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A Lenape among the Quakers

The Life of Hannah Freeman

Dawn Marsh

Publication Year: 2014

On July 28, 1797, an elderly Lenape woman stood before the newly appointed almsman of Pennsylvania’s Chester County and delivered a brief account of her life. In a sad irony, Hannah Freeman was establishing her residency—a claim that paved the way for her removal to the poorhouse. Ultimately, however, it meant the final removal from the ancestral land she had so tenaciously maintained. Thus was William Penn’s “peaceable kingdom” preserved. 

A Lenape among the Quakers reconstructs Hannah Freeman’s history, traveling from the days of her grandmothers before European settlement to the beginning of the nineteenth century. The story that emerges is one of persistence and resilience, as “Indian Hannah” negotiates life with the Quaker neighbors who employ her, entrust their children to her, seek out her healing skills, and, when she is weakened by sickness and age, care for her. And yet these are the same neighbors whose families have dispossessed hers. Fascinating in its own right, Hannah Freeman’s life is also remarkable for its unique view of a Native American woman in a colonial community during a time of dramatic transformation and upheaval. In particular it expands our understanding of colonial history and the Native experience that history often renders silent.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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p. ix

List of Illustrations

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p. x

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pp. xi-xii

This book began over a decade ago with my discovery of two eighteenth-century documents that inspired me with an inexplicable obsession to “unsilence” Hannah Freeman’s story. I did not understand how far or how long that journey would take, but I have no regrets about my choice. I am wiser for the journey, but not weary, and my obsession...

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pp. 1-6

On July 28, 1797, Hannah Freeman, an elderly indigent Lenape woman, stood before Moses Marshall, Chester County’s newly appointed almsman, and delivered a brief account of her life; two hundred years later one anthropologist credited it as a Native American biography “that predates by nearly one hundred years the earliest...

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Chapter 1. The Examination of Hannah Freeman

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pp. 7-34

The appearance of Hannah Freeman, an elderly Lenape woman, standing on the West Chester courthouse steps on July 28, 1797, must have seemed a strange sight to those who took notice that day. At the end of the eighteenth century, eastern Pennsylvanians were far removed from the violent borders of Indian country in western Ohio. The great diaspora of Lenape...

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Chapter 2. All Our Grandmothers

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pp. 35-73

It is not hard to imagine that Hannah Freeman’s grandmother might have stood on the same hill where the Chester County poorhouse was built and looked out on a landscape that would be much changed within two generations. The hilltop location offered a panoramic view of the lands claimed...

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Chapter 3. The Peaceable Kingdom

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pp. 74-105

Every morning Hannah Marshall, a young Quaker girl, began her daily chores by grabbing the large wooden bucket that sat inside the front door of her family home.1 From the time she was old enough to lift and carry the weight of the filled pail, it was her responsibility to go out to the front well and bring water that her mother...

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Chapter 4. Lenapehoking Lost

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pp. 106-134

When Hannah Freeman was a young woman, her father “went to Shamokin and never returned.” As she recounted her life story to Moses Marshall in 1797, she offered little explanation except that he left at a time when “the country becoming more settled the Indians were not allowed to plant corn any...

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Chapter 5. Kindness Extended

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pp. 135-163

The Lenape people had many stories handed down from generation to generation that told of their history and culture. Elders told stories of the creator, Kishelemukong, who caused a giant turtle to rise from the depths of the ocean to become the land upon which all beings lived: Turtle Island. First Man and First...

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Chapter 6. The Betrayal

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pp. 164-178

On November 12, 1800, Hannah Freeman walked through the front doors of the newly built Chester County Alms House. The smell of fresh lumber and the sounds of ongoing construction filled the air as she climbed the stairs and passed through the hall to meet the waiting directors...

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pp. 179-187

Nearly one hundred years to the day after the Chester County Historical Society commemorated Hannah Freeman by placing a boulder and plaque on her alleged gravesite, a group of concerned Chester County citizens once again took up the banner to recommemorate the 1909 commemoration. The inscription on the 1909 plaque...

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Appendix 1. The Examination of Indian Hannah alias Hannah Freeman

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pp. 189-190

The Examination of Indian Hannah, alias, Hannah Freeman Who saith she was born in a Cabin on William Webb’s Place in the Township of Kennett about the year 1730 or 31. The family consisting of her Grandmother Jane Aunts Betty & Nanny, her Father and Mother used to live in their Cabin...

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Appendix 2. Kindness Extended

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pp. 191-193

Hannah Freeman Commonly Called Indian Hannah an ancient Woman of the Delaware Tribe and the only Person of that Description left amongst us being afflicted with Rheumatism and unable to support herself accustomed to Travel from house to House which is sometimes attended...


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pp. 195-202


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pp. 203-213

E-ISBN-13: 9780803254183
E-ISBN-10: 0803254180
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803248403

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 869736290
MUSE Marc Record: Download for A Lenape among the Quakers

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Quakers -- Missions -- Pennsylvania -- Chester County.
  • Delaware Indians -- Missions -- Pennsylvania -- Chester County.
  • Freeman, Hannah, 1730-1802.
  • Delaware women -- Pennsylvania -- Chester County -- Biography.
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