Before the discovery, by Columbus, the Tuscaroras consisted of six towns, and they were a powerful nation, numbering over twelve hundred warriors, which, at a ratio according to the rule of estimating, would bring them at about five or six thousand souls.
The Tuscaroras had many years of enjoyment and peaceful possession of their domain, consisting of six towns on the Roanoke, Neuse, Taw and Pemlico rivers, in the State of North Carolina. And they were also confederated to six other nations, which were the Corees, Mattamuskeets, Notaways and the Bear River Indians; the names of the other two nations I have been unable to obtain. My readers will readily see why some writers have it that they consisted in twelve towns, and other writers would have it that they consisted in six towns. The real Tuscaroras consisted in six towns; but with the confederate nations, altogether, were known to be in twelve towns, and all these different nations which composed the confederacy went under the name of Tuscarora, the Tuscaroras being the most powerful of the several nations.
The tradition of the Tuscaroras admits of having captured Lawson and his party, and executed some of them to death on account of their encroachments upon their domain; but concerning the massacre of Oct. 2d, 1711, the Tuscaroras emphatically deny having taken any part in the affair whatever, officially. The project was presented to them and in the council of the sachems, chiefs and warriors, they emphatically declined taking any part in such a movement, but said if the colonists made encroachments and trespass on their domain, it is no more than right and just that we defend our rights, and even cautioned their young men that they should not take any part whatever in the action; but, nevertheless, there were a few of the rash and reckless warriors that took part in the disorder.
The Corees, Mattamuskeets, and Bear River Indians seemed to be the instigators of the project: but there were several other nations that took part in the massacre. These three nations being considered Tuscaroras, on account of the confederacy, and the capture of Lawson and his party a little previous to this time by the Tuscaroras, led the colonists to conclude that it was the Tuscaroras who caused the disaster, and to them was directed the feud of the colonists.
A little previous to these disorders, it seems that there were some white men, as our tradition states, with long coats and wide brimmed hats, visited several nations of the Indians in that neighborhood, and appeared to be very friendly toward them, wished them success in everything, and told them that those settlers who were on the borders of their lands and constantly encroaching and committing depredations upon the Indians, were not of the government, but were merely squatters, who settled there of their own accord, and if they were cut off, there would be none to avenge them, and were advised to do so.
It has always been a question in my mind who those white men were, to give such rash advice. Were they Quakers? But what motive had they in advising, from which so great a disaster was the result? Or, were they men in disguise, from the county of Bath, in which the massacre was committed, to make the Indians believe that they were Quakers, as the two counties were in arms against each other at that time.
To coroborate the tradition above, I would call your attention to part of a letter from President Pollock to Lord Craven, in the year 1712, who attributes the calamity thus:
“Our divisions,” says he, “chiefly occasioned by the Quakers and some other ill-disposed persons, have been the cause of all the troubles, for the Indians were informed by some of the traders that the people who lived here are only a few vagabonds, who had run away from other governments and settled here of their own accord, without any authority, so that if they were cut off, there would be none to revenge them. This with their seeing our differences rise to such a heighth, that consisting of two counties only, were in arms one against the other, encouraged them to fall upon the county of Bath, expecting it would have no assistance from this nor any other of the English plantations. This is the chief cause that moved the Indians to rise against us, as far as I understand.”
The Tuscaroras never had the inclination of cutting off the inhabitance of the pale faces. Nevertheless, they did not always remain idle or unconcerned spectators of the feuds and dissensions that so long prevailed among the white people, toward the red men. The successive and regular encroachments, on their hunting grounds and plantations, which the increase of the European population occasioned, had not always been submitted to without murmur.
Although they were pleased with the neighbors, from whom they had trade for their furs, and could procure spirituous liquors and other articles, which tended to the gratification of their real or imaginary wants. And they were required to surrender larger and larger portions of their domain, and at last, the removal of families from the neighborhood of their long cherished memories of the graves of their ancestors, to the more distant and less valuable tracts of land. Other causes of animosity and ill-will were not wanting. Their hunters were shot down like so many beasts, at the edge of the settlement, killed in their wigwams, their young females’ chastity violated, and many other things might be related, which their tradition shows. But I have neither heart nor inclination to bring to a resurrection the long gone-by memories of our forefathers. I would that all were cast into oblivion, where might not be found neither trace nor track; but rather that the chain of friendship which has existed for more than a century between the Tuscaroras and the United States Government may be made brighter and brighter as time rolls on.
