Judge Dean of Westmoreland

Submitted by Sheila Hoffman

From "Geography of the State of New York" published by J. H. Mather & Co. at Hartford in 1847.  Page 281

Judge Dean, the efficient Indian agent during the revolution, was also an early settler.  He was a native of New England, but spent several years of his boyhood among the Oneida Indians, by whom he was adopted.  he subsequently graduated at Dartmouth college, intending to become a missionary to that tribe.  the demand for his services during the revolution prevented his fulfilling that intention, and he accepted the office of Indian agent and interpreter, and in that capacity rendered efficient aid to the American cause.  The Oneidas granted him, at the close of the war, a tract of land on Wood creek about wo miles square, which he subsequently exchanged for a similar tract in Westmoreland.  On the extinction of the Indian title, in 1788, the latter was confirmed to him by the state, and he resided upon it during the remainder of his life.*

* Two or three years after Judge Dean's removal to Westmoreland, an incident occurred which furnishes a parallel to the often related rescue of Captain John Smith, by Pocaontas.

   It was a custom among the Indians, that when one of their number had been murdered by a member of another tribe, the blood of some one of the offending tribe must be shed, as an atonement for the offence.  The same custom extended to their intercourse with the whites.

    At this period, an Oneida Indian had been killed by some unknown white man, who had escaped.  The chiefs assembled to determine what was to be done.  After several days consultation, they decided that the life of Mr. Dean must be forfeited, as an atonement for the murder.

    Accordinly, the chiefs, eighteen in number, came to his dwelling at midnight, and informed him that they had decided to sacrifice him for the murder of their brother, and that he must now prepare to die.  In vain he remonstrated, pleading his past services to their tribe, and urging that he was an adopted son of the Oneidas, and therefore not liable to such a doom. In vain did he represent the hapless condition of his wife and helpless babes.

   The old chiefs heard him patiently, but their decision was unalterable. He had nearly abandoned all hope of escape, when his attention was arrested by the pattering of a footstep without the door.  Soon, the latch was raised and a squaw entered; she was the wife of the senior chief, and in Mr. Dean's boyhood, had adopted him as her son.

   The entrance of a woman into a solemn council was, according to Indian etiquette, at war with all propriety.  The chiefs however remained silent. Soon  another came, a sister of the first, and the wife of another chief; and presently a third, also the wife of a chief.  Each stood near the door in silence, closely wrapped in her blanket.

   At length the presiding chief bid them "begone."  The squaw who first entered, replied, that they must first change their determination, and not kill the good white man, her adopted son. The command to go was repeated, when each of the squaws threw off their blankets, and brandishing a knife in their extened hands, declared that they would destroy themselves, if one
hair of the white man' s head was touched,  The chiefs were astonished at the whole proceeding, and regarding it as an evident iterposition of the Great Spirit in his behalf, reversed their decree and Mr. Dean's life was spared.