The Indians of Lawrence Co., PA

Edenburg Lawrence co paSometimes old history books, especially those published in the 1800s whose authors had access to people who memories extended back into the previous century can be goldmines.  While researching the Scotch-Irish in Lawrence County, PA, I found the following information about the original Native people who inhabited that region.

History of Lawrence Co., Pa. 1770-1877 by S.W. and P.A. Durant


Evidences of the ancient or pre-historic people, sometimes known as the “Mound Builders,” are not altogether wanting in Lawrence county, though they are not found as plentifully as in many other portions of the State. The most noted example of their work is undoubtedly the well-known mound situated near the village of Edenburg, and also near the site of the famous Indian village of Kush-kush-kee.*

*See History of Mahoning township.

The traditions of the Lenni Lenape and Mengwe nations, whom the first Europeans found inhabiting the vast region stretching from the Atlantic ocean and the St. Lawrence river to the Mississippi valley and southward to the Carolinas and the Ohio river, point unmistakably to this mysterious people, who rose and flourished; who built extensive cities and gigantic fortifications; who worked the wonderful copper deposits of Lake Superior, and who manufactured millions of the elaborate stone implements of war and husbandry still found upon the hills of the Ohio, the grand prairies of the West and the broad savannahs of the South.

The Indian nations had a tradition that their ancestors came from the far western wilds of the continent many centuries ago, and crossing the great river Mississippi, which they called Namoesi-sipu, or river of fish, fell upon this [p. 14] ancient people, and after many years of bloody and terrific warfare succeeded in driving the shattered remnant of the once powerful race toward the vast region of the South and West. After this great conquest, the Lenni Lenape and the Mengwe, who had joined hands against the Allegewi, as the conquered people were called, divided the country between them; the Lenape or Delawares, as they were known by the English, taking the region lying along the Ohio–the famed “La Belle Riviere” of the French, and the Mengwe, the Iroquois, or Six Nations, or Mingoes of the French and English, choosing the region lying around the great lakes and on both sides of the St. Lawrence river.

These nations eventually grew hostile to each other, and in the wars which succeeded, the Lenape, were finally reduced from their former high estate to the condition of women, by the haughty Six Nations, whom De Witt Clinton called the “Romans of America.” The first knowledge obtained by white men of this region was undoubtedly that of the French traders and explorers who pushed into the wilderness, and even penetrated as far as the west end of Lake Superior as early as 1616.

Their missionaries had established themselves at various points in the vicinity of the northwestern lakes by the middle of the seventeenth century, and their great discoverer, the Chevalier De LaSalle, had penetrated from the head of Lake Michigan to the mouth of the Mississippi river in 1682.

The date of their first appearance within the bounds of the present county of Lawrence cannot be certainly determined. They had two routes from Lake Erie to the Ohio river–one by way of Erie (Presq’ isle), French creek, and the Allegheny river, by which route came Captain Contrecoeur, in the Spring of 1754, when on his way to the capture of “the forks,” as the site of Pittsburgh was then called. The other route was from Presq’ isle, over the dividing ridge, and down the Shenango or Mahoning and Beaver rivers. They probably began to visit this region about 1731, for the colonies of Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia were complaining of their encroachments in that year. The dominant Indian nation in northwestern Pennsylvania, at the date of their advent, was the Senecas; but there seems to have been several different tribes of the Senecas, the Delawares, the Shawanese, and, perhaps, others intermingled. The Neshannock creek is said to have been named by the Delawares, and the Shenango by the Senecas. The Cornplanter tribe of the Seneca nation (called after one of their chiefs), was the most powerful and numerous one in this region, among the lesser organizations. Their principal village was on the Allegheny river.

The first white man who visited this region, from the English colonies, was Christopher Gist, the friend and companion of Washington, who went in the interests of the Ohio Land Company, on a visit of exploration, as far west as the Miami, in 1750. He did not, however, visit the territory of Lawrence county, but, probably, passed down the right bank of the Ohio river.

It is probable that the first white man from “beyond the mountains” who visited the territory now comprised within the limits of Lawrence county, was Christian Frederick Post,* who was sent on a peace mission to the western Indians, in the year 1758, in advance of General Forbes’ army, then on its way toward Fort Duquesne. He arrived, according to his journal, at Kush-kush-kee, the Indian capital of King Beaver, on the 12th of August. This was twelve years previous to the settlement made by the Moravian missionaries, Zeisberger and Senseman, at what is now Moravia station.

*A Moravian Missionary.

Whether “King Beaver” was identical with the chief Pack-an-ka, who ruled in the valley afterwards, we cannot know, but it is at least probable. On the 17th of August a grand council was held. All the chiefs and rulers, for many miles around, were present, and there was also a French captain, and fifteen men on the ground. Among the celebrated kings and chiefs present, were King Beaver, King Shingis, Teedy-us-kung, and Delaware George, of the Delawares, and there was present, also, a party of Shawanese and Mingoes.