I have said that the Tuscaroras never had the inclination of cutting off the first colonies, and if that were their desire, how readily would they have excepted the advice of President Thomas Carey, through one of his counsel—Edward Porter—in the year 1710, of which you will find in Martin’s History of North Carolina a difficulty between Gov. Hyde and the above, to-wit: “Before any relief could be sent he attempted the landing of some of his men under fire of his brig, but they were repulsed by the militia of the neighborhood, which Gov. Hyde had time to collect. They returned on board, and their Chief sought a safe retreat in the swamps of the Tar river, where he raised his standard and endeavored to bring the Tuscarora Indians into an alliance. For this purpose he dispatched to them Edward Porter, one of his counsel, who endeavored by promises of great rewards to induce them to cut off all the inhabitants of that part of the province who adhered to Gov. Hyde. This was acceded to by some of his young warriors, but when the matter was debated in council the old men dissuaded them from listening to Porter.”
Now, did not some of Carey’s men go afterwards to some of the neighboring Indian nations and induced them, in the year 1710, to commit the massacre?
I suppose to the critical reader, and to the people generally, my writing will appear to them fictitious, because of their first impression, which has been taught them by many historians. Historians generally have given only one side of the story, and have avoided, as much as possible, to give the history of the wrongs done to the Tuscaroras, but they are very scrupulous to preserve the history of the capture of Lawson, his execution and of the massacre, which they allege to have been committed by the Tuscaroras, and are styled by many as being inimical, haughty, jealous, warlike bloodhounds, bloodthirsty and scarcely to be human. These are the first impressions made by the historians upon the mind of the world. I suppose, for the purpose of getting a general verdict, that it was right; that they were crushed as a nation, their domain snatched from them, driven into the cold world, and not a word has been written by historians, or the Tuscaroras themselves, to vindicate their cause.
But with all the great tide of prejudiced feelings towards the Tuscaroras, I have ventured to write their history as I have received it, and think it to be true.
After the massacre, and the Tuscaroras heard it reported that they were charged with being the author of the disaster, they immediately sent messengers and denied the charge of having officially taken any part in the disorder, but acknowledged that a few of the reckless and lawless warriors did take part against their admonitions, but they were willing to make all the restoration that was in their power to do, and would fight for them if necessary. At different times they petitioned, remonstrated and supplicated for peace, which was slighted and disregarded, and only produced more violence and insult.
Notice what Governor Spotswood, of Virginia, said concerning the Tuscaroras, to wit:
“On the first of the disaster I sent a detachment of the militia to the tributary Indians of this province to prevent them from joining in the war, and understanding that the Indians in some of the Tuscarora towns had refused to march against the whites, sent a messenger to invite them, with the rest of the friendly tribes, to a conference at the Nottoway line, on the southern border of Virginia, where he met them on the 7th of November.”
“The Governor, after entering into some conversation with the Chiefs, had the pleasure of finding the report which his messengers had made, from their observations while in the Tuscarora towns, that they were very desirous of continuing in peace, and were greatly concerned that any of their nation should have joined in the massacre.”
The Chiefs, after accounting for the delay that occurred, expressed the desire of the Indians of their towns to continue in strict friendship with the whites, and assist them in chastising the authors of the late disorder.
“But now an unfortunate difference arose between the Governor and the burgesses, the latter insisting on the passage of a bill for raising an army in Virginia, without trusting to the sincerity of the profession of the Tuscarora Chiefs. The Governor refusing to accede to this proposition, and declining to co-operate in their plans, the dispute ended by a dissolution of the assembly.”
