Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Legend of St. Tammany's Name

One of Polly Morris' most fascinating articles was the time she wrote about the legend of how St. Tammany Parish got its name. Here is the article that appeared in the 1970's. Click on the images of the statue and the article to make them larger. 

Saint Tamanend (Tammany), the Patron Saint of America

Here is the text of the above article:

Legend of St. Tammany Name
    By Polly Morris

     Of all the 64 parishes in Louisiana, none has a prettier name than St. Tammany. It has a sweet sound, like the chiming of distant church bells. But it also has a ring of mystery, and perhaps discord.

    Why did the Territorial Governor of Louisiana change the District of Ferdinand to St. Tammany Parish? The changeover itself is understandable. West Florida was added to the territory after a minor rebellion against the Spanish. The former owners had named it in honor of King Ferdinand VII, who had reigned less than three months before he renounced his claim to the throne. The name was very inappropriate.

    The Controversy
    There have been various stories about Governor W.C.C. Claiborne and a council who sweated out the decision in a smoke-filled room. It was the custom to name parishes after Indians or Saints, and it would be unwise to do otherwise. The group compromised the situation by putting Saint before a Northern Indian named Tammany and hoped to make everyone happy.

    It would seem that the choice would have made them happy if cold logic had been employed. It might have even been an offense.

    The Creoles took their Saints seriously, and to bestow sainthood on a "savage" without approval of the Catholic Church was akin to Blasphemy. And choosing an Indian name to appease the Indians was an excellent idea... but it could have sent less placid Indians on the warpath. The local Redskins were ignored, and the Chief was from a tribe hundreds of miles away, and not even of the same linguistic stock. It would have been more diplomatic to have named the area Choctaw, Acollapissa, or Tangipahoa Parish, an oversight corrected years later.

    Tammany Himself
    It has been repeated over and over by historians that a politician suggested the name because it translated "friendly" in English, and that Tammany was worthy of sainthood. This great Chief was a living legend in his time, a man who walked and talked with the mighty Manito, and was sainted by his own people, in a sort of way, if the Indians had had saints. 

    His information, it was rumored, came from the writing of another living legend, the famous Father Rouquette, missionary to the Choctaw.

    According to the fabrication, the assembly was swayed by this inspiring twosome, and the name St. Tammany was tearfully accepted. It made such a pretty story that historians accepted it without question though it would have been difficult to explain the influence of a Father Rouquette who had not yet been born.

    Some historians have delved into legends about Tammany and come up with tales that are even more far-fetched. The truth about Tammany is short and sweet. He appears in history in 1682 with William Penn. He kept peace between the two races for he was a  kind man and a wise one. He had formed a government for his people based on democracy. Then he disappears from history in 1700.

    In legend he lives on and on, and then some. He becomes a superman God who wrestles with the God of Evil for two moons. The furious battle felled forests that became great prairies, a la Bunyan. His life span was incredible, for he was in Peru advising the Incas in 1050, a position he held for 200 years. When he left there, en route presumably to Pennsylvania, he might have had a stop-over in the parish that bears his name. Or so hope the wishful thinkers who frantically try to tie Tammany with St. Tammany Parish by the slenderest of threads which inevitably shred to bits.

    Logical Legend
    There could be an explanation that has never been pursued because it cannot be romanticized. It is pure speculation and purely political, but it makes sense. Or a least another legend.

    When the American Revolution was brewing, those loyal to the Crown had societies such as that of St. George, St. David, and St. Andrew. The budding American revolutionists at first called their society the Sons of Liberty. But not to be outdone by the British, they had to have a hero, too, so they rediscovered Chief Tammany. He was all-American and endowed with virtues to which they aspired: bravery, brotherhood, patriotism, and love of freedom. They added Saint for fun, but Tammany had been a man of exceptionally high ideals.
    The Sons of St. Tammany gave a tea party in Boston and heckled the British, and fought for Independence. Then they disbanded, after victory.

