Winnasoccum
from C. A. Weslagers Delaware's Forgotten Folk , University of Pa. Press, 1943

The year is 1742. For over one hundred years the Native peoples on the Delmarva peninsula have been harrassed by whites. They have been attacked, their lands have been stolen, their population decimated by alcohol, disease and starvation. Traditional culture has been deeply eroded. Many Indians have already chosen to leave, moving north up the Susquehanna River into Pennsylvania but some still remained, refusing to give up their homes.

Remnant Choptank Indians have been forced onto a small parcel of land at Locust Neck on the Choptank River. The mighty Nanticokes were confined on two reservations (Broad Creek and Chicacoan) along the Nanticoke River. Some Assateagues had been forced north from Virginia and had settled with others along the north shore of the Indian River on land given them by Maryland (parts of Sussex Co. Delaware then being under Maryland control). Remnants of the Pocomoke Indians were still living along the Pocomoke River. And hidden in small pockets throughout the peninsula, small remnant groups survived.

One day, Messowan, a Shawnee war captain, appears at Chicacaon with twenty of his men. The Shawnee had orginally lived in Tennessee and So. Carolina but had been driven off their lands by white encroachment. They fled north and sought sanctuary with the Susquehannocks at Conoytown on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. They have travelled secretly to bring a message to the Indians of the Eastern Shore.

For two days Messowan speaks with the Nanticoke headmen: Dixon Coursey, Sam Panquash and Simon. He asks the Nanticoke to call a meeting of all of the surviving Delmarva tribes and Panquash agrees, sending out messengers, asking all to come to a secret place in the Great Pocomoke Swamp called Winnasoccum. And come they do.

John Wittonguis, Jeremy Peake, George Pokahaum (the Puckhams later appear in the mixed blood community at Cheswold) and Bastobello come with the Pocomoke Indians; Robin Hood and Hopping John come from the Choptank town at Locust Neck; Panquash and the Chicacoan Nanticokes come; Indian River Indians from Delaware; Simon Alsechqueck and Captain John and the Nanticokes from Broad Creek. Hundreds of men, women and children leave their homes in the middle of the night to travel to Winnasoccum.

Dressed in a mixture of Indian and European clothing, some with bows and arrows, others with guns, they set up camp at Winnasoccum to listen to what Messowan has to say.

On the first day, Messowan speaks of his people, the Shawnee, and how they had been driven from their homes by the British; a tale which sounds very familiar to everyone in the audience. He tells how they are now living on the Susquehanna River with their friends, the Susquehannock. He tells how they have grown stronger and more determined to win back their lost lands and how, with the help of the French, they will drive the English out. He says that if all the Indians work together, they can make this happen. Five hundred Shawnee warriors are ready to sail down the Susquehanna, into the Chesapeake Bay, to offer assistance. They will travel by night and help the Eastern Shore tribes attack the whites in Somerset and Dorchester counties. Meanwhile other Indians and their French allies will attack in the north.

When Messowan finishes speaking, he asks for a response and for four days, every opinion is heard. No record exists of this great debate but it can be imagined. The Assateagues speak of the vicious attacks of Captain Edmund Scarbrough and his soldiers. Pocomoke Indians complain of encroachment on their hunting and trapping territories. Nanticokes speak of white men who have robbed sacred Chiacason houses where the bodies of the dead are kept. Indian River Indians who, in 1705 received one thousand acres for a reservation called Askecksy, speak of losing that land to Willam Burton and his son Joshua.

All of those attending have similar tales of abuse which they freely share with the assembly. In the end, the tribes agree to support Messowan and a ceremonial dance, with much singing and dancing, is held to seal the bargain.

Unfortunately, the absence of the Indians from their homes for several days does not go un-noticed by the white settlers. Men, perhaps, might be off hunting, but when women and children disappear as well, something is afoot. Soldiers are sent out and the entire plot is exposed. The "conspirators" are seized and imprisoned.

Some of the Indians, afraid of being imprisoned or killed, are forced to give testimony against their leaders. Choptanks, Jemmy Smalhommoney, Jemmy Pasimmons and Abraham Ashquash and Chicacoan Nanticokes, Patrick, Dick, Peter, Monk and Sam Isaac all testify.

Panquash, Dixon Coursey, Pattashook, Joshua, Simon, Captain John, Robin Hood, Robert Nandum, Chinehopper and Hopping Sam are all held in the custody of the sheriff of Ann Arundel County while evidence is gathered.

The authorities eventually decide that, since no actual harm was done they will not impose a harsh settlement but they make their dominion over the native peoples very plain.

On July 24, 1742 four peace treaties were drawn up wherein the Indians promised to return to their homes and give up all plans of insurrection. The treaties bear the signatures or marks of Bastobello, John Wittonguis, Jeremy Peake and George Pokahaum, Chiefs of the Assateague and Pocomoke Indians; Simon and Captain John, Chiefs of the Broad Creek Nanticokes, Robin Hood and Hopping John, Chiefs of the Choptanks at Locust Neck; John Coursey and Chinehopper, Chiefs of the Nanticokes at Chicacoan; and Tom Hill and Robin, Chiefs of the Indian River Indians.

The Indians return to their homes. But Indian resistance on the Delmarva is all over. On September 13, 1744 Simon Alsechqueck, Chief of the Broad Creek Nanticokes will request permission to lead his band out of Maryland. He will follow other Nanticokes north to live under the protection of the Iroquois. By 1754 Broad Creek was deserted although Chicacoan survived a bit longer as did Locust Neck.

Many of the people who left moved north into Pennsylvania along the same routes taken by earlier migrants; from there some continued north to live among the Iroquois in New York State, some moved west with departing Lenapes.

Of course, not all of the Indians left. Many chose to stay. Puckhams ended up in Cheswold, Courseys at Indian River. Many ended up as members of the mixed blood communities at Indian River and Cheswold where their descendants live to this day.