Words To Remember

"The truth is this--genealogy is our living, and we are busy every minute, [and we] could use more hours." --Jane Wethy Foley, 1942

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Questions of Land Ownership in Colonial New York: The Case of Eve Pickard

By Anita J. Morgan, Senior Lecturer, Department of History, 

Indiana University–Purdue University, Indianapolis

Over the last ten years, historians have discovered Eve Pickard, a tavern owner who lived just west of the Canajoharie Mohawk village on the south side of the in colonial New York. The story they tell us goes something like this: in February1761 Pickard presented to Sir William Johnson, the Crown-appointed superintendent of Indian affairs for the northern colonies, a deed to the 1,100 acres of "low, and wood land" she said she owned near the village and between the John Lindsey/Philip Livingston patent and the Abraham Van Horne patent. She claimed the Canajoharie Mohawks gave the deed to her several years earlier and asked Johnson to intervene on her behalf as the Mohawks now wanted to evict her and her grandson, Cobus (short for Jacobus) Mabie. Johnson examined the deed, declared it a fraud, and in his recounting of the events in the Journal of Indian Affairs referred to Eve as "an old Mulatto Woman." Later that same month, Johnson mentioned to Cadwallader Colden, who was then lieutenant governor of New York, that Eve (again referred to as "a Mulatto Woman liveing on the Flatts of Conajoharie") and her grandson, Cobus, had seized three inebriated Mohawks after a horse race and persuaded them to sign deeds awarding the Pickard/Mabie duo the lands. This conflict between Eve, Cobus, Eve's other grandsons, Johnson, and the Mohawks about the ownership of the 1,100 acres continued for several years. The Mohawks complained to Johnson about the way that white people—presumably including Eve—were taking their lands. Cobus appears to have been the major instigator of the conflicts with the Mohawks. In 1765 the Mohawks burnt his house to the ground (Eve apparently lived in that same house and ran her tavern there!). Finally, in 1767, Johnson told Eve and Cobus they had eighteen days to vacate the land or they would be forcibly removed. Eve agreed to move and disappeared from the historical record.1

      Some historians who have written about Eve's so-called attempt at land fraud focus on her as a representative "multicultural" person who, in addition to selling alcohol, acted as a "go-between" or someone who also served as a mediator between the European settlers and the Iroquois. William Hart, for example, has argued that Eve was in reality a mulatto, as Johnson claimed, but the Mohawks referred to her as white because she "engaged in the white crime of land stealing," meaning that her behavior and not her appearance determined her race. Other writers have followed Hart's lead. What is striking is the credibility that historians have given to Johnson's characterization of her land transactions. They assume that a woman who must have been close to eighty years old was a willing participant in these apparently nefarious actions against the Canajoharie Mohawks and that her claim to own the land was bogus.2 2
      This essay will present Eve's side of the story, as far as eighteenth-century evidence will allow, and argue that the life of this Dutch tavern keeper from Schenectady opens a window into: the largely cooperative relationships the early residents of New York had with the Mohawks away from the eyes of the colonial government; the autonomous lives of women in the Dutch colony; and the way that world fell apart upon the intrusion of the British. It also demonstrates that Eve was tied by kin and occupation to a wide network of settlers and interpreters who had shaped life in the Mohawk Valley since the early 1700s and that those ties ultimately could not help her retain her independent life there. The life of Eve Pickard, who lived among and not apart from her Mohawk neighbors, tells us a great deal about the transition from Dutch to English, and finally, as her grandsons continued their pursuit of her land, to American control of the Mohawk Valley. 3
      While historians like David L. Preston have examined the larger conflicts over the Livingston patent, George Klock's conflict, and the new British land system, Eve is an example of how a smaller landholder, and a woman, was affected. Eve's problems with the Canajoharie Mohawks came as Sir William Johnson used his royal connections and imperial power to consolidate his control over the distribution of land in the Mohawk Valley. Johnson favored large land patents for himself and other British elites and disregarded longstanding arrangements for smaller plots of land that had been made between the Mohawks and early residents, such as Eve and her kin, who were now termed troublesome squatters. For the Mohawks, Eve was a tavern owner whose occupation collided with their assault against drunkenness—they had grown tired of settlers plying them with alcohol to acquire land even as they regretted their earlier generous land contracts with local settlers. (There is also the possibility that Eve's land grant was never intended to be permanent and was in reality only a lease for the use of the land in exchange for a yearly price.) Eve's family ties to Conrad Weiser, a Pennsylvania interpreter and principal agent to the Iroquois, probably complicated both sets of relationships—Johnson considered Weiser an impediment to his bid for absolute domination over the Mohawk Valley while the Mohawks considered Weiser an adoptive member of their family.3 4
      Eve is simultaneously easy and difficult to find in colonial documents. Her name before her marriage is found in several church records and is spelled at least five different ways. Her 1698 marriage record at the Reformed Dutch Church in Albany presents her as "Eechje Claesz." In 1700, at the baptism of her son Bartholomew, at the Schenectady Reformed Church, her name appears as "bbbbche Claassen"; in 1701, at the baptism of her son Nicholas, as "Eva Klaesen"; in 1703, at the baptism of her daughter Dorothy, as "Eva Klaessen"; and in 1707, at the baptism of her daughter Rachel, as "Aagje Claasse." Her spouse, Bartholomew Pickard, a British soldier from Leicester, England, undergoes similar name changes. He is found usually as Bartholomeus in these early records, with the last name spelled Bikkert, Pickert, Pikker, Pikkert, or Pikkart. The variation in spelling is likely based on whether the records were recorded by someone of Dutch, German, or English background and on their spelling skills. Eve hides in plain sight in many records.4 5
      Bartholomew Pickard evidently had been recruited in England in 1697 to serve with Colonel Richard Ingoldsby's regiment in New York. In 1698 he married Eve. Their marriage is listed in church records as (in English translation) "Bartholomew Pickard, young man from Leistershire in Old England and Eve Claasz, young woman from Schenectady." It was not unusual for British soldiers to marry Dutch settlers, as the Albany Reformed Dutch Church records list other such marriages. In 1707 the Albany council approved Bartholomew Pickard's application to sell "strong liquors." In 1713 Pickard was still on the regimental payroll. In 1716 the Albany council granted "Bartho Pickard his heirs and assigns a lott of ground at the Verrebegh on the north side of ye highway over against (or near to it) the house of Isaac Valkenburgh" for an annual rent of "two shillings and six pence." This parcel was located on the King's Highway between Albany and Schenectady. Here the Pickards established a tavern at a crucial geographic intersection between the English, Dutch, German, and Native American populations of New York. Bartholomew and Eve probably first became closely entwined with the assertive, independent Palatine German community of the Schoharie Valley at their tavern. (This has led to the erroneous assumption on the part of some genealogists that Bartholomew himself was a member of the Palatine group.) The Palatines had settled in New York in 1710 under the supervision of New York's colonial governor, Robert Hunter. They were supposed to develop naval stores for the Crown in exchange for their transportation to the colony and the right to live on a specific tract of land. After disputes with Hunter, a segment of the Germans left their allotted lands, moved to the Schoharie Valley, negotiated land deeds with the local Mohawks, and established several small communities.5 6
      Not all Palatines, however, went to such measures to secure a farm and livelihood. Bartholomew and Eve Pickard joined a more sedate group of Germans, who were perhaps more willing to work with a new colonial governor, William Burnet, and moved to the Stone Arabia patent in 1723. As one of the original patentees, Bartholomew received two allotments of fifty acres, as did his oldest son, Bartholomew, Jr.6 7

