Delaware Indians had a large settlement
called Pymatuning Town on the Shenango River in Mercer County as far
back as 1761. It may have been occupied until after the Revolutionary
Studies made in 1961 by Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh,
for the National Park Service, have located the probable town and its
cemetery sites, but because the cemetery was looted in the 1890s, there
are no artifacts to show it was there.
However, the town has been located on the north bank of the Shenango
River, about 3¾ miles east of Clark and 1¾ miles west of Big Bend.
The first known mention of Pymatuning Town is by Thomas Hutchins about
1761, in notes accompanying a sketch map. Lt. Hutchins was a surveyor
and an assistant to George Croghan who traded with the Indians in the
mid-1700s. His description of the site is as follows:
"Fifteen houses at Pymatuning last fall consisted of 40 warriors. The
town is on the opposite side of the creek from Venango. The creek is 30
yards wide and very deep opposite the town. Near 400 yards below
Pymatuning is a good shallow ford. Likewise, above it, there is a good
ford. The road from Venango to Pymatuning goes over several little
hills and in some places is pretty stony. From Pymatuning to Shenango
the road is level and very good. In the month of April most of the
Indians at Pymatuning talked of moving, some to Tuscarawas and some to
Dr. Don W. Dragoo of Carnegie Museum
participated in the museum's investigation in1961 of the historic
Delaware Indian site of Pymatuning Town. Prime objective is the
archaeological verification of the location of the site. He reported on
the findings in an article printed in Pennsylvania Archaeologist,
Bulletin of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology, Volume 34,
September 1964, No. 2.
Pymatuning Town was one of several Indian villages occupied by the
Delawares in western Pennsylvania in the period between the French and
Indian War and the Revolution. Although the Delawares were the chief
occupants of these villages. The Six Nations claimed and dominated the
Carnegie's interest in the town lay in the fact that it was not built
over by later settlers as so many of the villages were.
Andrew Henderson, a surveyor who laid out donation lands for payment of
Revolutionary War soldiers, left accurate notes on the location of
Pymatuning Town. He specifically mentions four donations on the site of
Pymatuning Town as follows:
"Lot 720-a very large quantity of bottom, containing a great part of an
old Indian town-Pymatuning-appears not to be improved there eight or
"Lot 712--part of an old Indian Town in the south side, near the creek.
This is Old Pymatuning Town. In 1785 there were some cabins which would
have been useful to settlers, but are long since destroyed by fire. I
presume the Indian cornfields were mostly overgrown with hazel, and by
this time will be nearly as hard to clear as the woods."
"Lot 810--a great proportion of bottom on the creek, including a part
of Pymatuning cornfields."
William A. Hunter, chief historian of
Pennsylvania Historical Commission, put together the historical
documentation of this site. Using this documentation, William J.
Mayor-Oakes visited the site in 1951 during Carnegie Museum's initial
survey of the Shenango Basin for the National Park Service.
Mayer-Oakes located the documented corner and examined a small
collection of stemmed and notched points found on the hills north of
the site, found by the owner of a large portion of the site.
Mayer-Oakes conducted no excavations. But, he did draw a sketch map of
the site showing the locations of excavations made in 1934 by Donald A.
Cadzow of the state historical commission.
Cadzow found potsherds and other artifacts, but because he didn't know
about Pymatuning Town at the time of his excavations, he credited the
items he found to a small Algonkin occupation.
Mayer-Oakes didn't do any excavating himself, but he sketched a map
showing Cadzow's diggings and the alleged location of Pymatuning
Town.In 1961, the field work by Carnegie Museum was meant to check the
validity of Hunter's historic accounts and to locate the burial ground
shown on Mayer-Oakes' map.
Dr. Dragoo, W.C.Reeves and Alan Mann of Carnegie Museum, John Zacucia,
J.O. Sipe and Earl Roman of the Beaver Valley Chapter of the Society
for Pennsylvania Archaeology, did intensive investigations of the site
from May 22 until June 16, 1961. Dr. Dragoo continued with a reduced
crew to study the basin during several days of July and August of that
Many years ago, the entire area of the Pymatuning Town site was cleared
and cultivated, but during the 30 years or so to the time of the study,
the area had been allowed to return to forest. As a result, the site
was almost completely overgrown with small trees, dense brush and weeds.
The party could not get a clear concept of
the site from the ground, so it obtained aerial photographs from the
U.S. Conservation Office in Mercer.
From these photos, the party relocated old property lines and
established the documented corner already mentioned as the junction of
the four Donation Land lots. The group then made all of its survey
measurements from this point.
The party's first objective was to locate the burial ground since all
surface evidence of the old Indian cabins had been destroyed many years
before by settlers who farmed the area.
If there were a cemetery, it would reveal Indian trade goods and prove
this as the location for Pymatuning town. The party could find no
specific clue to the location of the cemetery, but found other people
had searched for the cemetery long before. Previous excavators had left
holes all over the area. There also was a very large trench on the
south edge of the site, dug just before the party's arrival. No human
bones were found around any of the old diggings.
Mayer-Oakes had noted on his map that the alleged burial ground was 400
yards southeast of the documented corner, but the party found no
suitable land for a cemetery with 100 yards of the spot. Mayer-Oakes'
location would have placed the cemetery on swampy ground near the
river, so the party decided to look elsewhere.
Local resident told them about burials that were found in the area
several years before, but no one could tell of exact locations.
However, a story that kept cropping up was about skulls being plowed
out of the ground by the farmers and then placed them on fence posts.
If these stories were true, the party felt the cemetery must have been
near one of the fence rows that bisected the site, so it began a
systematic testing of all areas near the fence rows.