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Lenni Lenape Indians of Bucks County

The Lenni Lenape of Bucks County Pennsylvania [1]

Before the arrival of Europeans, Bucks County was occupied, and the soil owned, by Indians known as the Lenni Lenape, or original people, who dwelt on both banks of the Delaware from the mouth to its source, and reaching to the Susquehanna in the interior. They were divided into a number of minor tribes, speaking as many dialects of the same, common language. The English called them the Delaware Indians because they lived upon that river.

The greater portion of those who lived within the present limits of the county were known as Neshaminies, probably from the name of one of the county's largest and most beautiful streams. The Lenni Lenapes originally came from the valley of the Mississippi, whence they were driven by more powerful neighbors, and sought a quiet home on the banks of the Delaware. The Europeans found them a mild, amiable and kindly-disposed people, and on their first arrival the Indians assisted to feed them, and in some instances the early settlers would probably have starved without the friendly help of their red neighbors.

Gabriel Thomas, in his early account of Pennsylvania, says of the Indians: "The children are washed in cold water as soon as born, and to harden them they are plunged into the river. They walk at about nine months. The boys fish until about fifteen when they hunt, and if they have given good proof of their manhood by a large return of skins, they are allowed to marry, usually at about seventeen or eighteen. The girls stay with their mothers and help to hoe the ground, plant corn, and bear burdens. They marry at about thirteen or fourteen. Their houses are made of mats or the bark of trees set upon poles not higher than a man, with grass or reeds spread on the ground to lie upon. They live chiefly on maize or Indian corn roasted in the ashes, sometimes beaten and boiled with water, called hominy. They also eat beans and peas. The woods and the river furnish the greater part of their provisions. There are but two meals a day, morning and evening. They mourn a whole year, but it is no other than blacking their faces."

Proud says, "The Indians along the Delaware and the adjacent parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, so far as appears by the best accounts of the early settlement of the provinces, when clear of the effects of the pernicious poison of strong liquor, and before they had much imbibed, and, to their unnatural depravity, added such European vices as before they were strangers to, were naturally, and in general, faithful and hospitable."

Before the settlements along the Delaware fell into the hands of the English, the Dutch authorities prohibited the selling of powder, shot, and strong liquors to the Indians, under pain of death. Isaac Stills was a celebrated Indian, of good education, and the leader of the last remnant of the Delaware tribe adjacent to Philadelphia. His only son Joshua was educated at Germantown. In 1771 Isaac Still moved up into Buckingham where he collected the scattered remains of his tribe, and in 1775 he, with 40 persons, started off to the Wabash. These were mostly females, the men having gone before. Still is described as a fine-looking man, wearing a hat ornamented with feathers. The women marched off in regular order, bareheaded, each with a large pack on her back fastened with large straps across the forehead.

  1. W. W. H. Davis, A. M., The History of Bucks County Pennsylvania, from the Discovery of the Delaware to the Present Time, Democrat Book and Job Office Print, Doylestown, 1876.

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