Figure 1
    Stone Arabia Patent Map from Montgomery County Maps, Volume 4, 1935. Courtesy of the Montgomery County Department of History and Archives, Fonda, New York. This map can also be found at www.fortklock.com/SApatent.htm.

      For the next several years, Eve lived an apparently quiet life at their home and tavern on the Stone Arabia patent. Dutch women were viewed as their husbands' partners in business as well as in life. More than "deputy husbands," women in colonial New York were actively engaged in the family business on a daily basis. This more- equal footing in business carried over to their personal lives as well. The Dutch legal system emphasized communal marital property, and prenuptial agreements were sometimes written. But from the late seventeenth into the early eighteenth century, after the English had taken control of the Dutch colony, women's standing in society and in law changed. It has been argued that as English common law replaced Dutch law in New York, Dutch women lost legal autonomy and personal status. Statistics reveal a decline in women's proprietorships and a decrease in the use of joint wills by Dutch husbands and wives as evidence of this loss of independent action. For women tavern owners specifically, Sharon Salinger has found that in the middle colonies like New York, these women were "usually motivated by an immediate and extreme economic need" when they applied for tavern licenses in the eighteenth century. She further found that women more often operated taverns in urban rather than in rural areas as Eve did.7 8
      Since no records exist for the Pickard taverns, it is impossible to know how much Eve participated in the daily operations of the tavern before Bartholomew died. Although Bartholomew was English and Eve was Dutch, it is difficult to believe that the assertive Eve would have acted as anything less than her husband's business partner. Janny Venema's study of seventeenth-century Beverwijck (Albany) describes husbands and wives working together in taverns and dealing with supply issues, rowdy customers, and the problem of whether or not to serve alcohol to Native Americans (serving them was illegal, but the practice existed anyway). Certainly these concerns persisted into the eighteenth century in all of New York, and the question of supplying Mohawks with alcohol became a dominant issue in Eve's life. It also seems that, unlike other women—even though British policies increasingly restricted the legal autonomy of Dutch women—Eve fought those restrictions with all she had. And, for all the complaints about Eve selling alcohol to the Mohawks, it was never stated that she broke the law, or that her license would be revoked (if she indeed had one). So, studies of taverns in New York City or Albany might not apply to Eve's situation. What sorts of dealings Eve had with her Mohawk and German neighbors on a daily basis, aside from her fight with Johnson, would be helpful in illuminating Eve's life, but absolutely no business or personal records exist to help us discern her routine business activities.8 9
      The Lutheran pastor Rev. Wilhelm Christoph Mr. Berkenmeyer said that Eve guided him to a crossing at the Mohawk River close to the Stone Arabia patent in 1734. It might have been about this time that Eve acquired the land that she and Johnson argued about in the 1760s. According to her great grandsons, "Eghye Pickerd Widow, your Petitioners Ancestor, about the year 1735 purchased for a valuable consideration from the native Indians of Canajoharie Castle, a Tract of land of about eleven hundred acres lying near the said Castle and obtained an Indian Deed thereof. That the said Eghye Pickerd from about the year 1738 was in actual and peaceable possession of the said land and continued in the same possession until her death.... That the possession of the said land hath continued and yet continues in the posterity of the said Eghye Pickerd.... All of this your petitioners are able to prove by incontestible evidence." Eve either did not move to the land at the time of the purchase, since she and Bartholomew were operating a tavern at the Stone Arabia Patent, or the date the great-grandsons remembered is off by about ten years. Bartholomew died around 1742. A fire destroyed Eve's home in 1748, and with it, according to her (and these same great-grandsons), the original deed for the land between the Livingston patent and the Canajoharie castle that she fought Johnson for, beginning in 1761.9 10
      While she lived at the Stone Arabia patent, Eve's children married into two local families, which may be part of the reason for her conflict with Johnson. In 1725 her son Nicholas married Anna Barbara Weiser, the daughter of John Conrad Weiser, one of the Palatine leaders who encouraged the move to Schoharie and a thorn in the side of the colonial governors. It is in all likelihood no coincidence that Eve purchased land from the Mohawks after her son's marriage to Anna Barbara. Her daughter-in-law's brother, Conrad Weiser, was a well-known and well-respected interpreter among earlier New York and Pennsylvania officials and among the Iroquois in general and the Mohawks in particular. It is entirely possible that Eve acquired the land with Weiser's help. At about the same time, Eve's daughter Dorothy married Jan Peter Mabie (it is speculated that this Jan Peter Mabie is the illegitimate son of Jan Peter Mabie's son Peter and Anna Peek, as age rules out the elder Jan Peter Mabie whose house still stands in the Mohawk Valley). Eve's land acquisition happened just a few years after the controversial 1731 Livingston and Van Horne patents were purchased on either side of the land she claimed. The purchase coincided with the growth of her immediate family. Joseph Mabie and his brother Cobus were born around 1730 and 1731. Their mother died in the mid- to late 1740s. The date of their mysterious father's death is not known. Perhaps Eve initially acquired the Canajoharie land to support her daughter and grandchildren and, after her husband's death, herself. No wills have been found, but if Bartholomew and Eve followed English law and not Dutch law in the division of his estate (as became more frequent in the eighteenth century), she would have received only the widow's thirds and not the half share customary under Dutch law. Her land purchase would have helped her maintain an independent life.10 11
      At some point between 1725 and 1750, Nicholas and Anna Barbara Pickard secured their own land near the Canajoharie castle, and Conrad Weiser remained an important presence in their lives. Weiser asked William Johnson to inform the Pickards of his impending visit to Canajoharie for official business; he spent the night at his sister's house while he was there. Weiser also recommended that Johnson hire Nicholas Pickard's son John (Eve's grandson), to serve as an interpreter for New York at Canajoharie in 1759, even though Eve was already in conflict with the Mohawks. In spite of Johnson hiring Weiser's nephew for essential services and passing along messages to Weiser's sister, Weiser and Johnson were not on good terms. Weiser's father had sent him to live with the Mohawks in the Schoharie Valley when he was a boy so that the Palatine Germans would have an interpreter in their dealings with the local natives. Weiser had remained close to his adoptive Mohawk family and had earned a reputation as an honest and effective diplomat. He moved to Pennsylvania in 1730 and began to interpret for the Pennsylvania government. Weiser, then, had been a diplomat on the frontier for a long time before Johnson even arrived in New York. Johnson honed his own diplomatic skills among the Mohawks, but then temporarily quit his job in 1751 and Weiser stepped in to attempt to bring the Iroquois under the influence of Pennsylvania. While Weiser was not successful, this, along with Weiser's sterling reputation, did not endear him to Johnson. To Johnson, Weiser remained a lower-class German who made trouble for British colonial elites. Johnson resented Weiser, yet did not want to cause any conflict with someone whom the Iroquois respected. After all, the Mohawks at Canajoharie castle had sold Nicholas and Anna Pickard land near their own village, perhaps as an indication of their positive feelings for her family. After Conrad Weiser's death in 1760, Eve's conflict with Johnson began. It could be that her association with Weiser had brought her some protection from Johnson and from any Mohawks who wanted to withdraw their deed to her. Historian Timothy Shannon has noted that, as the local economy shifted from trapping to agriculture, the Mohawks needed more land for farming. This land could be obtained by challenging previous deeds. With Weiser dead and Johnson on their side, now was the time to challenge more troublesome settlers, including a tavern owner like Eve. On the other hand, to follow up on historian David Preston's emphasis on community formation, the Mohawks might have just changed their minds about the advisability of having a tavern so close to the castle.11 12

