The Indian Occupation
     Of Mother Bedford

The Iroquois Occupation

   The extinguishing of the Susquehannock tribe by adoption into the Iroquois Confederacy did not greatly affect this region that would become Bedford, Blair, and Huntingdon Counties. It continued to function as a crossroads of migrating tribes. The majority of those tribes who made use of the natural valleys and waterways of this region belonged to the Iroquois Confederacy. Of the Iroquois Confederacy, the Seneca tribe, which inhabited the region of present-day western New York State would have been the most likely tribe to pass through and inhabit this Blair County region.

   The historic period of the century stretching between the late-1600s to the Revolutionary War was a period of continual warfare on the western frontier. That frontier included the present-day south-central Pennsylvania (Bedford / Blair / Huntingdon Counties) region. The generic name French And Indian War has been applied to this period of warfare. It included King William's War (in Europe known as the War Of The League Of Augsburg) 1689-1697, Queen Anne's War (in Europe known as the War Of The Spanish Succession) 1702-1713, the Fox Resistance / King George's War (in Europe known as the War Of The Austrian Succession) 1740-1748, and the actual French And Indian War (in Europe known as the Seven Years War) 1749-1763.

   Throughout the period of the French And Indian War the Indian inhabitants of this region were caught up in the middle of the struggle between England and France, and to a lesser degree, Spain. The Iroquois Confederacy of the Five Nations had emerged from the Beaver Wars as the dominant Indian nation in the east. The French, having previously allied themselves with the Huron Nation, had trouble obtaining alliances with the Iroquois. They attempted to at least convince the Five Nations to remain neutral while they and the English were engaged in conflict. The Iroquois, through King William's War, remained loyal to the English. When that war came to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697, the Oneidas agreed to a treaty of neutrality with the French. The Onondagas followed the Oneidas, and they were in turn followed by the Senecas, Cayugas and eventually the Mohawks in agreeing to maintaining peace with the French.

   The Iroquois neutrality was maintained during the Queen Anne's War and, as a result, the majority of the fighting during that conflict was confined to the New England region. During the King George's War, the Iroquois sachems intimated their concerns to the English that, despite their avowed neutrality, they might be overrun by the French and their New England Indian allies. The fear of encroachment by the French and their allies, which included the Abnaki tribe, led a group of Mohawks to end their treaty of neutrality around 1746. They accompanied William Johnson in his campaigns against the French. At the beginning of the French And Indian War the French made a show of force by constructing a line of forts between the Appalachian Mountains and the Great Lakes. The English had kept the Indian tribes pacified and on their side throughout the earlier wars by carrying on a trade that benefited the Indians. As the French began to build their impressive defenses a number of tribes changed their allegiance and went over to the French side. Those tribes included, among many others, the Shawnee, Seneca and Delaware. The alliances that the tribes were changing had an impact not only on the French and the English, but on the Indians themselves. The integrity of the Iroquois Confederacy was threatened. In the battle for Crown Point, for instance, a group of Mohawks allied with the English forces under William Johnson fought against fellow Iroquois who were allied with the French forces.

   The moral dilemma faced by the Indians of having to fight each other because of their various alliances soon became secondary in importance to a greater dilemma. The English were achieving more and more victories over the French, and in the process they were becoming more sure of themselves. They were reaching the point where they did not require the assistance of the Indians. As a result, the English were not concerning themselves with upholding the treaties they had previously made with the Indian tribes. The increasing number of white settlers who were migrating into the lands west of the Blue Mountains were causing alarm among the Indian tribes. The French had not made the sort of "permanent settlements" which the English were now pushing westward. The English were more interested in securing the land for themselves than simply trading for furs.

   The Iroquois tribe of the Senecas maintained their occupation in this region that eventually became Blair County throughout the American Revolutionary War period. But that occupation was not a friendly one because of the steady push by the white settlers into the region. From the early 1700s and right up to the beginning of the hostilities of the Revolutionary War there had been a flood of immigrants coming into the colonies. England encouraged the emigration of her own citizens to the colonies due to the increasingly crowded conditions on the British Isles. She also encouraged the emigration of peoples from Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands in order to make her claim to the settled lands on the North American Continent more secure. Once those immigrants arrived in American ports they needed land to settle on. In the opinion of the colonists who were already settled here the best land for that purpose lay to the west, and that meant the lands occupied by the Indians.

   The Iroquois Confederacy took up a policy of inviting other tribes throughout the east coast to move to the New York/ Pennsylvania region in order to create a buffer zone between their traditional lands to the east of Lake Erie and the English settlers who were pushing steadily toward that region. The Susquehanna and Juniata Valley regions became the focus of the Iroquois' resettlement project.

   The name by which the Iroquois called themselves was Aquanuschioni. The meaning of this name translated roughly as "united people". The Iroquois was indeed a confederacy of many more tribes than just the six tribes from which the auxiliary name of the Six Nations arose. When the Iroquois Confederacy invited other tribes to migrate and settle in the central and southern regions of Pennsylvania and to take advantage of their protection those other tribes became part of the confederacy in regard to "political" loyalty and affiliation. Unlike the Susquehannocks, whose tribal/ national identity the Iroquois dissolved when they "adopted" them into the Confederacy, these tribes would retain their own unique tribal identities while becoming part of the Iroquois Confederacy. The Delaware tribes already inhabited the Pennsylvania region and did not actually relocate; they simply came to be under the control of the Iroquois Confederacy. The tribes which relocated from their homelands included the Conoys (also known as the Ganawese or Piscataway) from the western shores of the Chesapeake Bay, the Nanticokes from the region lying between the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, the Tuscaroras and the Tutelos from what became North Carolina. It might be noted that after the Susquehannocks had been defeated by the Iroquois, a number of them had fled south rather than be adopted into the victors' tribe. They met and engage the Tutelos, and in the end were defeated by the southern tribe. A few other, smaller tribes which were also in league with the Iroquois Confederacy included the Foxes, Mahicans and Wyandots. One other tribe, which would leave its mark on this region, responded to the Five Nations' request for immigrants to settle between them and the white settlers: the Shawanese or Shawnee tribe. The Shawnees, like the Senecas, were employed by the British and the Loyalists throughout the American Revolutionary War to harass the Patriots.