This French captain and detachment of soldiers, may, very probably, have thrown up the fortification described in the history of Taylor township, at old Moravia village. The times were precarious, and the French knew not at what moment the treacherous savages would turn against them. From that date, until the Spring of 1770, we have little or no account of this region. Hunters, traders, and trappers probably visited it, but the savages were undisturbed in their possessions.

In April, 1770, two Moravian missionaries, Zeisberger and Senseman, came into the valley of the Beaver river, by invitation of the principal chief or king, the venerable Pack-an-ka. These missionaries had attempted to establish a mission at the mouth of the Tionesta creek, but meeting with little encouragement, and not liking the rough country, they very gladly accepted the chief’s offer of land and protection, and commenced a settlement a little west of where the old village or hamlet of Moravia now stands, but in the course of a few weeks, finding the location too low, and subject to malaria, they crossed the river and made their permanent settlement on the high bluff a little northwest from the present Moravia station, on the E. and P. railway. The mission remained and flourished for nearly three years, when for some reason they were persuaded to move farther west, and, accordingly, they destroyed their church building, and removed to a point on the upper waters of the Muskingum, in the present State of Ohio, in 1773. The largest village of the Indians, who appeared to have been mostly Delawares, was no doubt at Kush-kush-kee, which Post describes as being composed of four separate towns, and containing about “ninety houses, and two hundred able warriors.” Pack-an-ka was the head chief, or king, and his capital, called New Kas-kas-kunk, was located on the ground where New Castle now stands. Another town called Old Kas-kas-kunk, was located near the mouth of the Mahoning river. The principal chief, orator, and statesman, under King Pack-an-ka, was called Glik-ik-an, who was afterwards converted to Christianity by the Moravians, and finally perished in the massacre at the mission towns in Ohio, in March, 1782. The king was never converted, but nevertheless remained the steadfast friend of the missionaries so long as they remained in the Beaver valley.

History of Mahoning Township


There are various opinions as to the location of this village. Some authorities locate it at the mouth of the Mahoning, on the Big Beaver, and others still farther down, between that and Moravia. But the evidence points strongly to the site of Edenburg as the location of this once famous Indian town. It is at least certain there was a village where Edenburg stands, which was divided into two parts, one a short distance farther up the river than the other, and in the memory of the “oldest inhabitants” the Indians who lived here were called “Kush-kush-kians.” But compara- [p. 80]tively few years ago the old war-post stood near the village of Edenburg, or in the edge of it, with the marks of the tomahawks still upon it, looking almost as fresh as when the Indians first circled around it and performed their grotesque war-dance, their painted visages showing hideously in the fitful light of the fire. Then another reason for the location of their village here was the peculiar beauty of the place, and the richness of the soil, for the savage, let it be understood, was a connoisseur in choosing advantages, both of beauty and adaptability to cultivation. The place, also, was one calculated for easy defense, having, beside the river and hills, a swamp on either side, while the village itself was on higher ground than the marshy land around it–on an island as it were.

In the vicinity have been picked up gun-flints, oxydized bullets, flattened and battered; old gun-locks and gun-barrels, bayonets, etc., which would seem to indicate that severe fighting occurred here at some period. Many bones have also been found. Near the town was a burial ground, containing among other relics an interesting mound, originally some fifty feet in circumference, and about six feet high. This mound was examined some years since, and found to contain several layers of human skeletons. Flag-stones were placed in regular order around the bodies, and the whole covered with earth. Nearby were quite a large number of bodies buried separately. Large numbers of flint chips and arrow-heads have been picked up in the vicinity. The location of the village was on the south side of the Mahoning, the principal part being below the present village of Edenburg, and close to the river.

Christian Frederick Post, the Moravian missionary, who visited this region in 1758, in advance of Forbes’ army, says the town contained at that time ninety houses, and two hundred able warriors. Post persuaded the principal chief, Pak-an-ke, or King Beaver, to visit the “Forks,” now Pittsburgh, where a great conference was held on the ground where Allegheny City now stands. Twelve years later, in 1770, at the request of Pak-an-ke, the Moravians removed from their settlement at Lanunak-hannuk, on the Allegheny river, and settled on the Big Beaver, five miles below New Castle, near the present site of Moravia station.

Here they remained for two years, instructing the Indians in the principles of the Christian religion, establishing schools, and introducing agricultural pursuits. During this time they had constant intercourse with the Indians at Kush-kush-kee, and converted many of them to Christianity, among the number a distinguished warrior and orator named Glik-kik-an, who belonged to one of the Delaware or Lenape tribes. They failed, however, to make any impression on the grey-haired old chief Pak-an-ke, though he scrupulously protected the missionaries from all harm by hostile Indians, and was their constant friend.