Figure 2
    A map of Joseph Mabie's Revolutionary War patent. Herbert and Erma Schrader, The Pickard Family Lands 1717–1785 (Utica, New York, 1990). This map is nearly identical to the map by Simeon DeWitt.

      Although Eve's major problem with Johnson began after 1760, her first public conflict with the Mohawks came in 1753. At a conference at Fort George in New York City that year, the Canajoharie castle Mohawks complained about conflicts with several settlers over lands near their village, including Eve. They argued that she "lives just by us and who does a great deal of Damage by selling us liquors and by that means making us destroy one another: Some short time before we left home and an Indian was stabbed thro' her selling Liquor. We let her have a little spot of Land and she takes in more and more every year, and we desire our brother to give us an order to turn her off the Land when we go home." It would seem from this that she did in fact have a deed (the one that apparently burned in a house fire) and that the Mohawks were reconsidering their previous agreement with her. This conflict simmered until Weiser's death. At that point, perhaps in fear of an imminent eviction, Eve presented a new deed to Johnson in 1760. Two European men (probably German) later testified they had seen Eve sign a deed with a number of apparently sober Mohawks, but that no money or any other commodity had been exchanged, thus supporting her claim while at the same time undercutting it by saying no funds had been exchanged. It appears that Eve did not produce a fraudulent deed claiming it was the original, but instead drew up and had the Mohawks sign a new deed to support her claims. What is never made clear is the extent to which this deed reflected the original agreement between Eve and the Mohawks or if it encompassed the idea of her taking more land than originally allowed. It is not known whether Eve did indeed scheme to take more land or whether this was an excuse to get rid of her and her troublesome tavern. There is also the possibility that the deed was never intended to be a sale but rather a lease. The record simply does not tell us which of these is true, as no copy of the deed has been found.12 13
      In spite of this conflict, Eve remained useful to Johnson because of her language skills. Contemporary accounts indicate Eve was fluent in some variation of the local Iroquois language. At William Johnson's request, Eve gave one and possibly two depositions concerning the ongoing dispute over the validity of the Livingston patent, which lay adjacent to her own land. In 1730 Philip Livingston purchased 8,000 acres, which included the Canajoharie castle and some of the best land for planting. The Mohawks complained that the sale was carried out by some inebriated Mohawks who had no right to sell the land, and challenged the purchase. They were so vehement in their opposition to the sale that it was not surveyed (as was required of a land purchase) until three years later and then only after the surveyor crept around in the dark to accomplish his task. This "moonlight survey" was contested for decades. Eve testified in 1762 that the Mohawks told her the deed was fraudulent as they "were never payed a Consideration; and which they were determined never to agree to." She stated that the surveyor, Mr. Collins, said before several witnesses at her "house" that he was paid and didn't care if it was fraud. David Schuyler, one of the men who was tricked into providing transportation for the surveyor of this moonlight survey, asked Eve "several times" to talk to the Mohawks about his unwitting participation in the illegal survey because "she understood the Indian language well." Livingston's heirs gave up their claim to the land in 1761 by selling it to George Klock. Klock immediately incurred the wrath of several white settlers and some Mohawks when he attempted to remove them from the land. Apparently Eve consulted with the Mohawks and Johnson about the dispute in 1763, as she is cited as someone who could prove the Mohawks did not sign the original Livingston deed and appears on a list of those who gave depositions. Both of Eve's depositions came after the start of her own land problems. So, whatever her personal difficulties with Johnson, he considered her to be a valuable witness. Of course, Johnson's possible desire to own the Livingston/Klock patent himself would make any witness better than none. Even as she helped Johnson, Eve attempted to solve her own problems. She wrote (or had someone write for her) at least one letter to Johnson, which, unfortunately, was destroyed in the 1911 fire at the state library in Albany. All that is known about the letter is found in the calendar of the Johnson papers, which dates her letter October 29, 1763, and states that she was "refusing to remove from land which she says she occupies with the Indians' consent, and declaring confidence that Johnson will do her justice."13 14
      It was during this time period—when Johnson used Eve for his own purposes while he was also attempting to remove her from her land—that the only contemporary statement about Eve's ethnicity is made. The one primary source where Eve is referred to as a mulatto is in the William Johnson papers and only in 1761—her race is never referred to during any other conflicts or in any other documents. Unfortunately, nothing definitive is known about Eve's family of origin. Early genealogists placed her within the Van der Volgen family. The most famous member of this family, Lawrence Claessen Van der Volgen, served as an interpreter for the colony of New York from 1700 until his death in 1741/2. Lawrence Claessen, as he is more commonly known, had been taken captive at the age of thirteen by the Mohawks in the 1690 raid on Schenectady. He became skilled in their language and almost did not rejoin his birth family a few years later. Given Dutch naming practices (Eve followed Dutch practices when naming her own children), it is highly probable that Eve's father's name was Claes (Nicholas). This has given rise to the theory that Claes Lawrence Van der Volgen, Lawrence's father, was Eve's father, while her mother was probably not his wife, as there is no record of her baptism or any mention of her in the standard family genealogy works for the settlers of Schenectady.14 15
      The Dutch frequently used family members as witnesses at baptisms but no members of the Van der Volgen family served as witnesses for Eve's children. Efforts to place Eve as a member of any family who appeared as sponsors for her children have proven unsuccessful. There seems to be no way to verify her family of origin, making it even more difficult to conclusively determine her ethnicity. The records of the Dutch Reformed Church do not note her ethnicity at a time when Native Americans, slaves, and free blacks were identified by their racial background. Without any documentation from anyone other than Johnson about her ethnicity, and with her strong ties to Dutch culture, it is possible that Eve was Dutch, Dutch/Mohawk, or possibly Dutch/African. It is a possibility that Johnson, a man who was very sensitive to issues of race and often used them to his advantage, thought that Eve's land claim would be less likely to be upheld by British authorities if he stated she was either Mohawk or African. That no one else ever mentioned her race points to Johnson's probably incorrect assertion (all secondary sources which refer to Eve as a mulatto reference Johnson's statements). In reality, the importance placed on Eve's ethnicity is misplaced. Her real importance lies in her exemplifying what many settlers faced while vying with the Mohawks and Johnson for land in the Mohawk Valley.15 16
