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
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
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
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
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.