Marshall’s Walk

The Delaware River above Trenton is for miles a stream of alternating pools and rapids, with canals on either side, passing frequent villages and displaying pleasant scenery as it breaks through the successive ridges in its approach to the mountains. Alongside the river, in Solebury, Bucks County, in the early part of the eighteenth century, was the humble home of the pioneer and hunter, Edward Marshall, who made the fateful “walk” of 1737, the injustice of which so greatly provoked the Indians, and was a chief cause of the most savage Indian War of Colonial times. All the country west of the Delaware, as far up as the mouth of the Lackawaxen River, was obtained from the Indians by the deception of this “walk.” The Indians in those early times measured their distances by ” days’ journeys,” and in various treaties with the white men transferred tracts of land by the measurement of “days’ walks.” William Penn had bought the land as far up as Makefield and Wrightstown in Bucks County, and after his death his descendants, Thomas and Richard Penn, became anxious to enlarge the purchase, and this “walk” was the result. After a good deal of preliminary negotiation, several sachems of the Lenni Lenapes were brought to Philadelphia, and on August 25, 1737, made a treaty ceding additional lands beginning ” on a line drawn from a certain spruce tree on the river Delaware by a west-northwest course to Neshaminy Creek; from thence back into the woods as far as a man can go in a day and a half, and bounded in the west by Neshaminy or the most westerly branch thereof, so far as the said branch doth extend, and from thence by a line to the utmost extent of the day and a half’s walk, and from thence to the aforesaid river Delaware; and so down the courses of the river to the first-mentioned spruce tree.” The Indians thought this “walk” might cover the land as far north as the Lehigh, but there was deliberate deception practiced. An erroneous map was exhibited indicating a line extending about as far north as Bethlehem on the Lehigh, and this deceived the Indians. The white officials had previously been. quietly going over the ground far north of the Lehigh, blazing routes by marking trees, all of which was carefully concealed, and Marshall and others had been employed on these “trial walks.” A reward of five hundred acres of land was promised the walkers.

Marshall and two others, Jennings and Yeates, were selected to do the walking, all young and athletic hunters, experienced in woodcraft and inured to hardships. The walk was fixed for September 19th, under charge of the Sheriff, and before sunrise of that day a large number of people gathered at the starting-point at Wrightstown, a few miles west of the Delaware. An obelisk on a pile of boulders now marks the spot at the corner of the Quaker Burying Ground, bearing an inscription, ” To the Memory of the Lenni Lenape Indians, ancient owners of this region, these stones are placed at this spot, the starting-point of the ‘ Indian walk,’ September 19, 1737.” The start was made from a chestnut tree, three Indians afoot accompanying the three walkers, while the Sheriff, surveyors and others, carrying provisions, bedding and liquors, were on horseback. Just as the sun rose above the horizon at six o’clock they started. When they had gone about two miles, Jennings gave out. They halted fifteen minutes for dinner at noon, soon afterwards crossed the Lehigh near the site of Bethlehem, turned up that river, and at fifteen minutes past six in the evening, completing the day’s journey of twelve hours actual travel, the Sheriff, watch in hand, called to them, as they were mounting a little hill, to “pull up.” Marshall, thus notified, clasped his arms about a sapling for support, saying “he was almost gone, and if he had proceeded a few poles farther he must have fallen.” Yeates seemed less distressed. The Indians were dissatisfied from the outset, claiming the walk should have been made up the river, and not inland. When the Lehigh was crossed, early in the afternoon, they became sullen, complaining of the rapid gait of the walkers, and several times protesting against their running. Before sunset two Indians left, saying they would go no farther, that the walkers would pass all the good land, and after that it made no difference how far or where they went. The third Indian continued some distance, when he lay down to rest and could go no farther.

The halt for the night was made about a half-mile from the Indian village of Hokendauqua, a name which means ” searching for land.” This was the village of Lappawinzoe, one of the sachems who had made the treaty. The next morning was rainy, and messengers were sent him to request a detail of Indians to accompany the walkers. He was in ugly humor and declined, but some Indians strolled into camp and took liquor, and Yeates also drank rather freely. The horses were hunted up, and the second day’s start made along the Lehigh Valley at eight o’clock, some of the Indians accompanying for a short distance through the rain, but soon leaving, dissatisfied. The route was north-northwest through the woods, Marshall carrying a compass, by which he held his course. In crossing a creek at the base of the mountains, Yeates, who had become very lama and tired, staggered and fell, but Marshall pushed on, followed by two of the party on horseback. At two o’clock the “walk” ended on the north side of the Pocono or Broad Mountain, not far from the present site of Mauch Chunk. The distance “walked” in eighteen hours was about sixty-eight miles, a remarkable performance, considering the condition of the country. The terminus of the ” walk” was marked by placing stones in the forks of five trees, and the surveyors then proceeded to complete the work by marking the line of northern limit of the tract across to the Delaware River. This was done, not by taking the shortest route to the river, but by running a line at right angles with the general direction of the ” walk ;” and after four days’ progress, practically parallel to the Delaware, through what was then described as a ” barren mountainous region,” the surveyors reached the river, in the upper part of Pike County, near the mouth of Shohola Creek, just below the Lackawaxen.

The Indians were loud in their complaints of the greediness shown in this walk, and particularly of the carrying of the surveyors’ line so far to the north-ward, which none of them had anticipated. Marshall was told by one old Indian, subsequently, ” No sit down to smoke—no shoot squirrel; but lun, lun, lun, all day long.” Lappawinzoe, thoroughly disgusted, said, “Next May we will go to Philadelphia, each one with a buckskin, repay the presents, and take the lands back again.” The lands, however, were sold to speculators, so this was not practicable, and when the new owners sought to occupy them, the Indians refused to vacate. This provoked disputes over a half-million acres, a vast domain. The Penns, to defend their position, afterwards repudiated the surveyors, and they never fulfilled their promise to give Marshall five hundred acres. This did not mend matters, however, and the Lenni Lenape Indians’ attitude became constantly more threatening, until the scared Proprietary invited the intervention of their hereditary enemies, the Iroquois Confederation, or Six Nations. In 1742 two hundred and thirty leading Iroquois were brought to Philadelphia, and the dispute submitted to their arbitration. They sided with the Proprietary, and the Lenni Lenapes reluctantly withdrew to the Wyoming Valley, part going as far west as Ohio. But they thirsted for re-venge, and when the French began attacking the frontier settlements, these Indians became willing allies, making many raids and wreaking terrible vengeance upon the innocent frontiersmen throughout Pennsylvania. Marshall, who never got his reward, removed his cabin farther up the Delaware, above the mouth of the Lehigh. The Indians always pur-sued him, as an arch-conspirator, for a special vengeance. They attacked his cabin, killing his wife and wounding a daughter, he escaping by being absent. They made a second attack, and killed a son.

His whole life was embittered by these murders, and he lost no opportunity for retaliation, removing, for greater safety, to an island in the river. They pursued him for forty years, a party of Indians, during the Revolution in 1777, coming all the way from Ohio to kill him, but he eluded them and escaped. His closing years, however, were passed peacefully, and he died at the age of ninety at his island home in the Delaware.