There was at one time a treaty of peace concluded between the Sachems and Chiefs of the Tuscaroras and Governor Spotswood, of Virginia, and one of the conditions of the treaty was to help in chastising the authors of the late massacre. In conformity with this pledge the Tuscaroras made an attack on the Mattamuskeets, where they obtained thirty scalps and presented them to the authorities of the whites, of which they pretended to be pleased. I don’t doubt but that they were really pleased, but not with any good feelings towards the Tuscaroras. I suppose the object was to get all the other Indian nations alienated from them, so that in due time they might be easily conquered, because they were the nation that the whites seemed bent on destroying. The Tuscaroras had faith in the treaty, but only to disappoint them in the thought of having the dark cloud which hung so glowingly over them taken away. It is said by historians that the Tuscaroras disregarded the treaty and began hostilities. But I will relate a tradition, handed down from generation to generation, which is as follows, to wit:
Some little time after the treaty concluded, several white men went into one of their towns and said that they were sent by the government to distribute among them an annuity of goods in token of friendship; and also said, “In token of your sincerity to the treaty of peace, you will all repair to a place where there is a cord stretched out in a straight line, you must all take hold of the line with your right hand, and all those that refuse to take hold will be considered as hostile and will be omitted in the distribution of the goods.” They all went to the place designated and found the cord strung out for nearly a mile; at one end of it was a bundle covered with cloth, which, as they supposed, contained the goods; so the unsuspecting Indians, women and children, with eager hearts, laid hold on the rope. When it was thought that they were in a proper position, the white men all at once uncovered the supposed goods, which was a large cannon, and being prepared to shoot in a line with the cord it was at once fired and roared like thunder. In a moment the ground along the cord was strewn with the meats of the Tuscaroras. This is one of the effects of the treaty at that time.
I will copy a report of Governor Spotswood to the Lords Commissioners of Trade, in the year 1711, to-wit:
“Had they,” said he, “really intended to carry on the war against the Indians, they could not have done it in a more frugal way than by the treaty I concluded with the Tuscarora chiefs.
“Indeed, some of that house, since the dissolution, own more freely than they would do while sitting, that most of the irregularities of their proceedings are owing to some rash votes, passed without foresight, which they could not afterwards get over without breaking the rules of their house; and so they chose, rather, to let the country suffer than to own themselves in an error.
“Some of the Tuscarora chiefs have lately been with Governor Spotswood, of Virginia, and pretend a great inclination to peace.
“They are again to be with him on the 26th of this month; we are to send two agents to meet them there—Mr. Tobias Knight and Mayor Christophe Gale—not with any expectation that the Governor will make any treaty for us, for that would be dishonorable to your lordship and make us appear contemptible in the eyes of the Indians, but with a view to hear what they have to propose.”
I might quote many more passages similar to those above, but let these few suffice to show how the Tuscaroras were treated. Now, finally, with a combination of causes, they were in 1713, crushed and broken down as a nation, to satisfy the inclinations of the white people, persecutions being kept up by neighboring whites and southern Indians until June following. The Oneida Indians, having heard of the disaster to the Tuscarora Nation, invited them to come and make their dwelling among them: so, accordingly, they left Carolina and took their journey north to rejoin their sister nations.
Methink I can see them leaving their once cherished homes—the aged, the helpless, the women and children, and the warriors faint and few—the ashes are cold on their native hearth; the smoke no more curls round their lowly cabin: they move on with slow, unsteady steps; they turn to take a last look upon their doomed village and cast a last glance upon the long cherished memories of their fathers’ graves. They shed no tears; they utter no cries: they heave no groans, they linger but a moment. They know and feel that there is for them still one more remove further, not distant nor unseen.
One bright, sunny June morning, in the year 1813, was one of the darkest days that the Tuscaroras ever witnessed, when most of the nation took their pace to the north until they came within the bounds of the Oneida domain, about two miles west of Tamaqua, in the state of Pennsylvania, where they located and set out apple trees which can be seen to this day: some of the trees, will measure about two feet in diameter. Here they dwelled for about two years.
In about the year 1815, the Iroquois, being the Mohawk, Onondaga, Seneca, Oneida and Cayuga nations, which were then called the five nations, had a general council where the Tuscarora made an application through their brothers the Oneida, to be admitted into the Iroquois and become the sixth nation, on the grounds of a common generic origin, which was granted them unanimously. Then the Seneca adopted the Tuscarora as their children. Ever since that time to the present, if a Seneca addresses the Tuscaroras, he will invariably salute them as “my sons,” in social or in council; and also the Tuscaroras in return will say “my fathers.” The relation has always been kept up to the present.
