Civic Center, 2 Park Street
Potsdam, NY 13676
(315) 265-6910

Indian Stories


INDIAN STORIES

The lower (north) end of Fall Island was always devoted to business.  The south end, where Trinity Church now stands, was for many years the summer residence of a family of squaws from St. Regis, consisting of Grandmother Molly, and two granddaughters.  They pitched their tent and made baskets, which they sold to the village people who furnished them with a good part of their living.  Their cooking utensils were few and simple, consisting principally of a black pot hung over the fire of sticks.  Old Molly was feeble and had what in those days was called ‘phthistic’.  She was cordially welcomed and many a cup of tea was made for her.  Catherine, one of the granddaughters, entertained the little girls of the village by swimming, diving, etc. and teaching them to make baskets.  She was remembered by many as “Old Catherine Squaw” as she continued to come with her wares and visit friends until the time of her death, and then in 1895 her granddaughter, Mary Ann, came in her place.

In the “Potsdam Recorder” of May 25, 1895, Harriet Leete Clapp relates the following story:

“My great grandmother, Mrs. Absolom Tupper of Royalton, Vermont, was one of the women into whose heart and brain was scored deep the memory of the Indians burning Royalton and their capture of the children.  She instilled into her children an almost frantic terror of ‘The Indians’.  The name was used as a bug-a-boo to terrify naughty children and indeed was enough to banish color from other children’s cheeks.

This may explain why my grandmother, Mrs. Jabez Willes, felt such terror of Indians, though in other respects a brave little woman.  The story which follows is one which my grandmother used to tell us children always giving the above explanation of her cowardice, as she called it.

When grandmother was a young bride (about 1825-26), she began housekeeping in a building long known as ‘The Prouty House’, now standing west of George Raymond’s house.  Later, she moved to the house her husband, Judge Willes, built on Maple Street (later owned by Hosea Bicknell, now torn down and on the site of Nickerson’s garage).

When grandmother was taking Saturday’s baking from the brick oven, she was startled by a shadow on the kitchen floor, and a gruff voice that uttered the monosyllable, ‘How’.  A quick jump, a little shriek, and a big shudder followed as the little woman turned and saw a huge Indian standing close at her side.

Her fright seemed to amuse the savage but without attempt to further terrify her, he demanded ‘bread’ and pointed to the loaves smoking on the table.  One was quickly given him and he silently departed.

To close and bolt all the doors was but a minute’s work after the unwelcome and uninvited guest had departed.

When grandfather came to dinner, he found every door bolted fast and his wife the personification of terror.  Inquiry soon revealed the cause of both terror and barricade, and the disquieting information was given that there was a whole camp of Indians at the head of the Island where Trinity Church now stands, and such friendly visits were by no means infrequent and the morning caller was probably John.

So it proved, and every Saturday thereafter, ‘John Injun’ came for his loaf of bread.  He always got it, and often made return of a gift of fish, a basket, or a bit of game.

In after years, when the Indians had gone to the Reservation, ‘John Injun’ remembered his old friends and many a bit of black maple sugar in a birch bark box came to the little bride’s grandchildren when John and Jane came on their annual tramp from the St. Regis.”