      The often outrageous behavior of Eve's grandsons, Cobus and Joseph Mabie, punctuated much of the 1760s. Both were accused in 1765 of giving some Mohawks "as much Rum as made them beastly drunk, and then threw three of the drunkenest of them into a Sled" with the purpose of taking them to Albany to sign deeds for lands at Canajoharie. There were numerous other confrontations. Also in 1765 Cobus "threatened to burn the whole Indian castle," and perhaps in an attempt to strike the first blow the Mohawks burned down his house—which he immediately rebuilt. Cobus also became the subject of an exchange between Johnson and John Tabor Kempe (attorney for the colony) about his possible removal from Canajoharie. According to Johnson, "a certain Cobus Maybe lived for many years in their flat Land, by Virtue only of an Indian Deed; Some time ago as these Indians begin to plant more than formerly they warned him to remove which he refused to do." As with Eve, Johnson acknowledged the presence of a deed, but noted that this deed was not enough to allow Mabie to remain on the land. As the British system changed Dutch procedures during the eighteenth century, previous deeds between Mohawks and early settlers did not conform to British policy and therefore might not be upheld by the British government. This was a minor point to Cobus, and the only thing that distracted him from his fight to stay on the land was his service in Captain Jacob Klock's militia company to answer an alarm in 1763 at German Flatts. By 1767, not only Cobus and Joseph Mabie but also their cousins, John and William Pickard, were in conflict with local Mohawks over these lands. Eve's role, if any, in these ongoing confrontations is not known.16 17
      Eve and her family had lived in the Canajoharie location for years and believed that decades-old land transactions between settlers and Mohawks should be upheld, regardless of new British imperial policy or the changing needs of the Mohawks—including their growing wariness of their old neighbors. No stranger to frontier land dealings, Eve without a doubt understood the importance of having a clear title to her land. The Stone Arabia lands had been inherited by her sons, but the lands near the Canajoharie castle she claimed as hers alone—as older, Dutch law would allow. Eve's life changed dramatically in the evolving political environment of the Mohawk Valley. Johnson did not tolerate Eve's interference with his plans to own vast amounts of land and dominate the Mohawk Valley—unless she was absolutely necessary when he needed her depositions. German and Dutch settlers who had preceded the British in the valley were excluded from land distribution under the British system as it developed in the mid-eighteenth century. Johnson, for his part, did not trust the Germans or by extension Eve, since she had lived among them for decades. The Mohawks, whom Johnson cultivated as allies, sided with him against residents with whom they had previously negotiated deeds. They trusted Johnson to solve their problems (the sale and consumption of liquor was an increasing concern) and their old ties to the early German and Dutch settlers frayed. 18
      It was in Eve's interest to stay where she was—as a widow and tavern owner this was her employment and her security. It was in Johnson's and possibly in the Mohawks' best interest that she go. Did Eve steal land from the Canajoharie Mohawks and should she therefore lose the land? Did her unfortunate timing of acquiring that land probably at the same time and near the place of the Livingston patent taint her with its bad reputation? Evidence points to the conclusion that she acquired the deed from the Mohawks in the 1730s, but then her grandsons and the tavern business caused so many problems that the Mohawks wanted her to leave, and William Johnson was more than happy to help them get rid of her. Forces larger than Eve's long-term relationship with the locals undermined her livelihood. 19
      Eve left her home in 1767, when Johnson evicted her, and, because the document trail ends, some assume that she died shortly thereafter, around the age of eighty. Although she died, the land dispute lived on, as her grandsons refused to accept the loss of the family's lands. Joseph Mabie lived on the Van Horne patent, on the opposite side of the Canajoharie village and yet close to his grandmother, during Eve's troubles. A 1764 map shows Joseph's home between the homes of two of his Schuyler in-laws and there is no indication he was ever forced from his home as were his brother and grandmother. Both Joseph and Cobus served in the local militia along with their Pickard cousins and their brother Bartholomew, and answered the attack at German Flatts in 1763. Joseph signed a document supporting the Continental Congress in 1775, and from 1776 to 1782 he served in Captain Joseph Dygart's First Company of the First (Canajoharie) Regiment of the Tryon County Militia. At that time a Cobus Mabie (apparently the same Cobus) appeared in Fairfield, north and west of Canajoharie—living on land owned by William Johnson! Cobus left his home in Fairfield in 1778 with his wife and two youngest children after being warned of an impending attack by British soldiers and their Mohawk allies, leaving his two oldest children to prepare the livestock for the flight to Canajoharie, where they thought they would be safe. While he was gone, his oldest son, John, was scalped and died. Given their longstanding animosity toward British officials, it is not surprising that both Cobus and Joseph fought against the British in the Revolutionary War and survived to once again pursue the question of the family's ownership of the Canajoharie lands. Eve's antagonist, William Johnson, on the other hand, died in 1774. With the outbreak of the Revolution, Johnson's heirs fought for the British. After the war, his extensive, private land holdings in the Mohawk Valley were confiscated.17 20
      As the war wound to a close in 1782, both Joseph and Cobus lived on Eve's old claim. In late 1784 Cobus petitioned the state for a land warrant for 640 acres next to Canajoharie castle. He claimed to own the land and stated it was "conveyed to me by a certain deed executed by the native Indian proprietors thereof and which afterwards was destroyed by accident." In 1785, however, Joseph was granted the land which Cobus had wanted as well as additional acreage to total 1,213.5 acres (closer to his grandmother's original claim of 1,100 acres) as part of the act which gave land to Revolutionary War veterans. (Two of Eve's great-grandchildren had also attempted to claim the land.) Both Joseph and Cobus appear on the 1788 Montgomery County tax list, so it would be fair to assume that Cobus somehow obtained land near his brother or lived on his brother's land. Like their grandmother, Cobus and Joseph Mabie were determined to hold the family's land. And like their grandmother, their success was determined less by their own efforts and more by the changing world in which they lived.18 21

