Their concern for a successor was timely because Wyandanch was murdered
later that same year " .. . by poyson" according to Gardiner's account.
There was an immediate scramble by several wealthy colonists to get control
of Wyandanch's successor. Both John Ogden and Lion Gardiner claimed to be
Wiancombone's guardia. During this period of uncertainty other enterprising
colonists moved to acquire title to Indian land by seeking out their own
"sachems." John Scott and Thomas Topping joined the deed scramble with great
enthusiasm and ingenuity. In April of 1662 Topping purchased lands west of
Canoe Place from several Shinnecock Indians. This land title included much
of the same land purchased by Ogden from Wyandanch; Topping may have
believed that Wyandanch's death would weaken Ogden's title. Scott was more
ambitious: he went to England and tried to persuade Charles II to grant him
a patent for all of Long Island! He failed in this grandiose scheme, but
another opportunity soon presented itself. In the midst of all the confusion
Wiancombone died of small pox. The only surviving member of Wyandanch's
immediate family was his daughter, Quashawam, who happened to be a close
friend of John Scott. |
In the flurry of land transactions which followed Wyandanch's death, John Scott had purchased Ogden's title to Quogue and then sold it to the town of Southampton. Now the settlers were forced to deal with a very difficult issue. Both the Shinnecock and the Montauk had sold the same land to the English. Whose claim was to be honored? In order to strengthen their claim the Town of Southampton moved quickly to clear up the question of Montauk succession. It was decided that an elaborate system of inheritance worthy of British royalty be imposed on the Montauk. Quashawan was designated "sunk squa" over all the Indians of eastern Long Island. In order to avoid the chaos which followed Wiancombone's untimely death, it was decided that in the event of her death, her uncle's son, Awansamawge (the son of Wyandanch's brother), would become sachem. If he should die without a male heir, the title of Grand Sachem would fall to the son of the Corchaug sachem. Awansamawge was also designated "sachem" of the Shinnecock. He was to be sent from Montauk to live with the Shinnecock beginning the following year.
The question of credibility for this elaborate program of puppetry does not appear to have troubled the English. If the Montauk ever had any authority over other Indians on Long Island, it was certainly dissipated by this time. Plague and war had decimated their numbers, reducing them to a small group of households encamped near the town of East Hampton for protection from their enemies. How could such a weakened community presume to command the destiny of Indians as far west as Hempstead? It could be done only through the force of English arms. The reference in this document to the role of the English is rather curious. The Shinnecock were assured that Quashawam would not authorize a raid against them unless she had the approval of the English. Such approval would not be given unless the Shinnecock were rebellious against the Montauk Sunksqua. (The word "approved" may have suggested to the Shinnecock that English troops would support Quashawam if she decided to punish them.) Apparently there was some concern on the part of the English that Quashawam might not be accepted by her own people. The Montauk were told that if they didn't obey her, the Shinnecock and "ye authority of the Long Island would . . . cause them ve said Meantacutt Indians to pay their obedience in every respect". The veiled threat of force was directed against both Indian communities. The Shinnecock were also promised that if they paid the forty pounds owed to John Ogden they would be "acquitted" of the old debt.
That same day Quashawam signed another document turning power of attorney over to John Scott. This reduced the role of the puppet to a mere formality. Quashawam gave Scott the authority to buy up any Indian land anywhere on Long Island without the consent of the local Indians. The relationship between the two documents is unclear. It appears that John Scott had taken a rather bold political move which had not been anticipated by the Town; Scott had captured their puppet.