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Indian Hannah

The Story of Indian Hannah
By Linus Joseph Dewald Jr., Editor
Winter 2000 and Revised 4 May 2004

We came across a posting on PACHESTE-L@rootsweb.com (Chester County, PA) on 10 Oct 2000 discussing Indian Hannah. It doesn't involve any known Prentice family, but we thought it interesting because it gives a flavor to the kind of lives our early ancestors experienced. It reads as follows:

    This is from "Edgmont, the story of a township" by Jane Levis Carter. Anne Broomall Wiegle


    "Then of course, there was Indian Hannah.

    "Many creek valleys claim Indian Hannah and there seems to be evidence that she spent occasional summers north of Stackhouse Mill Road in Edgmont. Stone foundations of a one-time cabin she is supposed to have lived in remain on a hillside there.

    Indian Hannah would wander in with the springtime, her wordly goods on a lean packhorse, followed by two small dogs, Elmun and Putmoe, and often a couple of pigs. She spent the summers collecting herbs and nnes, then sold her nostrums, brooms and beautifully woven baskets of oak and ash splints, often decorated by colors of her own brewing, at farm and village kitchen doors.

    When invited to partake of a meal she would usually accept, but not after nightfall. "me no owl," Hannah would declare. "Me no eat at night." After trying out a broom made by a white person, she once exclaimed disgustedly, "Pooh, pooh, just like hen scratchee!" At friendly hearthsides she told fortunes, shared ancient wisdoms.

    "Born around 1730 in lower Chester County, Indian Hannah knew over seventy years of wandering interspersed with the charity of local Quaker families. When younger she had once removed to New Jersey in the company of a grandmother, and two aunts. A possible common law Indian husband named Andrew Freeman had long disappeared.

    "Now she lay dying in the Chester County Poorhouse." Dr. C. A. Weslager in "Red Men on the Brandywine," gives a picture of her last hours: 'Her face was the color and texture of a dried leaf, and her once dark, piercing eyes had lost their fire... There was a lonliness in the two hands withering still and useless on the white muslin sheet... she belonged to no country, she was of the wind, the rains, and the sun. She was of the land; the Welsh hills of Pennsylvania as well as the brackinsh tidal mashes of Delaware and New Jersey; and the sea-side beaches worn smooth by noisy waves... she was of the rivers and creeks... ' She was Chester County's last (member of the Lenni Lenape (tribe), last of the 'Original People.' " For more information about the the Lenni Lenape, see Delaware Tribe of Indians .

Postscripts:   We received an email on 18 Mar 2002 from Scott Roney which reads as follows:

    Have just read your site about her. I live in a house at the corner of Rt. 842, AKA Wawaset Road & Indian Hannah Road, in Newlin Township. At one time she was a housekeeper here. She had a hut downhill from the house off the dirt road that bears her name. On old township maps (1883), this house is noted as belonging to a James Gawthrop. I often wonder what her life was like back in those times.

We also received an email on 8 Nov 2009 from Janet Sidewater which reads as follows:

    I wanted to let you know there is going to be a rededication ceremony at Indian Hannah's gravesite on November 15, 2009 at 1 O'clock. Her grave is located in Newlin Township at the Embreeville complex just off route 162. The last time she was honored was 1909 when the Chester County Historical Society placed a large solid quartz boulder to mark her grave. Recently it has become a bit of a dumping ground for a tree company. So a group of concerned citizens in conjunction with the Newlin Township Historical Society decided to reclaim her burial site. The ground swell of response and interest from the community has been tremendous. Obviously she is as much loved today as she was over 200 years ago. Please feel free to contact me @ 610 486 1121 for any additional information.

Correspondence:   If you have any information about the folks mentioned in this article, please send your information to us at the Prentice Newsletter. Be sure to give the full title and date of this article in the Subject line of the email.

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