    In the 1700's a society was started that was all for making a monarchy out of the new republic. An upholsterer in New York City began one of his own for the middle-class native-born and called it the Society of St. Tammany. It was a democratic organization that turned to politics. Its officials were given Indian titles, and it went to war on the political front when Thomas Jefferson was elected. It is stated reliably that he generously rewarded them for their support.

    The Louisiana Purchase made extra duties for President Jefferson. He had to appoint men to fill important positions in the Territory of Louisiana, and he naturally selected capable men from the rank and file closest to him. These men had never dreamed of such an opportunity to rise to greatness,  and they were grateful to the man who put them there. No doubt they all felt rather under obligation to the Society of St. Tammany which had indirectly opened the way for them.

    It is quite likely that Governor Claiborne had once been a member of the Society. Or that Secretary Thomas Robertson or Legislator Thibodaux belonged to the same political group, for it had many members who profited by its growing power.

    Not a Joke
    It would indeed have been prudent to have played politics with the powerful society, and taking the liberty of joining the legend-makers, it might have happened like this:

    Someone in the planning committee said, "We must keep the Creoles and the Indians happy, but how? If only there was an Indian Saint!"

    Someone else idly remarked, "What about St. Tammany?" and amid the laughter, Claiborne jumped to his feet and exclaimed, "Hey, fellows! That is not a joke, it is an answer."

    However it happened it was a perfect answer. One illegitimate saint would not be noticed in the hundreds of holy ones. The Indians would have supposed that Tammany was from a small tribe somewhere in the boondocks. But the Great White Father in Washington and the Society of St. Tammany in New York would know.

    There is yet one small part of the St. Tammany puzzler that will perhaps never be understood.

    Claiborne faced almost impossible odds when he came to claim Louisiana for the United States, and remained on as Governor of Territory and State. The Creoles were bitterly resentful about American rule, English language, and Protestants. He was all that they hated, yet he won their good will by his patience and tolerance and understanding. He would have had to have been a tolerant man, so a statement he made about St. Tammany is not only unjust, but almost impossible to explain.

    It was 1810, when the parish was named, that he said, "There is in that quarter a great scarcity of talent, and the number of virtuous men too ( I fear) is not as great as I could wish."

    There was certainly something that caused him to be so prejudiced, and with that attitude, he might have had a secret smile about naming the parish St. Tammany. Even at that time, there was public exposure of corrupt politics in the Society of St. Tammany. He could not foresee when the word "Tammany Hall" would be equivalent to the words "political corruption." Perhaps he only felt that the Society and the parish had too few "virtuous men."

    It would be interesting to know what caused Claiborne's condemnation of St. Tammany, the parish whose sweet name sounds like the chiming of distant church bells.  

That was the end of the Polly Morris article.

A 1913 Book With More Information

Back in 1913, Edwin Patrick Kilroe published a book entitled " Saint Tammany and the Origin of the Society of St. Tammany or Columbian Order in the City of New York." The first chapter of this book was dedicated to the legacy of the person named "Saint Tammany," but the rest of the book dealt with the New York Tammany Society's philosophical outlook, its influence over the years on northeast politics, and the somewhat separate "Tammany Hall" incident which pretty much gave it all a bad name. 

Anyway, the information on the Indian named St. Tammany was pretty interesting in the book, so here is an extended quote from the first chapter, with some editing. Some of the misspelled words remain, as they were based on handwriting using old English phrases:

 The name of Tammany is preserved in literature as the patron saint of our country. His fame is perpetuated by numerous legends, odes and poems. He is also honored as the patron and guiding spirit of a patriotic and fraternal movement that gave rise to a society which in turn has developed into a powerful and astounding political machine. He is depicted as the incarnation of nobility, sagacity and power, and crowned with magnetic charm.