*  The author would like to thank William A. Starna, David L. Preston, Joel Shrock, and an anonymous reviewer for their comprehensive readings of previous versions of this essay, and Kelly Farquhar and the staff of the Montgomery County Archives at Fonda, N.Y., for their interest and research assistance.
1.  William B. Hart, "Black 'Go-Betweens' and the Mutability of 'Race,' Status, and Identity on New York's Pre-Revolutionary Frontier," in Andrew R. L. Cayton and Fredrika J. Teute, eds., Contact Points: American Frontier from the Mohawk Valley to the Mississippi, 1750–1830 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 106–08. Hart's discussion was picked up by Rhett Jones, "Mulattos, Freejacks, Cape Verdeans, Black Seminoles, and Others: Afrocentrism and Mixed-Race Persons," in James L. Conyers, Jr., ed., Afrocentricity and the Academy: Essays on Theory and Practice (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2003), 270, and Dror Wahrman, The Making of the Modern Self: Identity and Culture in Eighteenth-Century England (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2004), 214–15. David Preston has also mentioned Eve in regard to land disputes: David L. Preston, "The Texture of Contact: European and Indian Settler Communities on the Iroquoian Borderlands, 1720–1780" (Ph.D. diss., The College of William and Mary, 2002) and David L. Preston, "George Klock, the Canajoharie Mohawks, and the Good Ship Sir William Johnson: Land, Legitimacy, and Community in the Eighteenth-Century Mohawk Valley," New York History 86:4 (Fall 2005): 473–99. Eve is also found in Daniel J. Hulsebosch, "Imperia in Imperio: The Multiple Constitutions of Empire in New York, 1750–1777," Law and History Review vol. 16, no. 2 (Summer 1998): 319–79. Contemporary sources spell Pickard in a variety of ways. Except when quoting sources where an alternate spelling is used, this article will use Pickard.
2.  Hart, "Black Go-Betweens," 106–08, Jones, "Mulattos, Freejacks, Cape Verdeans, Black Seminoles, and Others," 270, and Wahrman, Making of the Modern Self, 214–15.
3.  Two of the most recent works that explore the complicated workings of the Mohawk River Valley include Alan Taylor, The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006) and the entire Spring 2008 issue of New York History, which includes articles based on papers presented at the 2007 Western Frontier Symposium, Agents of Change in Colonial New York: Sir William Johnson's World. Other works that deal with these land issues include Preston, "The Texture of Contact" and "George Klock"; Timothy J. Shannon, Indians and Colonists at the Crossroads of Empire: The Albany Congress of 1754 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2000); Mary Lou Lustig, Privilege and Prerogative: New York's Provincial Elite, 1710–1776 (Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1995); and Georgiana C. Nammack, Fraud, Politics, and the Dispossession of the Indians: The Iroquois Land Frontier in the Colonial Period (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969). Lustig, Privilege and Prerogative, p. 61, explains the procedure the British established to secure land patents in New York; p. 120 notes Johnson's possible desire to own Canajoharie himself. The location of Canajoharie is best described in Philip Lord, Jr., "Taverns, Forts, and Castles: Rediscovering King Hendrick's Village," Northeast Anthropology (Fall 1996): 69–94.
4.  Bartholomew and Eve's marriage record is found at Records of the Reformed Dutch Church of Albany, New York, 1683–1809 Marriage, Baptisms, Members, Etc. (part 1, 1683–1700) (Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co.: 1978), 30. Baptisms are found at: Baptism Record of Schenectady Reformed Church, Schenectady, New York, 1694–1811 (New York: Schenectady Reformed Church, 1987), 3 (son, Bartholomew), 4–5 (son, Nicholas),7 (daughter, Doretha); Records of the Reformed Dutch Church of Albany, New York (part 2, 1700–1724), 42 (daughter, Rachel). The spelling of Eve's name can also vary depending on who translated the church records. Lois M. Feister, "Indian-Dutch Relations in the Upper Hudson Valley: A Study of Baptism Records in the Dutch Reformed Church, Albany, New York," Man in the Northeast (Fall 1982): 89–113, describes the records of the Albany church and its reference to Mohawk baptisms.
5.  A history of Bartholomew Pickard is found at Frank C. Pickard, "English Ancestry of Bartholomew Pickard," New York Genealogical and Biographical Record 122:3 (July 1991): 135–42. Other sources which include the Pickards are: Jonathan Pearson, Contributions for the Genealogies of the Descendants of the First Settlers of the Patent and City of Schenectady, from 1662 to 1800 (Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co.: 1976; originally published Albany, N. Y., 1873), 142. Jonathan Pearson, A History of the Schenectady Patent in the Dutch and English Times (Albany, N.Y.: J. Munsell's Sons Printer, 1883), chap. 12 and note 325–1 as found at www.schenectadyhistory.org/resources/patent/index.html. There is also a biography of Bartholomew Pickard online at the Colonial Albany Social History Project, http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/albany/bios/p/bapickard.html. The descendants of the Pickards are avid genealogists. Some publications include: Anna Waite and Marilyn Anderson, Pickard and Allied Families (New York, publ. by the authors, 1980) and George Christian Schempp, The Schempp Family History (Baltimore, Md.: Gateway Publishers, 1989). Herbert and Erma Schrader, The Pickard Family Lands 1717–1785 (Utica, N.Y., 1990) also recounts Eve's land problems. John Thomas E. Burke, Jr., Mohawk Frontier: The Dutch Community of Schenectady, New York, 1661–1710 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991) is the best starting point for examining colonial Schenectady. For Bartholomew's tavern: J. Munsell, ed., Annals of Albany (Albany, N.Y.: J. Munsell, 1856), 7:61. Bartholomew's tavern at Verreberg is probably the Pickard/VanValkenburgh/McMichael tavern noted in Appendix 1, Cultural Resources Overview Survey, of the Transportation Project Report of the Intersection 23 to 24 Reconstruction and Mobility Improvements Report for the expansion of the New York State Thruway as found at http://www.nysthruway.gov/projectsandstudies/projects/i23-i24/deis/appi.pdf. For the Palatine settlement see Philip Otterness, Becoming German: The 1709 Palatine Migration to New York (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2004) and Preston, "George Klock, the Canajoharie Mohawks," 473–99. Another detailed view of British land policy and the Palatines is Edith M. Fox, Land Speculation in the Mohawk Country (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1949).
