Letter from Mr. Richard U. Shearman to Henry R. Schoolcraft

Letter from Mr. Richard U. Shearman to Henry R. Schoolcraft.

Vernon, October 4th, 1845.


I completed the enumeration of the Oneida Indians some days ago, but delayed sending a return to you to ascertain the Indian names. It doubtless contains all the information you require at this particular time. Several families are included in the marshal’s enumeration of the inhabitants of the town of Vernon. The remainder reside in Madison county.

The houses of these Indians are generally much better than the log houses of the whites, being constructed of hewn, even jointed logs, with shingle roofs and good windows. There are three good frame houses belonging to them; one of these is a very handsome one, belonging to Skenado. I noticed in it some tasty fringed window curtains and good carpets. The Indians whom you met at Oneida were the flower of the tribe, being mostly farmers, who raise a sufficiency of produce for their comfortable support. There are several heads of families in my list, who cultivate no land of their own, but gain subsistence by chopping wood and performing farm labor for others.

The whole number of families, I make, as you will perceive, 31. The whole number of houses I believe is but 28, but in each of these houses I found two families. The number of persons is 157. The count of last winter, which made 180 souls, was made with reference to retaining a certain amount of missionary funds, and Mr. Stafford, the Indian attorney, tells me it was made too high. Skenado says the tribe in this State numbers just 200 souls, of whom 40 are with the Onondagas.

December 16th, 1845.

“I have filled up your Indian vocabulary today. I wrote down the words as they were given to me by one Johnson, a pretty intelligent man, who sometimes acts as interpreter. My orthography may be somewhat at fault, owing to my limited knowledge of the Indian manner of sounding the letters of the English alphabet. In general, I have endeavored to spell the words according to their sound in English, though the letter a is used often as in the English, and often to express the sound of ah! With this exception, and the use of hon, han and hun to express a sound of which nothing in the English can convey an accurate impression, the spelling accords with the pronunciation. The Indian from whom I obtained the information, informs me he knows of no words in his language to express such large numbers as thousands and millions. I have, therefore, in the cases of those numbers, filled the blanks with the Indian for ten hundred and ten hundred thousand; that is, in the latter case, ten hundred ten hundreds.

I hope the table will be satisfactory, and that it may be of aid to you in making the comparison between the languages which you desire.

“Believe me, your friend, &c.

Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. Notes on the Iroquois: Or, Contributions to American History, Antiquities, and General Ethnology. E. H. Pease & Company. 1847.

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