Historic Houses of the Hudson Valley

Gardens of the Hudson River Valley

The Romance of the Hudson, Part I, continued

Fight With A Savage

Fight With A Savage

unconcealed bosoms. These all came with fruit and vegetables, green tobacco, copper pipes, and kindly gestures, to trade and be friends with the strange white men. Hudson first introduced "fire-water" among the savages on the banks of the river.*

Such, then, were the merchant marine and the commerce of the harbor of New York, where now a thousand ships may be daily seen in the service of traffic, bringing and distributing its amazing treasures of necessaries and luxuries for the use of millions of civilized people. This was the pleasant opening chapter in the romance of the Hudson. A darker one followed.

Hudson, trained in the artificialities of civilization, would not trust the savages, and kept them at bay. Suspicion begat suspicion, and led to violence. Under cover of darkness, some of Hudson's men in a boat, returning from an exploration, were attacked by savages in a canoe. After a sharp conflict, one of the English sailors was slain by an arrow that pierced his throat. Sadly his companions buried him in the soft earth at Communipaw the next day, while wondering women and children of the Hackensacks watched them from the neighboring heights. This was the first of many tragedies performed on the borders of the river, in which Europeans played a part, and with which the romance of the Hudson abounds. Its scenes dwelt long in the memories of the Indians. It was the theme of exulting songs among young braves at the war-dance. An aged squaw who came from Hoboken to the

*There was a tradition a hundred years ago among some of the neighboring tribes, that an old chief said had been handed down from generation to generation, in which it was stated that when the Indians here first saw the ship, which seemed a huge white thing moving up, they thought it was some monstrous fish, but finally concluded it to be the canoe of the great Manitou visiting his children. Runners were immediately sent to the neighboring tribes, who flocked to the place of rendezvous. Sacrifices were prepared, and a grand dance ordered for his reception. Hudson, dressed in scarlet and attended by a portion of his crew, came ashore, and the chiefs, grave and respectful, gathered in a semicircle around him. Hudson, to show his friendly feelings, poured out a glass of brandy, and tasting it himself, handed it to the nearest chief. He gravely smelled of it, and handed it to the next one, who did the same, and passed it on. In this way it went the entire circle without being tasted. At last a young brave declared it was an insult to the great Manitou not to drink after he had shown them an example, and if no one else would drink it, he would, let the consequences be what they might. So, bidding them all a solemn farewell, be drained the goblet at a draught. The chiefs watched him with anxiety, wondering what the effect would he. The young brave very soon began to stagger, till at length, overcome by the heavy dose, he sank on the ground in a drunken stupor. The chiefs looked on at first in still terror, and then a low, wild death-wail rose on the air. But after a while the apparently dead man began to rally, and at length jumping on his feet, capered round in the most excited, grotesque manner, declaring he never felt so happy in his life, and asked for more liquor. The other chiefs no longer hesitated, and following his example, the first great tipple on New York Island took place, ending in a scene of beastly intoxication. From that time on the name of the island in the Delaware language signified "the place of the big drunk." Many people think it would be a good name for it now, or at least portions of it, not only where the "sachems" do congregate, but other places. — J. T. Headley.

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