6.  For Stone Arabia see Andrew L. Dillenbeck, "Early Stone Arabia," New York History 13:3 (July 1932): 276–83; Robert Kuhn McGregor, "Cultural Adaptation in Colonial New York: The Palatine Germans of the Mohawk Valley," New York History 69:1 (January 1988): 5–34; and Otterness, Becoming German, 142–46. A map of the Stone Arabia patent which details the lots assigned to the Pickards is found in Montgomery County Maps, vol. 4, 1935, located at the Montgomery County Department of History and Archives, Fonda, N. Y.
7..  Carol Berkin, First Generations: Women in Colonial America (New York: Hill and Wang, 1996), 79–102. The standard explanation of the deputy husband is found in Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650–1750 (New York: Vintage, 1991), 35–50. Janny Venema, Beverwijck: A Dutch Village on the American Frontier, 1652–1664 (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003), 187–91. Linda Briggs Biemer, Women and Property in Colonial New York: The Transition from Dutch to English Law, 1643–1727 (Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1983). Martha Dickinson Shattuck, "Women and Trade in New Netherland," Itinerario, vol. 18, no. 2, 1994: 40–49. Otterness, Becoming German, p. 21, also notes German women " 'were versed in and understood' the business of their husbands." An in-depth examination of taverns in colonial America is found at Sharon V. Salinger, Taverns and Drinking in Early America (Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), chap. 5 on licensing, quote on p. 170.
8.  Venema, Beverwijck, 302–16. Other descriptions of urban, female tavern owners, again in the eighteenth century, are found at Ellen Hartigen-O'Connor, The Ties that Buy: Women and Commerce in Revolutionary America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009).
9.  Eve's interactions with Rev. Wilhelm Christoph Berkenmeyer are found in John P. Dern, ed., The Albany Protocol: Wilhelm Christoph Berkenmeyer's Chronicle of Lutheran Affairs in New York Colony, 1731–1750 (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1971), 96. Berkenmeyer refers to the "wife of Mr. Pickard, Sr.," which would be Eve, but the editor of this volume refers to her daughter-in-law, Anna Catharine, in the footnotes. Anna was the wife of Eve's son Bartholomew, Jr., and would be the wife of Mr. Pickard, Jr. In her telling of Berkenmeyer's trip, author Nancy Wagoner Dixon refers to Eve as "Frau Pickard, a part Indian tavern keeper" and cites the Johnson papers as her source. Nancy Wagoner Dixon, Palatine Roots: The 1710 German Settlement in New York as experienced by Johann Peter Wagner (Camden, Me.: Picton Press, 1994), 218. The petition from two of Eve's great-grandsons for the lands she claimed is found in New York State Indorsed Land Papers, vol. 39, p. 80. The fire which destroyed the tavern is mentioned there. Bartholomew Pickard's death is found at the Colonial Albany website and Pickard, "English Ancestry," 140.
10.  The Weiser family history is found in a variety of places including in the extensive work compiled by Henry Z. Jones, Jr., The Palatine Families of New York, 2 vols. (University City: Calif., publ. by the author, 1985) and in Fred Weiser, ed., Weiser Families in America, 2 vols. (New Oxford, Pa.: Penobscot Press, 1997), 1571–84 for Anna Barbara and Nicholas Pickard's family. Paul Wallace, Conrad Weiser, Friend of Colonist and Mohawk (Philadelphia, Pa., 1945). C. Z. Weiser, The Life of (John) Conrad Weiser the German Pioneer, Patriarch and Patron of Two Races (Reading, Pa.: Daniel Mill, 1899). The marriage record of Dorothy Pickard and Jan Peter Mabie is not found, but the baptisms of two of their children are found at Baptism Record of the Schenectady Reformed Church, Schenectady, New York, 1694–1811, 41 (child named Achien) and 42 (Jacobus). This same information is found in Pearson, Genealogies of the Descendants of the First Settlers of the Patent and City of Schenectady, 119. More information on the Mabies (also found as Maybee, Maybe, Mabee, Maibe, and a variety of other spellings) can be found in James O. Schuyler, David Schuyler of Canajoharie, Mohawk Valley, New York, published by James O. Schuyler, as found in the Montgomery County Department of History and Archives, Fonda, N.Y.; the Mabie Family Files folder 30-C for Jacobus Mabie and 74-C for Joseph Mabee as found in the Montgomery County Department of History and Archives, Fonda, N.Y., and at the website for the Maybee Society at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~maysoc/.
11.  Correspondence between Weiser and Johnson is found in Papers of Sir William Johnson, (Albany: State University of New York, 1921–63), 1: 317–18, 326–27. John Pickard's payment for serving as an interpreter is found in Papers of Sir William Johnson, 3: 158. Views of the Weiser-Johnson relationship include Paul A.W. Wallace, "Conrad Weiser and His New York Contacts," New York History 28:2 (April 1947): 170–79. Timothy Shannon, Indians and Colonists, 46–47 and "The World that made William Johnson," New York History 89:2 (Spring 2008): 121–24; and Preston, "The Texture of Contact," 75–76 for Nicholas Pickard. Pickard bought this land with David Schuyler, whose daughter married Joseph Mabie, Cobus Mabie's brother. Hence the Pickard family owned land on both sides of the castle. Historians debate what caused the Mohawks to renegotiate these deeds. Timothy Shannon argues economic need, while David Preston argues for a mutually beneficial relationship with Europeans where Mohawks would carefully select with whom to enter these contracts based on mutual accommodation. In Shannon's view, Eve was being pushed away due to economic necessity and in Preston's, Eve's tavern brought that accommodation to an end. See Shannon, Indians and Colonists, pp. 24–30, and Preston, "Texture of Contact," chap. 4.
