Daniel Nimham

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Sachem Daniel Nimham

Daniel Nimham (1726–1778) was the last sachem of the Wappinger. Chief of the Nochpeem band, he was the most prominent Native American of his time in the lower Hudson Valley.


Prior to Henry Hudson's arrival in 1609, the Wappinger People lived on the eastern shore of the Muhheakantuck "the river that flows both ways" from Manhattan Island north to the Roeliff Jansen Kill in Columbia County, and east as far as the Norwalk River Fairfield County, Connecticut. The Wappinger were allied with the Mahican People to the north. Their settlements included camps along the major creeks and Hudson River tributaries with larger villages located where these streams met the river.

During the early period of European contact, the population of the Nochpeem has been estimated at approximately 600.[1] They are said to have occupied the highlands north of Anthony's Nose to Matteawan Creek. Adriaen van der Donck, one of the earliest writers of this portion of the country, assigns them three villages on the Hudson; Keskistkonck, Pasquasheck and Nochpeems; but their principal village was Canopus, which was situated in a valley in Putnam county, and known as Canopus Hollow.[2] To the Dutch and English they were known as part the "River Indians", and the "Highland Indians".


Robert S. Grumet describes Daniel Nimham as the "leader of a small peripatetic group of from two hundred to three hundred displaced Mahican- and Munsee-speaking Indian people" who wandered the "mountainous contested borderlands separating Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.[3] They built small bark houses and log cabins on sparsely settled lands in remote valleys far from colonial roads and towns, and made meager livings weaving baskets, crafting brooms and working as seasonal as laborers or servants on nearby farms.

He learned to speak English by listening to his new neighbors.

After 1746 his residence was at Westenhuck, near Great Barrington, Massachusetts. In 1755, during King George's War, he, with most of his fighting men, traveled to Albany and entered the English service under Sir William Johnson,[4] By March 1758, he was in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, serving as town constable, although it appears he continued to frequent the ancestral lands around Wiccopee in Dutchess County, New York.[3]

Land claims[edit]

In 1697, Adolph Philipse, a New York City merchant and son of the first lord of Philipsburg Manor purchased land from two squatters, Sybrandt and Dorlandt. As they had never had a patent, Philips subsequently negotiated a confirmation deed with local representatives of the remaining Wappinger in which they renounced title to the land. Philipse claimed the deed set the Connecticut line as the patent's eastern border.[1]

During the French and Indian War, the Wappingers or "Indians of the long reach" as that section of the river was called, furnished a corps of about three hundred,[2] notably, to serve with Roger's Rangers. They had moved their families to the Christian Indian mission settlement at Stockbridge, for the duration of the war. When the men returned, they found their land rented by the Philipses to tenant farmers.

Nimham contested the validity of the Philipse's deed arguing with considerable justification that the Wappinger had been defrauded of their lands.[5] The New York Council, dominated by manor lords, threw out Nimham's claim and jailed his legal advisor, Samuel Munrow, for "high misdemeanors".[6] Undeterred, In 1766, Nimham and three Mohican chiefs: Jacob Cheeksaunkun, John Naunauphtaunk and Solomon Uhhaunauwaunmut from the Stockbridge area and three of their wives traveled to England to present his case to the Lords of Trades. The trip was financed largely by a combination of sympathetic rent rioters and land speculators.[3] The London Chronicle describes the Nimham group of four chiefs as tall and strong, one being "six and a half feet without shoes...dressed in the Indian manner". Although he and his group were treated very well, he never had a meeting with the King directly (unlike the Four Mohawk Kings of half a century earlier), however he did speak with someone who was in the parliament who agreed to contact the governor in Albany, New York.

The Lords of Trade reported that there was sufficient cause to investigate "frauds and abuses of Indian lands...complained of in the American colonies, and in this colony in particular." And that, "the conduct of the lieutenant-governor and the council...does carry with it the colour of great prejudice and partiality, and of an intention to intimidate these Indians from prosecuting their claims."[6] Upon a second hearing before Governor Moore and the Council, John Morin Scott argued that legal title to the land was only a secondary concern. Returning the land to the Indians would set an adverse precedent regarding other similar disputes.[7]

Daniel Ninham may have learned to speak English through the family of Catherina Brett who lived in what is now the City of Beacon, New York. She was friends with the Ninhams and allowed the Wappinger to stay on her land after they had been sold. Most historians suggest Daniel Nimham was born in the Fishkill Creek Region near the hamlet of Wiccopee, New York. Because of Ninham's multicultural skills, he went to court on several occasions to defend his people's land rights.

His son Abraham Nimham (born in 1745) was appointed captain of a company of Indian scouts serving with the Continental Army, a confederacy of Mohicans, Wappingers, Munsee and other local tribes.Stockbridge Militia by General George Washington.

Daniel and Abraham Nimham and his fellow Stockbridge Warriors fought for the American cause during the Revolution and were some of America's first Veterans. They served with Washington at Valley Forge and later with General Marquis de Lafayette's troops. It is noted that Daniel "faithfully served in the army as a soldier at Cambridge...In 1775 ".

On August 31, 1778, the Nimhams and fifty of their fellow Wappinger were surrounded then killed by Loyalist, British Dragoons and Hessian Soldiers under the command of Lt. Colonel Simcoe in the Battle of Kingsbridge Cortlandt Ridge in what is now Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. A stone monument to the Stockbridge Warriors who sacrificed their lives for the American cause marks a trail to the battlefield.

Mohican Sachem Hendrick Aupaumut and others of the tribe petitioned the General Court for compensation for the losses at the Bronx Massacre, dated September 22, 1778. "Our young men have been employed in the present War against the common Enemy and many have lately fell in Battle. Their Widows are now left to care of themselves and their children; without help from their husbands, who at this season of the year provided for their families by hunting. We Indians depend on hunting to clothe ourselves and families. But when we get skins we know not where to go to trade for clothing. We are not able to make any ourselves. Our way of living is very different from our english breathren. And by this, we the subscribers, in behalf of our Tribe now earnestly pray you to consider our circumstances, and open your hearts, by providing such way by which we may be able to procure some coarse cloathing particularly Blankets." [8]

By the early 1800s many of the local native people from Stockbridge had joined the Oneida Nation in New York, eventually journeying west to Ontario and Wisconsin.


Nimham Mountain in the town of Kent, Putnam Co. is named after him. A marker on Gypsy Trail Road at the entrance to the park reads "Named in honor of the Sachem Daniel Nimham of Wappinger Indians killed in 1778 while fighting at Kings Bridge with our American Forces" and is dated 1932.

In 1906, the Mount Vernon, New York Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution dedicated the Chief Nimham Memorial at Van Cortlandt Park.[9]

In 1932, the New York State Education Department erected an historical marker in Kent on Route 301 to commemorate Nimham.(41° 28.312′ N, 73° 45.612′ W.) A second marker was erected in 1937 at the intersection of State Route 52 and 82 in Fishkill.(41° 32.685′ N, 73° 52.16′ W.) The Annual Daniel Nimham Intertribal Pow Wow is held in his honor.[10]


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]