The Indians did not all leave their beautiful home until sometime after the country was settled by the whites, and the wonder is not great, because Kush-kush-kee, with its beautiful valley and silvery stream, together with the “hills piled on hills,” and the grand old forest, had long been their abiding place.

History of Mercer County

The History of Mercer County, which borders Lawrence County, adds this:

After the Mound Builders, who stopped building mounds between 1542 and 1650, the next group of Indians that claimed control of the Mercer County region is the Erie Indians, or the Cat Nation (Eriehronon). The Erie controlled this region during the early and middle 1600’s.  In 1656, the Iroquois Confederation wiped out the Erie Indians as a tribe. We know very little about these Indians, as they were destroyed before Europeans had advanced far enough inland to meet directly with them. It is important to note that the destruction of a tribe of Indians did not mean the death of all men, women, and children.

Trade with Europe brought on the war between the Eriehronon and the Iroquois. The Iroquois wanted a monopoly of trade with the Europeans. They would trade for European weapons and the sup­plies to use the guns they had gained. This meant they needed a great quantity of trading goods. These goods were primarily animal pelts. To gather more pelts these Iroquois started to range farther than their traditional hunting and trapping grounds, intruding on the lands of other tribes. A war soon broke out between the powerful Iroquois and the Erie tribe. This war saw European weapons used against inferior, Neolithic, and traditional weapons.

From that point on, after 1656, the area that became Mercer County was under Iroquois control and was used for a hunting preserve. It was sparsely populated for the better part of a century. Hunting and trapping parties visited and it was a main crossing ground of Indian paths.

By 1722, without Iroquois approval, some Delaware (Lenni Lenape) and Shawnee started to migrate into this region.

By 1747, the Lenape, with Iroquois permission, continued to migrate into this area. Their capital in the Ohio Valley region was located at Kuskuski near the present day town of New Castle—which until 1849 was the southern border of Mercer County. Along with these Indians a Wyandot tribe of about one hundred fami­lies moved into the surrounding regions, on or near, the Shenango River. Their move westward demon­strates the constant pressure the European Americans were now putting on the American Indians for their lands. The fact that four tribal groups—the Iroquois, the Lenni Lenape, the Shawnee, and the Wyandot—shared an area that had not been populated completely for many years shows the extent of this pressure.

Archaeology Perspective

An archaeology overview  and photos of Lawrence County’s historic artifacts is found at this link.


About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
This entry was posted in Allegewi, Cat Nation, Cornplanter, Delaware, Erie, Eriehronon, Iroquois, Lenape, Lenni Lenape, Mengwe, Mingoes, Mound Builders, Seneca, Shawnee, Six Nations, Wyandot. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Indians of Lawrence Co., PA

  1. Please contact me 814-897-3920 or email me below I have some tribal information to share with you.

  2. got2bjb says:

    I also found a book that talks about these mounds.I believe it was written in 1879 The book is called “The History of Adams County Illinois”. I am not sure who the author was but the book states;
    Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1879, by MURRAY, WILLIAMSON 81 PHELPS, In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at \Vashington, D. C.
    Bottom of page 59-67.
    I found it through Google books. Very interesting read!

  3. I live in New Castle, PA. The Mahoning River is at the bottom of my street. It is so obvious that there is so many sites that could be mounds where I live. Why haven’t there been more exploration in the area to find this culture and educate the white people who live here?

  4. Geoffrey Stiles says:

    My distant relative, Bartholomew Applegate, married a “Lenni Lenape Squaw” who was also named “Mary”, in 1720. They had 4 surviving children. Mary’s father is alleged to have been “Big Thunder Leni Lenape” and her mother “Anna Wakusatome Bright Lightening Leni Lenape,” though I have no verification of this. Mary died in 1770 at the age of 75.

  5. Margaret W. Cass for David Cornelius says:

    trying to find mother and father of Hannah Cornelius she was the mother of David and Julius Cornelius, David was born in NY State, in 1735 ,Hannah is buried in Rochester,NY

  6. Margaret W. Cass says:

    Hannah never married, she was a servant for Hophni Smith

  7. Jeffrey says:

    Butler County, PA seems to have scant information before 1753. Is there any plausible reference on early maps or oral tradition to the location of the Allegewi fortress? Supposedly it was in the Allegheny Mountains or Allegheny River regions. The Ronnongwetowanca are either the precursor to the Allegewi or the same just a different name. The Tuscororas supposedly wiped out the Ronnongwetowanca around 1000 BC. Evidence is hard to corroborate until more archeological studies are done in Northwestern Pennsylvania north of the Ohio River and west of the Allegheny Mountains and River.

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