12.  On taking more land see E. B. O'Callaghan and B. Fernow, trans. and eds., Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, 15 vols. (Albany, N.Y., 1856–87), 6: 783: here many historians have assumed that she is referred to as "Barclay, Pichetts wife." It is not clear if they are referring to two separate people (possibly a Rev. Mr. Barclay and Eve) or if it refers to Eve as "Bartholomew Pickard's wife." Dillenbeck, "Early Stone Arabia," p. 280, interprets the phrase as two different people. Sir William Johnson Papers, 3: 338–39 for Johnson writing to Cadwallader Colden about Eve presenting him with her deed; 4: 890 for the deposition about Eve's land claim.
13.  The Livingston Patent and Johnson's desire to own that same land is explained in Lustig, Privileges and Prerogative, 61–62, 90–91, 119–20. Eve's involvement with the Klock affair and the moonlight survey are found in Sir William Johnson Papers, 13: 276–77 for her deposition as "Mrs. Eve Pickerd"; 10: 995–97, which is Eve's possible deposition about Klock; and for other information on Eve and Klock 3: 338–41; 4: 112–15, 141–46; 10: 216–20. If the Livingston patent included the Indian castle, then the land Eve obtained from the Mohawks possibly would have been included in this patent. It was in her interest to testify against it. Sir William Johnson Papers, 4: 280, for the missing letter where Eve is referred to as "Mrs. Eghye Pickerd." These comments in the Johnson papers are the full extent of the knowledge that is available on Eve's activities as an interpreter.
14.  Waite and Anderson, Pickard and Allied Families, 9, and Appendix, 6. Nancy L. Hagedorn, "Broker of Understanding: Interpreters as Agents of Cultural Exchange in Colonial New York," New York History, 76:4 (October 1995): 379–408 and Nancy L. Hagedorn, " 'A Friend to Go Between Them': Interpreters Among the Iroquois, 1664–1775," (Ph.D. diss., The College of William and Mary, 1995) for information on Lawrence Claessen summarized on p. 240. A brief history of the family can also be found in John Sanders, Centennial Address relating to the Early History of Schenectady, and Its First Settlers (Albany, N.Y.: Van Benthuysen Printing House, 1879), 104–07. This speculation on Eve's parents is not meant to imply that she was a member of that family but rather to illustrate the difficulty in placing her within any known family group. The author thanks William H. Pickard, Assistant Curator of Archaeology at the Ohio Historical Society, for fruitful emails concerning Eve's family of origin. Dutch naming and godparent practices in Schenectady are described in Edward H. Tebbenhoff, "Tacit Rules and Hidden Family Structures: Naming Practices and Godparentage in Schenectady, New York, 1680–1800," Journal of Social History, vol. 18, no. 4 (Summer 1985): 567–85. Feister, "Indian-Dutch Relations," p. 98, mentions that the sponsors for baptisms were often relatives and the child was often named for one of the sponsors. Bartholomew Pickard's father's name was Bartholomew and his mother's name was Dorothy so they followed Dutch practices by naming the eldest son and daughter for the paternal grandparents. The next oldest son was named Nicholas, presumably for Eve's father. The next daughter, Rachel, would be named for Eve's mother, but no Rachel with a husband Nicholas has been found in the Schenectady records, as an indication they might be Eve's parents.
15.  I have attempted to trace Eve's family through her children's baptism records, as the witnesses for the children were often siblings of the parents, but have had no luck. Preston, "Texture of Contact," pp. 193–99, remarks that interracial marriages were not uncommon between Dutch and Mohawk in the seventeenth century. He does not speculate on English and Mohawk unions. See Burke, Mohawk Frontier, p. 119, for English marrying Dutch (and one Mohawk) women and p. 202 for settlers taken captive in 1690.
16. Sir William Johnson Papers, 11: 555–56; 4: 645 (Cobus threatens to burn the castle), 11: 926 (letter to Kemp); 12: 333 (John and William Pickard); 12: 288. Cobus's service at German Flatts, Lou D. MacWethy, The Book of Names (Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1981; originally published St. Johnsville, New York, 1933), 10.
17.  Abraham Van Horne patent 1764, Maps of the New York Secretary of State, Map #532, at New York State Office of Land Management as found at http://www.fort-plank.com/Canajoharie_Patent_1764.html. The key in the corner of the map pinpoints the location of Joseph Mabie's home and that of his in-laws. Joseph's military career is found at Berthold Fernow, New York in the Revolution, 1887 (original) and the1972 reprint, and at MacWethy, The Book of Names, 10. For Cobus Mabie at Fairfield, Jeptha R. Simms, The Frontiersmen of New York, vol. 2, (Albany, N.Y.: Geo. C. Riggs, 1883), 552–53, 558–59. Simms states that the man who killed John was named Hess and was with a man named Cataroque "who was well known to the Mabee family." Sir William Johnson has been the subject of numerous biographies including Fintan O'Toole, White Savage: William Johnson and the Invention of America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005).
18.  In the Mohawk Valley, most German families fought for the patriot cause against the British. It is assumed that after decades of intense frustration with British land policies the Germans felt they would fare better without them. Herkimer County at 200 (Herkimer, N.Y.: Herkimer County Historical Society, 1992). New York Indorsed Land Papers, 39: 80; 40: 101; 37: 65; New York Letters Patent Book, 17: 145–47. Herbert and Erma Schrader, The Pickard Family Lands 1717–1785 (Utica, N.Y., 1990) gives an account which also uses these records. The Schraders include a map of what is believed to be Mabie's Revolutionary War patent based on the description of the land found in the land warrant. Their map matches an unlabeled section on the "Map of Early Patents on the South Side of Mohawk River Originally Drawn about the Year 1790 by Simeon DeWitt Surveyor General of New York Copied by J. S.G. Edwards June 10, 1877," and is reproduced in J. S. G. Edwards, "Book of Maps," found at the Montgomery County Department of History and Archives at Fonda, N.Y. Tryon County Deeds Book 1, 1772–1788, p. 354, lists a tract of land that had been sold which was "bounded on the lands claimed by Joseph and Jacobus Mabee," implying that they lived together on the land.

