The thirteenth day of September, 1609, says a writer, marked the point of division between the prehistoric and the historic periods of our district. It will be remembered that the great structure of the future, the Hudson Memorial Bridge, that is to span Spuyten Duyvil Creek at its confluence with the Hudson River and connect the Boulevard Lafayette with the beautiful Spuyten Duyvil Parkway, is located almost at the exact spot where the “Half Moon” came to anchor and was was met by the innumerable canoes of an indiegounous people, who came out from their villages and hiding places to witness the wonderful flying bird with white wings that had come from such a far distant country. Earlier than that date history remains uncertain. After that date through time, the information becomes more consistent.
Occupying our entire Atlantic seaboard was one great tribe – the Algonquins. This tribe was divided into many subdivisions, speaking many different forms of dialect. Occupying
the large portion along the sea coast were the Siwanoys, or Sewanoes. In the interior the Mohicans or Mohegans seemed to have held sway. As to the opinion of an early Dutch settler in regard to the Indians, it was as follows: “They call themselves Manettas; they are the devil himself!” Probably he had referenced the tribe inhabiting Manhattan Island, which is said to have overflowed to the lower part of the Bronx Borough.
An exact allotment of the territory occupied by each branch of the great Algonquin tribe might be given up as hopeless; their subdivisions and overlappings would puzzle even the brightest historians. Oysters were their favorite food, as the shell beds bear distinct evidence. One on New York Cities Island may especially be mentioned, while on Pelham Neck once existed to villages, one on the extreme point and another further on the mainland, nearer the Eastern Boulevard. An aracheological excuvation arose two curiousities that were dug up from here. One is a highly polished “Banner-Stone” and the other a portion of an Indian’s skull, exhumed from the extensive burial ground they once had here.
Go where you will, you will find the old indian names still in use. As we have seen, Muscoota was their name for the Harlem River – perhaps on account of the number of “Mosquitos” they found there, as the name signified “the river of the grass lands.” The Bronx River they termed “Aquahung,” while the Hudson was in their language “Shatemuck,” Mill Brook, whose waters once flowed crystal clear through the webster and Brook Avenues valley, was known by them as “Acrahung” and Spuyten Duyvil Creek “Papirinamen.” This gave rise to the “Island of Papirinamen,” lying to the north of old King’s Bridge and east of Tippet’s Brook, which was in truth an island when the tide was high.
The northern bank at the mouth of Spuyten Duyvil Creek was the site of a fortified Indian village “Nipinichsan.” It proved both a dwelling place and a defence against the “Sank-hi-can-ni” tribe (fireworkers) living on the west side of the “shatemuck” (Hudson). When Hendrick Hundson came sailing up in his “Half Moon,” and stopped at a point near Spuyten Duyvil, he tried to capture two of the Indians, who were traveling in canoes to meet him, but jumping overboard they escaped. What was his dismay, on returning down the river months later was that they swarmed out in their canoes to seek revenge. Hudson describes the attack in his own words as follows “Whereupon two canoes full of men, with their bows and arrows, shot at us after our sterne, in recompense whereof we discharged six muskets, and killed two or three of them. Then over a hundred of them came to a point of the land to shoot us. There I shot a falcon at them and killed two of them; whereupon
the rest fled into the woods. Yet they manned off another canoe with nine or ten men, who came to meet us. So I shot a falcon and shot it through, and killed one of them. So they went their way.”