The Tuscaroras were then initiated without enlarging the frame-work of the confederacy and formation of the League, by allowing them their own Sachems and Chiefs, which they had as hereditary from their nation in the south, except on which they gave, as the Holder of the Tree, to sit and enjoy a nominal equality in the councils of the League, by the courtesy of the other five nations. They were not dependent, but were admitted to as full an equality as could be granted them without enlarging the frame-work of the confederacy. In the councils of the League they had no national designation. They were then assigned a portion of the Oneidas’ territory, which is lying upon the Unadilla river on the east, the Chenango on the west, and the Susquehanna on the south, where they dwelled and enjoyed their peace again for about seventy years. In 1736 they numbered 200 warriors of fighting men.
We again hear of the Tuscarora by history, concerning a massacre of the German Flats, N. Y., in November, 1757.
A narrative communicated to the author of the Documentary History of New York, vol. 2, page 520, viz: A few days after this massacre and desolation had been perpetrated, Sir William Johnson dispatched Geo. Croghan, Esq., Deputy Agent, with Mr. Montour, the Indian interpreter, to the German Flats, where he understood several of the Oneida and Tuscarora Indians were assembled, in order to call upon them to explain why they had not given more timely notice to the Germans of the designs and approach of the enemy, it having been reported that no intelligence had been given by the Indians until the same morning the attack was made, and as these Indians might naturally be supposed, from their situation and other circumstances, to have had an earlier knowledge of the enemy’s design and march.
Before Mr. Croghan could get up to the German Flats the aforesaid Indians were on their road homewards, but he was informed that the Chief Sachem of the Upper Oneida town, with a Tuscarora Sachem (which is supposed to be Solomon Longboard) and another Oneida Indian, were still about four miles from Fort Harkeman, upon which he sent a messenger to acquaint them that he was at the said fort.
The aforesaid Indians returned, and on the 3oth of November, at Fort Harkeman, Conaghquieson, the Oneida Sachem, made the following speech to Mr. Croghan, having first called in one Rudolph Shumaker, Hanjost Harkman and several other Germans who understood the Indian language, and desired them to sit down and hear what he had to say. Conaghquieson then proceeded and said:
“Brothers:—I can’t help telling you that we were very much surprised to hear that our English brethren suspect and charge us with not giving them timely notice of the designs of the French, as it is well known we have not neglected to give them every piece of intelligence that came to our knowledge.
“Brothers, about fifteen days before the affair happened we sent the Germans word that some Swegatchi Indians told us that the French were determined to destroy the German Flats, and desired them to be on their guard. About six days after that we had a further account from the Swegatchi Indians that the French were preparing to march.
“I then came to the German Flats, and in a meeting with the Germans told them what we had heard, and desired to collect themselves together in a body at their fort, [Footnote: A stockaded work round the church, and a block-house, with a ditch, and a parapet thrown up by Sir William Johnson, a year ago, upon an alarm then given.] and secure their women, children and effects, and to make the best defence they could. At the same time I told them to write what I had said to our brother, Warraghryagey (meaning Sir William Johnson [Footnote: They never sent this intelligence to Sir William Johnson.]), but they paid not the least regard to what I told them, and laughed at me, slapping their hands on their buttocks, saying they did not value the enemy, upon which I returned home and sent one of our people to the lake (meaning Oneida Lake) to find out whether the enemy were coming or not. After he had staid there two days the enemy arrived at the carrying-place, and sent word to the castle at the lake that they were there, and told them what they were going to do, but charged them not to let us at the upper castle know anything of their design. As soon as the man I sent there heard this he came on to us with the account that night; and as soon as we received it we sent a belt of wampum, to confirm the truth thereof, to the Flats, which came here the day before the enemy made their attack: but the people would not give credit to the account even then, or they might have saved their lives. [Footnote: The Indians who brought the belt of wampum, finding the Germans still incredulous, the next morning, just before the attack began, laid hold on the German Minister, and in a manner forced him over to the other side of the river, by which means he and some who followed him escaped the fate of their brethren.] This is the truth, and those Germans here present know it to be so. The aforesaid Germans did acknowledge it to be so, and that they had such intelligence.