 Morgan, Anita J., Questions of Land Ownership in Colonial New York: The Case of Eve Pickard. New York History 91.1 (2010): 21 pars. 23 Jun. 2011 <http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/nyh/91.1/morgan.html>.


  1. Is it possible that Eve was in fact called Mulatto because she was of mixed race (Dutch and Mohawk) as the term at the time was any one of mixed race and not just black & white like Mulatto tends to be defined today? Just saying..... I'm one of her great great great great grandsons.......

    1. It is indeed entirely possible. I tend to agree with the article's author when he states: "There seems to be no way to verify her family of origin, making it even more difficult to conclusively determine her ethnicity. The records of the Dutch Reformed Church do not note her ethnicity at a time when Native Americans, slaves, and free blacks were identified by their racial background. Without any documentation from anyone other than Johnson [Sir William Johnson] about her ethnicity, and with her strong ties to Dutch culture, it is possible that Eve was Dutch, Dutch/Mohawk, or possibly Dutch/African. It is a possibility that Johnson, a man who was very sensitive to issues of race and often used them to HIS advantage [emphasis mine], thought that Eve's land claim would be less likely to be upheld by British authorities if he stated she was either Mohawk or African. That no one else ever mentioned her race points to Johnson's probably incorrect assertion (all secondary sources which refer to Eve as a mulatto reference Johnson's statements)...."

  2. thank you for the info on Eve & Bart. They were my 8th great grandparents.