Tammany, the tutelary saint of America, as a character stands unique. Much has been written concerning his virtue, prowess and achievements; and about his memory a kind and bounteous tradition has woven numberless romances which rival the tales of Heracles and Theseus, and give him a place in the Indian lore of America analogous to that held by those demi-gods in ancient Greek mythology. This American Indian, whom tradition is pleased to describe as the embodiment of wisdom and honor, and whose ability, benevolence, nobility and diplomatic savoir faire brought to him immortal renown, was a sachem of the Lenni-Lenape or Delaware Indians.

His origin, his achievements and his death are shrouded in obscurity, while only a short period of his life is actually open to the scrutiny of research.

For fifteen years he was in contact with the whites, but during that period he did not appear as a chief of extraordinary accomplishments or importance; nor does he seem to have made a profound impression on the white settlers, for there is no record that they were awed by the force of his genius or charmed by his personality.

The authentic history of Tammany is short and simple, and the events recorded are neither startling nor impressive. His name was first presented in writing, to the civilized world, on June 23, 1683, when he affixed his mark to a deed of that date, granting to William Penn, Proprietor, " all my Lands Lying betwixt Pemmapecka and Nessaminehs Creeks, and all along Nesheminehs Creeks . . . for the Consideration of so much Wampum, so many Guns, Shoes, Stockings, Looking-glasses, Blanketts and other goods as he, William Penn, shall please to give unto me." 

On that same day Tammany and Metamequan executed a joint deed and affixed their respective marks thereto, granting to William Penn the identical lands that Tammany had conveyed in the previous deed ; and at the same time executed a receipt for the consideration received, with which " we doe hereby hold ourselves fully contented and satisfyed." On June 25, 1683, the name of Tammany appears with four other Indian names in witness to a deed given by Wingebone to William Penn for "Lands Lying on the  West side of the Skolkill River beginning from the  first Falls of the  same all along upon the River and Backward of the same, so farr as my right goeth."

His name is again presented for our consideration in a letter written by William Penn to the Society of Traders on August 16, 1683. 10 In speaking of the Lenape or Delaware Indians, Penn only casually mentions the name of Tammany; his remarks are : " Their language is lofty yet narrow : . . . I must say that I know not a language spoken in Europe, that hath words of more sweetness, in accent or emphasis, than theirs; for instance, Tamene, Secane, Menase, Secaterius, are the names of persons."

On June 15, 1692, the name, with those of three other Indians, appears on a quit-claim deed. 11 By this instrument they acknowledged " full Satisfaction for all that Tract of Land formerly belonging to Taminent and others, which wee parted with unto William Penn, Proprietor. . . . Therefore wee Doo hereby acquitt, release & discharge the said Proprietor his Heirs & Success 1 " from any further claims, dues & demands whatsoever, Concerning the said Lands or any other Tract of Land claimed by us from the beginning of the World to the day of the date hereof."

This sweeping conveyance in legal effect wiped out all of Tammany's land claims in Pennsylvania. In this transaction, at least, his native shrewdness does not show to any great advantage, for the white representatives of the Proprietor clearly out-traded him and drove a good bargain.

The name of Tammany next appears in the minutes of a meeting of the Pennsylvania Provincial Council, held in Philadelphia on July 6, 1694. The purpose of the Council was to confer with the Delaware Indians concerning a proposition made by the Seneca Nation, to have the Delawares join the Senecas in a war against the French. The minutes of this meeting contain the only record of a speech made by Tammany that may be considered authentic. During the conference Tammany spoke of the whites as follows :

"We and the Christians of this River Have all way es had a free rode way to one another, & tho' sometimes a tree has fallen across the rode yet wee have still removed it again & kept the path clean, and wee design to Continou the old friendshipp that has been between us and you." The council assured the Indians that the English were their friends and would protect them from both the French and the Senecas. " So they all departed verie well satisfied with the Lt. Governor's answer."

In this conference Tammany played no important part, the real leader being Hithquoquean, who " in name of the rest of the Delaware Indians took out and laid down a Belt of Wampum " and acted as spokesman for the tribe.

