Gest Fellow Christian Gonzales is a Ph.D. candidate in United States History at the University of California, San Diego. His research is on “Anglo-Indian Antiremoval Collaboration, 1819-1859.”
I came to Haverford to research material for the final chapter of my dissertation, which investigates Native and Anglo American groups that opposed the removal of the Indians from the eastern United States during the 1820s and 30s. I was specifically interested in the joint efforts of the Seneca and the Orthodox Quakers of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting to prevent Seneca removal and to stop ratification of the 1838 Treaty of Buffalo Creek.
To my delight, the documents in the Special Collections Library were richer than I expected. They clearly illuminated the relationship between the Seneca and the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, and revealed in great detail their combined political efforts to thwart removal. The documents of most help were those of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s Indian Committee. The papers and letters of Friends such as Joseph Elkinton, Ebenezer Worth, and Solomon and Sarah Lukens, all of whom lived for years among the Seneca of the Allegheny reservation, helped reveal Seneca perspectives on removal, explained why Friends opposed removal, and clearly detailed Friends’ efforts to acculturate Seneca through formal schooling and projects designed to persuade Natives to pursue Anglo-American agriculture. Other papers in the PYMIC collection painted interesting pictures of Seneca daily life, and gave moving insight into the emotions Friends experienced living with the Natives. For instance, the letters of Susannah Wood described a performance of the Green Corn Dance, recorded the procedures of a Seneca Council meeting, and gave touching accounts of Seneca children playing in the snow. They also communicated her feelings of homesickness, and revealed the depth of sorrow she endured from the loss of her two year old son, Francis. Susannah taught with her husband John at the Tunesassah Boarding School for a year before her sudden death in 1853.
Other resources were also extremely helpful. The Dictionary of Quaker Biography and the necrology card file allowed me to reconstruct the major life events of Friends who worked with the Indians. And the copies of The Friend, in the periodicals collection, detailed the reasons why several yearly meetings, including Philadelphia, New York, Ohio, Baltimore, and New Jersey, participated in the national antiremoval campaign of 1829-30, which sought to stop the forced removal of the Cherokee.
I would like to thank the staff, John, Diana, Ann, and David, for the instrumental help they provided while I was in residence at Haverford. Their insight and knowledge were vital to the success of my research.