Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Walking Purchase: How the Delaware Indians were Swindled of Land

"At dawn on September 19, 1737, three colonists and three Indians set off on the most peculiar "walk" in Pennsylvania's history. Their purpose was to measure out a land purchase that Thomas Penn, the son and heir of William Penn, claimed his father had made from the Delaware fifty years earlier." [Source:]

Although they fought against this phony treaty, the Delaware finally agreed to sale the land described. The amount of land was documented as being a day and a half's walk from a certain location. A previous treaty which had used the words "two days walk" had ended up being 70 miles, so this piece of property should have been around 50-55 miles.

Instead, three trained runners were hired. Men went before the runners and cleared away brush and boats were arranged to transport them across the water. One of the men ended up going a total of 65 miles in just eighteen hours! And, the cartographers drew a line perpendicular to the running path, instead of at an east to west line, to create a much larger chunk of land.

Walking Purchase map (darker green) from Wikiepedia

Of course the Delaware Indians were furious. William Penn had worked hard to create a feeling of peace between the native Americans and the English settlers. But, his sons had erased his efforts. Chief Nutimus of the Delaware stated, "If this practice must hold, why then we are no more Brothers and Friends but much more like Open Enemies."

Headline for aricle by Henry W Shoemaker that mentions my ancestor, Michael Quigley
Two Hundered Years Have Passed, Altoona Tribune, Altoona, Pennsylvania, 19 Oct 1937,
page 6, column 3, digital image, (, accessed 21 Jan 2015

What does the "Walking Purchase" have to do with my family? I found an article at this morning about my Patriot ancestor, Michael Quigley. It mentions that two chiefs who had agreed to the "walk," Lappowingo and Tish-Cohan, had been exiled by the Delaware Indians. Michael Quigley, my 5th great grandfather, later ran into these two "deposed chiefs" who were "living in bark cabins at the culmination of Nittany mountains." Michael"described them as two of the most dejected individuals on earth. They could not hold up their heads for shame, and hid in the woods until I delivered my message to their women and took myself off." [Source: Altoona Tribune newspaper cited above]

This article was written in the Altoona Tribune in 1937 by Henry W. Shoemaker. Who was Henry W. Shoemaker? He was both the owner of the Altoona Tribune [Source: Wikipedia] and a writer of Pennsylvania folklore and history. He spent "his college years...traveling through the mountains of Pennsylvania - on foot, on horseback, or by buggy. He claimed that he heard the stories, 'mostly after supper,' from people he met at lumber camps, farmhouses, and backwoods taverns." [Source: Penn State University Press]

I wish I knew how and where he heard the stories of Michael Quigley! I have found other stories Shoemaker told about him that I will be sharing, but I wonder how much is fact and how much is folklore. Either way, I'm glad to have heard the sad story of the "Walking Purchase" and learn a little bit more of my Patriot ancestor.

Other sources:

1 comment:

  1. What a great find and so interesting! Hope you can find the information to filter out what is lore and what is fact. Either way it's a great family story.


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