Again, the names of Tammany and four members of his household his two sons, his brother and the heir-apparent to the chief tancy of the Delaware Nation appear in a deed dated July 6, 1697. 13 of which the following excerpt is pertinent :

We Tammy Sachimack and Weheeland my Brother and Weheequeckhon, alias Andrew, who is to be King after my death, Yaqueekhon alias Nicholas, and Quenameckquid, Alias Charles, my Sonns, for the Consideration of Twenty Match coats, Twelve White Blankets, Ten Kettles, Twelve Guns, Thirty Yards of Shirting Cloth, one Runlett of Powder, Ten Barrs of Lead, fforty yards of Stroud Waters, Twenty Parrs of Stockins, one Horse, ffifty pounds of Tobacco, Six Dozens of Pipes and Thirty Shillings in Cash . . .

Do give, grant, alien, sell, en feoff and confirm unto the said William Penn, his Heirs and Assigns, All the Lands, Woods, Meadows, Rivers, Rivulets, Mines, Minerals, and Royalties Whatsoever, situated lyeing and being Between the Creek called Pemopeck and the Creek called Neshaminy, in the said Province Extending in Length from the River Delaware, so farr as a horse can Travel in Two Summer dayes, and to carry its breadth accordingly as the several Courses of the said two Creeks will Admit, And when the said Creek do so branch that the main Branches or bodies thereof cannot be discovered, Then the Tract of Land hereby granted, shall stretch forth upon a direct course on each side and so carry on the fful Breadth to the extent of the Length thereof.

In the first deed from the Delaware Indians to William Penn, dated July 15, 1682, the conveyance was made by the said Indian sachamackers, parties to these presents, as well for and on behalfe of themselves as for and on the behalf e of their Respective Indyans or People for whom they are concerned/' This clause would seem to give color to the position taken by Morgan, in his "Ancient Society," ' that Indian lands were occupied by the tribe in common. 

The system of land tenure among the Dela\vares and the powers and duties of the head of the Nation are not clearly defined by writers and investigators of Indian customs, and the deeds signed by Tammany throw but little light on the question. For in the transfer of lands to William Penn there is no clear evidence of a tribal supervision, nor is there anything to show that the lands were held in trust by the sachem for the use and benefit of the tribes-

It was not customary for a sachem, however high his rank, to attend any land conferences that did not affect his private possessions. To the first and to many other deeds to William Penn the name of Tammany was not affixed, which leads us to infer that he concerned himself only with his own patrimony; and, inasmuch as he joined with other sachems in transferring land, his power over the land was no greater than theirs. Thus it would seem that land tenure among the Delawares, in so far as it was defined at all, was one of private ownership.

We find the name of Tammany in print in 1698, in an article by Gabriel Thomas, who arrived in America shortly after the landing of William Penn and spent some fifteen years among the early settlers. On his return to London he published an interesting account of his experiences in America, but his sole allusion to Tammany is found as follows in a discussion of the Delaware Indians: The names of some of the Indians Anachkoating, Bussabenating, O'Konycan, Potasko, Quindasnon, Lames, Alpoogan, Kohonk, Hiton, Temeny"

This brief record of Tammany's dealings with the English settlers completes his authentic biography. It discloses merely a series of business transactions, in each of which the Chief was outwitted and outbargained by the business tact and shrewdness of his white neighbors. With the mere reference to his name by Thomas in 1698, the Chief passes from history, and no more is heard of him until 1771, when he is introduced to us in the guise of a Saint, with the first of May set aside as the day sacred to his name. 

How this remarkable transformation took place, and why Tammany, who appears as a chief of only ordinary attainments, was selected for popular canonization, are questions yet to be answered by the student of American history. Everything written about him subsequent to 1698 is based on conjecture, romance and untrustworthy tradition.

There are no portraits of Tammany in existence and only two writers have transmitted descriptions of his personal appearance. One, ascribed to William Penn, thus depicts the Chief : " He found him an old man, but yet vigorous in mind and body, with high notions of liberty, easily won by the suavity and peaceful address of the Governor."

