Since 1971 there has been a small exhibit at the Colesville/Windsor
museum at St. Luke’s Church in Harpursville that deals with
the former Native American villages in the Onaquaga (On-a-qua-ga)
Valley. Onaquaga is located near the Broome County village of
This spring the Onaquaga museum exhibit has been reinterpreted by
Marge Hinman, a founder of the Old Onaquaga Historical Society
which spent many years in the 1960’s promoting the idea of
establishing a State Historic Site at Onaquaga.
The exhibit outlines the importance of 18th century Onaquaga.
Onaquaga was especially important because there was major interaction
there between Indians and white men for half a century before the
American Revolution. The new exhibit, with illustrations, lists 14
reasons why Onaquaga was important:
Two Iroquois Nations lived at Onaquaga; an Oneida village was
located around the island in the Susquehanna and Tuscarora
villages were to the north and south along the river.
The settlement was the southernmost village of the Six Nations
and so closest to many white settlements, the destinations of
trading and raiding expeditions.
It was on the "Old Warriors Trail" from Capouse Meadows (North
Scranton) to Onaquaga and north and east.
It is the closest place where the Susquehanna River comes to the
Delaware River so there was a carrying place between the two
(perhaps Mount Carmel Road off of the East Windsor Road or
present Rt 17.)
In 1736, before Sir William Johnson became Indian Agent for the
Crown, he set up a trading post at Onaquaga.
In 1756 a fort was built there during the French and Indian War
to protect the families of the men so they would go to war with
the British. It was destroyed in 1762 at the request of the
From 1748 to 1777 missionaries ministered to the people living
there. Those who lived there before the Revolution were Rev.
Elihu Spencer (1748), Rev. Gideon Hawley (1753-1757) who left a
map and diaries that contain invaluable information on the
settlement (his interpreter was Rebecca Ashley), Mr. Bowman
(1761), Eli Forbes & Asaph Rice (1762), Rev. Charles Jeffrey
Smith (1763), Joseph Wooley, a teacher (1764-65), Rev.
Theophilus Chamberlin & Titus Smith (1765), Rev. Ebenezer
Moseley (1765-73), and Aaron Crosby (1774-1777.)
Rebecca Kellogg Ashley, probably the only white woman living
there, died in 1757. The Tuscarora Chapter, D.A.R., remembered
her with a marker on Dutchtown Road in 1909.
Many at Onaquaga became Christians and chose to stay on the side
of the Americans during the Revolution, much to the credit of
Rev. Samuel Kirkland.
The residents of Onaquaga adopted many of the white man’s
ways by building log houses with stone chimneys and glass
windows, and using farming techniques (plows and planted
hayfields). Mr. Gunn was a blacksmith there.
Chief Joseph Brant had a farm and cattle at Onaquaga and married
the daughter of an Onaquaga chief. He chose to fight with the
British and used Onaquaga as a base of operations.
In 1778 Gov. George Clinton requested Gen. Washington to have
Onaquaga and neighboring Unadilla destroyed because they were
being used as bases of operation by the British and their Indian
allies. So, in October, 1778 the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment came
from Schoharie and destroyed the towns. No lives were lost, but
in retaliation Cherry Valley was raided.
In August, 1779 Gen. James Clinton’s army camped at the
burned out Onaquaga Village on their way to meet Gen
Sullivan’s army at Tioga Point.
In 1883 the Revolutionary War ended and in 1886 some of the
first settlers in Broome County began their homesteads on lands
that earlier had been cleared by the residents of Onaquaga.
Colin G. Calloway, in his book, The American Revolution in
Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American
Communities, included Onaquaga as one of the eight most
important Indian communities of the Revolutionary period.
You can see this exhibit at St. Luke’s in Harpursville on the
2nd and 4th Sunday afternoons, 2-5, during June through October, or
by appointment by calling Marge Hinman at (607) 655-3174.
Otsiningo In The 18th Century
Otsiningo was a neighboring settlement that was contemporary with
Onaquaga. Both settlements were composed of several villages that
were spread out along the river. Both areas served as resettlement
areas for Indian people who were feeling pressure from white
settlement in the south and east who were invited to take shelter
under the Iroquois Tree of Peace. You can learn more about Onaquaga
in a book written by Marge Hinman, Onaquaga: Hub of the Border
Wars and Dolores Elliott’s Otsiningo: An Example of
an 18th Century Settlement Pattern in Current Perspectives
in Northeastern Archeology edited by Funk and Hayes will give
you more information on Otsiningo.
Contributed by Marjorie Hinman
and Dolores Elliott
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