   The General Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania made an effort to treat the Indians fairly and entreated with them for new tracts of land. Despite the fact that today, with hindsight, we might judge our ancestors as having stolen the land from the Indians, they probably proceeded with the belief that they were dealing quite fairly with the Indians. The General Assembly attempted to prevent English subjects from moving into and settling in regions that were not legally obtained from the resident Indian tribes.

   No group of people, whether they be European/American or Indian, would be completely good and law-abiding. There were those Euro Americans who would cross boundaries and homestead in lands not given up by the Indians. There were also those Indians who would refuse to abide by a treaty signed by representatives of their tribe and attempt to retain possession of the lands even as the Europeans were moving in. These two situations existed in this Blair County region and defined the Indian/Euro American relations during the Revolutionary War period.

   A number of tales concerning Indian incursions into this region during the Revolutionary War period have been recounted elsewhere in this website. The reader interested in folklore and legend might also wish to consult U.J. Jones' History Of The Early Settlement Of The Juniata Valley which contains a number of fancifully embellished accounts of the white settlers' encounters with the Indians. J.Simpson Africa saw fit to include many excerpts from Jones' volume when he authored/ edited the History Of Huntingdon And Blair Counties, Pennsylvania. Many of the other later history books have also reprinted the accounts first "reported" in the first person tense by Jones. Those tales formed the basis of how the Indians were perceived in this region during the period that the earliest pioneer settlers moved into and homesteaded in these Appalachian mountains and valleys. I used the phrase "interested in folklore and legend" because, although perhaps based in fact, the accounts included by U.J. Jones in his book might have been more legend than fact. The accounts were, according to Mr. Jones' own prefatory statements, transcribed from the discussions of a few elderly men, none of whom would have been more than young boys at the time of the incidents being recounted. That fact, coupled with the first-person nature of the narrative, makes the veracity of the accounts a bit hard to believe. The narratives in Jones' book might not be viewed as accurate and plausible and may present a problem when searching for the accuracy of a history of the Indians of this region. As the stuff of folklore and legend, though, they are completely delightful and entertaining.

   One thing to remember when the Indian attacks upon white settlers is being discussed is that they were merely responding to the "incursions" by the Euro Americans. There were no single "kings" in the Indian tribal nations. Each tribe might be guided and governed by more than one sachem. The Euro American settlers did not understand that concept. As a result, when a treaty was signed by a sachem for a single tribal unit, there was no guarantee that all of the other tribal units were in agreement with the treaty. In many cases, the treaties had to be reinstituted numerous times until all of the affected tribal units had been involved in the agreements.

   It was during the Iroquois occupation of this region that treaties were entered into by which the provincial government of Pennsylvania acquired the lands which would become Mother Bedford. There were really only two treaties which directly affected the south central Pennsylvania region.

   The first treaty came about sort of as an afterthought to a plan to promote colonial/ provincial unity. On 04 July, 1754 Colonel George Washington surrendered Fort Necessity to the French and their Indian allies. That defeat resulted in the expulsion of the English from the Ohio Valley. The Iroquois Confederacy were still loyal to the English, but their trust was shaken somewhat by the turn in events. The colonies were wavering a bit in their support of the defense of the frontier regions. In order to buttress the unity between the colonies and to attempt to re-encourage the Iroquois to remain the provincials' allies, a congress was convened at Albany in the New York Province. The congress took place between 19 June and 10 July, 1754. Although a plan was devised, it pleased no one. The British government felt it gave too much power to the colonies; the colonial governments felt just the opposite, that it gave them too little power. The only positive result of the Albany Congress for the Province of Pennsylvania was the agreement of the Iroquois to cede various tracts of land to the Euro Americans. One tract which the Indians gave up included the present-day counties of Bedford, Blair, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry and Snyder, and parts of Centre and Union. Not all of the tribes were in agreement with the transfer of title to the lands lying between the Allegheny range and the Kittochtinny range. The disagreements resulted in the second treaty, negotiated and signed on 23 October, 1758. In that treaty new boundaries were agreed upon. With the signing of the latter treaty, the lands which would eventually be defined as Mother Bedford were recognized (at least by the Euro Americans) as belonging to the Province of Pennsylvania. And shortly thereafter the white settlers began a steady migration into the region.

   The movement of great numbers of Euro American settlers into this region steadily pushed the Indians westward into the Ohio Valley. There were a number of incursions by the various Iroquoian tribes, such as the Senecas and the Shawnees, back into this region throughout the Revolutionary War period. The Indians, though, never regained a steady hold on the region. The "incursions" were simply that: sudden, often temporary invasions. The pages in this website dealing with the Revolutionary War period contain information regarding the few incursions that took place, so it will not be necessary to include them here. It will suffice to simply note that the incursions into this region by the descendants of the first sojourners on this land came to an end circa the mid-1780s. The decrease of incursions by the Indians may have contributed to the dramatic increase in white settlement of this region circa 1785. The frontier was pushed further west in the year 1795 with the victory of General Anthony Wayne over the Shawnees led by chiefs Little Turtle and Blue Jacket at Fallen Timbers. It is generally assumed that the occupation of this region by Indians and even the threat of their incursions were brought to an end with the end of Little Turtle's War in 1795.