Madison County Historical Society


Madison County History

Nanticokes Had Villages in County

The exact location of two Madison County Indian villages known as "Nancy Town" and "Our Town" has been a source of confusion for some time. 

We first learned of a site occupied by a group of Nanticoke Indians from the journal entries recorded by the Moravia Missionaries in 1805.  It Was not until 1817 that we learned its name was Nancy Town.

A government survey conducted in 1821 of the Indian towns along White River mentions a site the surveyor called Nancy Town, Nantico, and Nanticoke.  His confusion over the name stems from the fact that the village was empty when the survey was conducted.  Its inhabitants, the Nanticoke Indians, had been forced to leave the area earlier that year.

Further confusing the issue in the late 19th and early 20th century was the knowledge of a second Indian town called "Our Town."  It was assumed that Our Town was another name for Nancy Town.  At first, I too thought it was the same town called by two names.  But upon closed examination, I have concluded they were two different sites, occupied by the same group of Nanticoke Indians, during two different periods of time.

Alliance With Delawares

The origin of the Nanticoke People began along the Nanticoke River in Southeastern Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Migration began in the early 1600s from Maryland through Southeastern Delaware along the shores of New Jersey, and as far north to Canada and westward into Oklahoma.  As a result of this migration, the Nanticoke people formed an alliance with the Delaware Indians already living in New Jersey.  Eventually, this alliance brought both tribes to our county.

The Moravian missionaries recorded an entry in their diary dated June 1, 1805:  "The Nanticoke's live 20 miles down the river."  Given the river's meanderings the distance stated by them is probably fairly close.  I believe the 1805 location mentioned by them is a point today near where County Road 800 West intersects with Eighth Street Road.  This area was one known as the McClintock neighborhood and named for a family of farmers that inhabited the area.  I have been aware for some time that located somewhere in this area was an Indian village called Nancy Town and that there was a fairly sizable buying ground nearby.

Nancy Town is mentioned in the journal of Thomas Dean, who visited the area in 1817.  He placed it about nine miles west of Anderson.  Dean was an agent for the Brotherton Indians in New York State.  While here, he visited Straw Town, Green's village, and had a conference with Chief Anderson.  He did not mention visiting Nancy Town, but he would have passed it traveling to Straw Town.  Thomas Dean's journal and the Moravian diary establish a minimum time period for the existence of the village from 1805 to 1817.  It is very likely the village existed before 1805, as the Nanticoke migrated here at the same time as the Delaware.

A Clue to the Location

The early writers of Madison County History wrote about a nearby site associated with the first location.  John Forkner and Byron Dyson made mention of the site in their 1897 history when they said, "Fronting the beautiful eminence upon the north bank of White River, some eight miles west of Anderson, is an old Indian burying ground which occupies nearly an acre, and from the depressions in the ground it is surmised that one hundred or more Indians are buried there.  This ground is a part of the farm of Alexander McClintock."  But, is there a clue to the location of Nancy Town?

John Forkner provides a key piece of information in his 1914 county history where he writes, "In what is known as the McClintock neighborhood, near the site of an old Indian village and burying ground, was once a little hamlet called Nancy Town, but it is now extinct and the ground where it stood is used for farming purposes."  The hamlet, in my opinion, probably took its name from the earlier Indian town located there.

Forkner and Dyson also help locate the second site when they recorded that Nanticoke was the name of a chief whose village was located in the south bank of White River, on the present farm of Robert Cather, about four miles west of Anderson.  The records show this farm was immediately west of County Road 400 West on the Eighth Street Road.  This site was four miles overland north-west of Anderson's Town and is the last of the Indian towns shown on the government survey made by Bentley in 1821.  The survey placed it in the S.E. 1/4 of the S.E. 1/4 of Sec. 5, T. 19 N., R. 7 E. on the west bank of the river.  Our Town is no doubt the one mentioned in the Bentley survey of 1821.  The early historians all refer to it by this name.  This also established that Nancy Town no longer existed at this time.

Other Writings Sighted

In 1880, T. B. Helm wrote:  "James Nanticoke had a village in this county, not far from Anderson.  His squaw was said to have been a very beautiful woman, and at one time maintained the relation of "chiefest" to her tribe.  She gave the name Our Town  to the chief's village.  James Nanticoke, in his relation as chief, like Anderson, represented his tribe in the treaty of St. Mary's, and affixed his mark thereto." 

Isaac McCoy in his "History of Baptist Indian Missions" wrote that while making a tour of the towns on White River in 1818, his party reached this village on December 5, "procured a little corn for our horses, and dined at the house of an elderly couple, the wife being a woman of note, named Nancy, who could speak English tolerably well, and who was the principal manager of matters around her."

In summary, Nancy Town was the first village of the Nanticoke Indians.  It was there in 1805 and probably earlier.  It existed there until 1817 and was abandoned by Chief James Nanticoke and his wife, Nancy, in favor of the location nearer Anderson's Town.  This conforms to the general consolidation of Indian villages near Anderson's Town that was in evidence during the time period. 
It appears the "Our Town" site was occupied from roughly 1818 to 1821.  It was abandoned in 1821 as part of the general departure of the Delaware Indians who were adhering to the terms set forth in the Treaty of St. Mary's.

A beautifully restored home at the intersection of County Road 800 West and West Eighth Street Road now occupies the site of Nancy Town.  Likewise, the intersection of County Road 400 West and West Eighth Street Road is very near the site of Our Town.

By Steve Jackson, Madison County Historian 

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