“Indian Reservation” in Fieldston?

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    • #1367
      ndembowski
      Keymaster

      While rereading the Rev. Tieck’s Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Spuyten Duyvil (a book that is a must read for any local person interested in history) I came across this bewildering paragraph:

      The Fieldston area included an Indian settlement. The federal government actually used it as a reservation, and Coleman [the local mailman] remembered when the last of the tribe were removed farther upstate. Today’s “Indian Road” and adjacent “Indian Pond” perpetuate this part of our past.

      There is plenty of archaeological evidence that Native Americans lived in the Fieldston area.  An archaeological excavation was conducted in Wave Hill in the late 80’s and the recently published book, Digging The Bronx, has a chapter on that excavation.  J.B. James wrote in a memoir that burials were found under the Horace Mann football field. But a federal Indian reservation in Fieldston is a whole other story and I have never seen anything to support its existence.  The mailman that Tieck references in the above quote, Pat Coleman, was born in 1862.  That means that if he indeed remembered when “the last of the tribe were removed farther upstate” the reservation would have been shut down at some point in the 1860s or 1870s at the earliest. I have learned not to doubt the Rev. Tieck as he did not make up stories but it just seems really hard to believe. Tieck included a photo of two figures in a birchbark canoe (Hiawatha and Minnehaha) decked out in western headdresses and he captioned it thusly:

      During the summer of 1913 a group of Indian players from upstate presented “Hiawatha” in afternoon and evening performances at Indian Pond (northeast of 246th Street and Fieldston Road). The audience was seated on a slope near the pond, and the effect in the evening when Hiawatha and Minnehaha were momentarily spotlighted canoeing across the water was most dramatic.

      I recently came across a little more information in a 1939 issue of the Riverdale News:

      That last sentence leads me to doubt Tieck’s claim about the Indian reservation despite the overall strength of his research. It seems likely to me that “Indian Pond” and the adjacent “Indian Road” would have gotten their names from this event, as opposed to an Indian reservation. But I am not really sure how far back the name Indian Road actually goes–if it predates this event in 1913.

    • #1368
      Catherineminty
      Participant

      Of interest >
      From John McNamara’s History in Asphalt, p 113 of Fourth Revised Edition,  2010
      INDIAN ROAD. This is a private road into the Former “Fieldston” estate owned by Major Joseph Delafield,who gave it the name. In the 19th century, social clubs, athletic teams and political organizations
      liked to adopt Indian names, and Squire Delafield indulged in the fancy.

    • #1369
      Thomas Casey
      Participant

      I will have to get my postcard image out of storage this weekend titled  Indian Players in “Hiawatha” at Fieldston…but attached is a NY Times noticeny times may 1913

    • #1370
      Peter Ostrander
      Moderator

      Interesting especially the NY Times article showing Teddy Roosevelt and other prominent people actually attended the play, new to me. I read the two excerpts from Dr Tieck’s books and see examples of history and oral history.  On one hand the play was performed by Native Americans from a US Government reservation in Fieldston.  The quote by Pat Coleman , the oral history excerpt , we are assuming is referring to the same event.  It’s not clear that it does but I think when Tieck was writing that section on Filedston he used the research he had, history and oral history and its good he did. Too bad he didn’t have access to the internet that we all use today to find things that were unimaginable to find not that long ago.   Pat Coleman, the postman ,who lived and worked the Kingsbridge/Riverdale area  in the 2nd half of the 19th C was a good source of oral history of the area. His ‘ reservation’  and the Iroquois natives from a US Government ‘reservation’ who put on the play are likely the same ‘reservation’ reference.  The fact that the American buffalo herds exist today out west  after dying  off were saved by the herds from the Bronx Zoo  once kept  for a short time on the Van Cortlandt Parade ground  is another little know fact that makes me believe anything is possible.  Perhaps  we will find that indeed a small, temporary Native Indian ‘Reservation’ was once kept in our area much like the American buffalo.

    • #1371
      Thomas Casey
      Participant

      NY Times June 10 1913

    • #1372
      ndembowski
      Keymaster

      I agree with Peter’s take above. The internet is indeed an unfair advantage over previous historians and often you have to connect the dots incomplete sources. What the Rev. Tieck and Thomas Henry Edsall were able to do in their books without digital assistance in pretty remarkable.

      Interesting to note that neither of the NY Times articles refer to “Indian Road” nor “Indian Pond,” which would seem to indicate that the names came after the Hiawatha performances and not before as the History in Asphalt explanation suggests.

      I did not know about the Roosevelt visit to Fieldston either–at least not those Roosevelts. Eleanor Roosevelt visited the neighborhood later:

    • #1431
      Thomas Casey
      Participant

      I finally got back to NYC for the Weekend and dug out the Hiawatha Postcard from 1913 Advertising the Play, cost and directions, with extended dates,1913 postcard advertising Hiawatha

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