and useless. Headlong she plunged over the cliff; her mangled body was found on the rocks at its bottom; though Onoko is gone, her name still clings to the falls and the Glen, and blends sweetly and sadly with its wildness and beauty. The spirit of the Indian maiden haunts this tragic site. At precisely 9:15 on any sunshiny morning, the restless ghost of Onoko makes a misty appearance as a white-veiled lady gliding across the silvery surface.

 

 

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