The Oneida being the original owner of the tract of land assigned to the Tuscarora as aforesaid, were made party with the Tuscarora to the treaty made at Fort Herkimer in the year 1785, by which it was ceded to the State, and the Oneida took all the avails of the treaty. The Tuscaroras were then again left without a home and were partially scattered among the other nations, although they continued to preserve their nationality. They had some settlements, at a later period, in Oneida Castle, called by them Gaunea-wahro-hare (signifying head on the pole), and one in the valley of the Genesee below Avon, called by them Ju-na-stre-yo (signifying the beautiful valley); another settlement at Con-na-so-ra-ga, on the line between Onondaga and Oneida; another in the fork of Chattenango Creek, which they called Ju-ta-nea-ga (signifying where the sun shines); and another on the Jordan Creek, which they called Kan-ha-to (signifying limb in water). These several places were settled at different periods, which I am not able to give.
In the revolutionary war between the United States and Great Britain, the Tuscaroras then had their settlement at the place alotted them by the league in 1715, between the Unadilla river and the Chenango. They took an active part with the United States. Many a soldier and scout of the United States, in their fatigue and hunger, found a rest and a morsel in the rude homes of the Tuscaroras, which were ever hospitably open to them.
When the other Indians which took part with the British knew that the Tuscaroras took part with the United States, they invaded their settlement, destroyed their property and burned down their houses to ashes, which scattered them for a while. There was a party that settled at Oyouwayea, or Johnson’s landing place, on lake Ontario, about four miles east of the mouth of Niagara River, which is at the mouth of the four-mile creek, for the purpose of getting out of the centre of the other Indians which were for the British.
About the close of the war there were two families of the Tuscaroras hunting and fishing along the shores of lake Ontario, and then up the east shore of Niagara River as far as Lewiston, and there left their canoe; then traveled east and up the mountain as far as a place which they now call the Old Saw Mill (now on the Tuscarora Reservation), above the Ayers’ farm, where they saw great quantities of butternuts and walnuts and and a nice stream of water flowing down the mountain; there they took their rest, and after remaining several days they concluded to make their winter quarters at that place, which they did. After they were missing for a time from the settlement at Johnson’s landing, they were hunted by their people and finally found at this place. A few years after this the Oneidas and Tuscaroras ceded the tract of land that was apportioned to the Tuscaroras; then families after families came and located with those two families mentioned above. This is the beginning of the settlement of the present Tuscarora Reservation.
The Tuscaroras, ever since the revolutionary war, have had their residence within the territory of the Seneca nation, they being considered the father of the Tuscarora by being adopted as such, at the time of their initiation into the confederacy, in the year 1715.
I will here give the boundary of the Seneca Nation domain, according to the treaty entitled “A Treaty between the United States of America and the Tribes of Indians called the Six Nations”:
“The President of the United States having determined to hold a conference with the Six Nations of Indians, for the purpose of removing from their minds all causes of complaint, and establishing a firm and permanent friendship with them, and Timothy Pickering being appointed sole agent for that purpose, and the agent having met and conferred with the sachems, chiefs and warriors of the Six Nations, in a general council, now, in order to accomplish the good design of the conference, the parties have agreed on the following articles, when ratified by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate of the United States, shall be binding on them and the Six Nations.
“Article 1. Peace and friendship are hereby firmly established, and shall be perpetual between the United States and the Six Nations.
“Article 2. The United States acknowledge the lands reserved to the Oneida, Onondaga, and Cayuga Nations, in their respective treaties with the State of New York, and called their reservations, to be their property; and the United States will never claim the same, nor disturb them or either of the Six Nations, nor their Indian friends residing thereon and united with them, in the free use and enjoyment thereof; but the said reservations shall remain theirs until they choose to sell the same to the people of the United States, who have the right to purchase.
“Article 3. The land of the Seneca Nation is bounded as follows: Beginning on Lake Ontario at the northwest corner of the land they sold to Oliver Phelps, the line runs westerly along the lake as far as O-yong-wong-yeh creek, at Johnson’s landing place, about four miles eastward from the fort of Niagara; then southerly up that creek to its main fork; then straight to the main fork of Stedman’s creek, which empties into the Niagara river above fort Schlosser; and then onward from that fort, continuing the same straight course, to the river (this line from the mouth of O-yong-wong-yeh creek to the river Niagara above Fort Schlosser, being the eastern boundary of a strip of land extending from the same line to Niagara river, which the Seneca Nation ceded to the king of Great Britain at a treaty held about thirty years ago, with Sir William Johnson); then the line runs along the river Niagara to Lake Erie; then along Lake Erie to the eastern corner of a triangle piece of land which the United States ceded to the state of Pennsylvania, as by the President’s patent, dated the third day of March 1792; then due south to the boundary of that state; then due east to the southwest corner of the land sold by the Seneca Nation to Oliver Phelps; and then northerly along Phelps’ line to the place of beginning, on Lake Ontario. Now, the United States acknowledge all the land within the aforementioned boundary to be the property of the Seneca Nation; and the United States will never claim the same, nor disturb the Seneca Nation, nor their Indian friends residing thereon and united with them, in the free use and enjoyment thereof; but it shall remain theirs until they choose to sell the same to the people of the United States, who have the right to purchase.