The other is by James Fenimore Cooper, who gives what purports to be a full description of Tammany and reveals him presiding over a Council of the Delawares in the neighborhood of Lake George, New York, in the year 1757. The description is based on legends and traditions current in 1825, when Cooper wrote, and in reality is but an impersonal idealization of an Indian chief.

Tradition states that Tammany was the first to welcome Penn on his arrival in America, on October 27, 1682, and that he was present, in June, 1683, at the Great Treaty under the Elm at Schakamaxon; history, however, has left no record of the individuals present on these two occasions. The Indians in attendance at the Treaty were the entire tribe of the Susquehannocks and the Unami and Unalachtigo clans of the Dela wares. 20 The object of the meeting was to confirm the land grants previously made to William Penn, and to negotiate a treaty of friendship, " to last as long as the sun should shine and the waters run into the rivers."

Tammany, it must be remembered, up to this time had made no conveyances to Penn; so his presence was not essential to confirm the land grants.

The residence of Tammany has been assigned to various places. Richard C. Adams fixes it at the present site of Wilmington, Delaware; another writer locates him in 1683 at Perkasie. Others place his wigwam at the present site of Princeton University, an error arising from the fact that there was situated the home of Col. George Morgan, 26 upon whom it is said the western Delawares conferred the sobriquet " Tamanend." Tammany's residence has also been fixed at the present site of Easton, at that of Scranton, and at the Delaware Water Gap, all in the state of Pennsylvania, likewise in the upper Ohio Valley and in northern New York. The most persistent tradition of his residence, however, is that he once settled on the upper Delaware, near the present village of Cochecton, on the Pennsylvania side of the river, on the fertile bottom lands in what is now Damascus township. 

Burial Monument

The Bucks County Historical Society purchased the ground where Tammany was supposedly buried and selected a monument to be erected over the grave, bearing this inscription:

To the Memory of the Celebrated Lenape Chieftain Tamenend, once owner of this and all land between Neshaminy and Pennypack Creeks. These stones are placed at this spot near which an aged Indian, called Tammany by the pioneers of Bucks County was buried by white men about the year 1750. 

It is said that Tammany adopted the motto " Kwanio Che Keeteru," which has been translated "This is my right; I will defend it."  Horatio Hale, however, says the words are not of the Delaware language, but of Iroquois origin, and mean " I am master wherever I am." The phrase is ancient, for in 1747 the Schuylkill Fishing Company presented to the Association Battery a " new thirty-two pounder " cannon, which weighed between two and three tons, and on this gun were stamped the words said to have been the motto of the venerable Chief Tammany.

The phrase was later adopted as the motto of the Society of the Sons of St. Tammany in Philadelphia. Other writers have ascribed to Tammany the motto "Unite in peace for happiness and in war for defense."

Patron Saint of American Liberty

In 1698 the name of Tammany as a real person vanishes from our history, to reappear in 1771 in the guise of the Patron Saint of American Liberty. On December 24th of the latter year, a letter was written by William Eddis of Annapolis, in which he described " St. Tamina " as the saint revered by the Americans on that part of the continent, and tells us that the first of May was set apart as sacred to his memory. 

This is the first extant reference to Tammany as a saint. The development of the Tammany legend between 1698 and 1771 has not been chronicled, but the following paragraph in a letter from Ebenezer Hazard of Philadelphia to Dr. Jeremy Belknap, dated at Philadelphia, June 14, 1784, gives some idea of the process by which the sanctification of Tammany was evolved :

"Tammany was an Indian Sachem, whether real or fictitious I do not know ; but the first day of May has long been considered as his day. When I was a boy I used to wear in my hat upon that day a buck's tail, gilded, and a picture of an Indian (Tammany, no doubt), shooting a deer with a bow and arrow. We used to talk of King Tammany then but it seems he has been canonized since the Declaration of Independence, and has now become a Saint. He will make as good an one as any in the Calendar; though I have not heard that he has been approved by his Holiness."

See also:

Saint Tammany Information

Statue of Saint Tammany, the Patron Saint of America, in Philadelphia