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History of Susquehannock State Park

Susquehannock Indians

While exploring the Chesapeake Bay in 1608, Captain John Smith first encountered the Susquehannocks. In his journal, Captain Smith described them as “seemed like Giants to the English” but archeological research shows the Susquehannocks to have been of average size for the time.

It is unknown what the Iroquoian-speaking Susquehannocks called themselves, but the name that graces the river, the people, and the state park is derived from the name, Sasquesahanough, given to Captain Smith by his Algonquian-speaking American Indian interpreter.

The word has been translated “people at the falls” or “roily water people” referring to the Susquehannock’s home by the river. This small, but powerful tribe, occupied only one or two major towns at a time, but controlled the important trade routes along the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay. Their last town was near present-day Conestoga and the Susquehannocks were sometimes referred to as Conestoga Indians.

During the Beaver Wars, 1649 to 1656, the Susquehannocks formed an alliance with Maryland to acquire rifles and successfully fought the much larger Iroquois Confederacy. A brief peace followed before the Susquehannocks again waged war with the Iroquois until suffering a major defeat in 1675.

Some Susquehannocks moved to old Fort Piscataway, below present-day Washington D.C. Problems on the frontiers led to the mobilization of the militias of Maryland and Virginia and in confusion, they surrounded the peaceful Susquehannock village.

Five Susquehannock chiefs went to negotiate and were murdered. The Susquehannocks slipped out of the fort at night and harassed settlers in Virginia and Maryland, then eventually moved back to live along the Susquehanna River.

Around 1677, the Susquehannocks moved to New York and intermingled with their Iroquois relatives. During 1697, some Susquehannocks returned to the lower Susquehanna Valley area and built a new village called Conestoga. During the early 1700s, a few of the Susquehannocks migrated to Ohio where they intermingled with other tribes and lost their identity as a distinct nation.

The remaining Susquehannocks, often called Conestogas, stayed and their town remained an important activity center for many years where many treaties were negotiated and signed, yet the population declined.

During 1763, the remaining Susquehannocks at Conestoga lived under the protection of the commonwealth. In response to Pontiacs War, begun in the western part of the state, the Paxton Boys, a group of anti-Indian vigilantes, slaughtered six Indians at Conestoga. Those not in the village at the time of the massacre were taken to the workhouse (jail) in Lancaster city for their own protection. The governor condemned the killings and forbid further violence. Less than two weeks later, the Paxton Boys returned and slaughtered the 14 Indians at the workhouse.

A husband and wife known only as Michael and Mary are the only Susquehannocks known to have escaped the massacres. They had been living on the farm of Christian Hershey near Lititz, Pa. The governor gave special papers for their protection. When they died and were buried on the farm, it marked the end of the once powerful Susquehannock Indians.

For more information, try these books:

  • Susquehanna’s Indians by Barry Kent
  • Indians in Pennsylvania by Paul A. Wallace
  • Indian Wars by Robert M. Utley and Wilcomb E. Washburn

The Drumore Sickle

Scotch-Irish began homesteading the eastern shore of the Susquehanna River as early as 1715. They called the area Drumore after Dromore, a place in Ireland where many Scotch-Irish families emigrated from, including the Long and Neel families.

Drumore became known for the manufacturing of sickles and scythes used for grain harvesting. The Drumore Sickle had a reputation for its quality and affordable price which drove the English competition out of the market.

There were several sickle makers in Drumore, crafting sickles and scythes in small blacksmith shops and larger sickle mills. The Long family are standouts with four generations of sickle and scythe makers beginning in the early 1700s through the 1860s.

By the 1860s, the scythe was the standard reaping tool. It would be the late 1880s before machines like the McCormick’s Reaper would replace the sickle and scythe on the farm.

James Buchanan Long was among the last sickle makers in Drumore township, having worked alongside his grandfather and father. He would also be the executor of both of their estates.

James B. Long Home 1850

A stone house is surrounded by trees at Susquehannock State Park, Pennsylvania.

As part of his inheritance, James chose a piece of his father’s land to farm and build a home for his wife Catherine and six children. Constructed of field stone, it would have been covered in stucco and it still retains its slate roof. The front door is a “Bible and Cross” frame and panel door and the side door is an older style plank door.

Inside the walls are horsehair plaster and one room has a large cooking fireplace with panel doors to close when not in use keeping out the cold. On the opposite side of the house is a small chimney for a parlor stove.

The floors are constructed of wide wood planks. In the basement’s earthen floor is a cold cellar for storing preserved foods. While the exterior of the structure has been stabilized the interior is currently not accessible for public visitation. The home is located next to the park office.