“Article 4. The United States having thus described and acknowledged what lands belong to the Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas, and engaged never to claim the same, nor disturb them or any of the Six Nations, nor their Indian friends residing thereon and united with them, in the free use and enjoyment thereof, etc. Proclaimed January 21, 1785.”
You will observe in the treaty above that the name of the Tuscarora Nation is not mentioned at all, and yet speaks of the Six Nations, which includes the Tuscarora Nation. The reason is this: In Article 2 you will observe that all the nations that have their lands on the east side of what is known as the Phelps line were named, and west of that line was the land of the Seneca Nation on which the Tuscaroras resided, and were considered as being merged into the Seneca Nation, and have the benefit of the laws enacted for them.
There was also a contract entered into between the Seneca Nation of Indians of the first part, and Robert Morris. Esq., of the city of Philadelphia, of the second part. At a treaty held under the authority of the United States, at Genesee, in the county of Ontario, State of New York, on the fifteenth day of September, 1797, and on sundry days immediately prior thereto, by the Honorable Jeremiah Wadsworth. Esq., a commissioner appointed by the President of the United States to hold the same, when the Senecas ceded the country that included the now Tuscarora Reservation. The Tuscaroras then and there made their complaint by their chiefs, for the first since they were initiated into the confederacy of the Iroquois; in the presence of the commissioner and the others that are parties to the treaty; that the Iroquois had from time to time allotted them lands and had been ceded each time by the Iroquois, without giving them a farthing to remunerate them for their portion of the lands so ceded, or for the improvements that they had made, and asked if they were to be driven in this manner from place to place all the days of their existence, and if that is the way a father should use their children or brothers should use their brothers, and to keep them living in disappointment; they also alluded to a treaty concluded at Fort Stanwix three years before this, where the commissioners of the United States reserved to them land, which read as follows:
“Article 2. The Oneida and Tuscarora Nations shall be secured in the possession of the lands on which they are settled.”
The commissioner then inquired into the merits of the complaint of the Tuscaroras, which the Iroquois affirmed; the commissioner then said to them, that it is not right to make a contract, or to grant anything without faith; it is only honorable when you adhere to your stipulation.
When Robert Morris knew that the Tuscaroras were destitute of land, he reserved and donated to them two square miles being 1280 acres; the Senecas also granted to them one square mile being 640 acres, which grant was made at the convention dated above. On the 13th day of March, 1808, the sachems, chiefs and head men of the Seneca Nation of Indians executed a written indenture of the grant or deed to the Tuscarora Nation, of the one square mile of land above mentioned, and was duly signed by the sachems, chiefs and head men of the aforesaid Indians. On the 22d day of September, 1810, it was entered and put on file in the Niagara County Clerk’s office, on page 56; and was again put on file in the Niagara County Clerk’s Office, Lockport, in book of deeds 151, page 168, March 13, 1879.
About the year 1800, Solomon Longbard and his brother held private council between themselves, consulting how they might obtain more land to make a permanent home for the Tuscaroras and their generation after them, they concluded to repair to North Carolina and see if they could procure any means from that source, whereby they might obtain more land. In pursuance, the Tuscarora Chiefs in council appointed as delegates Solomon Longboard and Sacarrissa, being sachems of the nation in the year 1801, and in 1802 they effected a lease by the aid of the Legislature of North Carolina, from which accrued $13,722; and in the year 1804, General Dearborn, then Secretary of War, was authorized by Congress to buy land for the Tuscaroras with the said money, by which he bought 4,329 acres of the Holland Land Company, which is now on the south and east side of the three square miles mentioned above, which now constitutes the Tuscarora Reservation.
The Tuscarora Nation was once more at peace and in possession of lands which they could call their own.