The Materiality of a “Bold Mariner”: Jeremiah Pharaoh’s Home at Indian Fields

Alison Manfra McGovern

Abstract: Historians agree that Native American whalers from New England and coastal New York were sought for employment in whaling, but disagreement remains on the social and economic impact that whaling had on indigenous lifeways. This paper examines the archaeological remains from the home of Montaukett whaler Jeremiah Pharaoh and his family at Indian Fields to gain some insight into the material culture of their daily life.

Keywords: archaeology, whaling, Montaukett, Jeremiah Pharaoh, Indian Fields, Native American whaling

Articles VOL 25-1 Whaling

By Allison Manfra McGovern

“March the 3 I arrived at Montauk in the year of our Lord 1798 on Sat. Night. I was gone Nine years and five months. I sailed out Nantucket.”

“I Jeremiah Pharaoh the Bold mariner I sailed the world all over nine long years. When I Returned home I found my relations stranded which grieved my heart ful so.” (Sag Harbor Express, “Bits from Book of Jeremiah Pharaoh,” July 31, 1924)

The whaling industry has a long history, beginning with drift whaling, and ending with an expansive industry reliant on deep-sea ventures. The industry was impacted through the years by competition among nations, changing demands for energy sources, the desire for luxury goods, and trade regulations, which resulted in highs and lows in profits. Whaling drew all types of men for employment at sea, but the involvement of indigenous and African American men in North American whaling was particularly conspicuous. Yet, little attention has been paid to the household-level experiences of these men and their families. In this paper, I will discuss the economic conditions and lived experiences of Jeremiah Pharaoh, an indigenous whaler from eastern Long Island, and his wife Alloosa Tallman, within the broader regional socio-historical context of whaling.

This paper is a study in historical archaeology, as documentary and archaeological resources provide the data for interpreting some people’s lives. As such, there is a reliance on architecture, artifacts and texts, to explore the materiality of everyday life. In terms of historical reconstruction, historical archaeology offers a democratic, object-based approach to interpreting the lives of disenfranchised, poorly documented, and generally mis-represented historical peoples. It offers an alternative understanding for some historical groups like Long Island Native Americans who, through racist depictions and essentialist expectations, have been written out of local history. Jeremiah Pharaoh, a Montaukett Indian whaler, lived at a time when Long Island Native Americans were experiencing dispossession and hunting restrictions from their ancestral lands: erasure from the landscape and from local history was a colonialist strategy. And yet, the material remains from his lifetime have been recovered and encapsulated through historical archaeological investigation, documenting aspects of a life lived.

To understand the experiences of indigenous whaler Jeremiah Pharaoh, it is essential to understand the socio-historical context of the Montaukett people, as well as the whaling industry. Pharaoh lived with his wife Aloosa at Indian Fields, a Montaukett Indian village in Montauk, from the late eighteenth century through the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Indian Fields is a small part of an extensive Native American archaeological landscape that comprises thousands of years before and hundreds of years after European arrival. Prior to Euro-American settlement, East Hampton Town was the ancestral homeland of the Montaukett Indians. There is archaeological evidence of their seasonal settlement along the northern and southern coasts of Long Island’s South Fork, ethnohistorical evidence of economic and kin networks that connected the Montauketts to other Native groups throughout coastal New York and southern New England, and documentary evidence of Montaukett involvement in land transactions with Europeans in the seventeenth century that extend beyond the limits of East Hampton township. So, although their history is closely associated with present-day Montauk, their settlement, trade, subsistence strategies, and political affairs both before and after European settlement frequently led them beyond the geographical limits of eastern Long Island. While many Montauketts were living in Montauk at Indian Fields through the end of the 1800s, there are many other locations throughout Long Island where Montauketts (and other Native American people) made more permanent homes in response to colonial forces.[1]

The white settlers who established the Town of East Hampton in the mid-1600s came by way of Connecticut and Massachusetts, as well as the settlement at Southampton, and established a village roughly twenty miles west of Montauk. At the time, Montaukett people were settled throughout Montauk and the lands that would become part of East Hampton township. As the white village at East Hampton grew, the villagers sought to expand their cattle pasturage. They looked east to the rolling hills and pasture that extended to Montauk Point, comprising more than 10,000 acres. In 1653, some East Hampton proprietors negotiated pasture rights at Montauk from the Montauketts. English settlement did not extend much further east than Amagansett at the time, but the importance of livestock warranted the need for access to new pasture. Expansion of the English farming communities led to increases in demand for land, and in the presence of European-owned livestock at indigenous settlements. These conditions were constant sources of tension between the English and the Montauketts.[2]

Between 1653 and 1742, three different groups of white East Hampton settlers purchased Native land, each expanding East Hampton rights further east. Meanwhile, tensions grew between the Montauketts and East Hampton whites. Through the 1650s as the white settlement was expanding, the Montaukett population was in decline. Military attacks and European diseases decimated the population. The English asserted their sovereignty over the Montauketts by negotiating unfair land transactions and threatening their subsistence with unattended livestock that damaged hunting grounds and planting fields.[3]

In 1687, the town purchased the remaining Native lands east of Fort Pond for one hundred pounds, and granted the Montauketts residency rights in perpetuity. The Montauketts agreed to accept two pounds per year instead of the lump sum of one hundred pounds (in addition to amounts that they already received yearly for grazing access). But the relationship between the Montauketts and the town grew tense as Montauketts complained of damages by grazing animals and missed annuity payments. Dissatisfied with their treatment by the town, the Montauketts negotiated a more lucrative sale of the same lands east of Fort Pond to two wealthy men from New York. This deal, however, violated a previous agreement between the Montauketts and the town which permitted the Town Trustees exclusive rights to the purchase of Montauk lands. The town challenged the Montaukett sale to the New York men, and moved quickly to establish a new agreement with the Montauketts, detailing transactions and rights between the two parties.[4]

The subsequent 1703 “Agreement Between the Trustees of East Hampton and the Indians of Montauk” (reprinted in Stone 1993:69) specified that the Montauketts were to inhabit the land referred to as North Neck (between Great Pond and Fort Pond), establishing fencing where necessary. The land east of Great Pond (including Indian Fields) was reserved for English use, which primarily consisted of cattle grazing. The Montauketts were permitted to move east of Great Pond if they did not interfere with the English right to graze. The agreement also specified how the Montauketts were able to use their land: fields were expected to remain open for the English’s livestock grazing and they were permitted to keep a 30-acre field enclosed to protect crops of winter wheat. If the Montauketts were to move from North Neck and relocate to Indian Fields, they must take possessions with them; they could return to North Neck, but not inhabit both locations concurrently.[5]

At this time, the Montauketts had limited access to their traditional hunting lands, which were now pasture lands for whites. They were forced into a more sedentary lifestyle, dependent on raising livestock for subsistence. They registered ear marks for their cattle with the town. In an effort to control the number of grazing cattle, and probably to control growth of the troublesome Montaukett population, the town placed limits on the amount of livestock owned by the Montauketts. The 1703 agreement included a limit on Montaukett livestock to 250 swine and 50 head of cattle or horses.[6]

Despite the enforced limitations on lifeways, the Montaukett population grew in small numbers and reinforced social and economic networks through exogamous marriage practices. The English responded to this threat of an expanding Montaukett population in 1719 with another “agreement” that prohibited Montaukett marriages with non-Montauketts. Altogether, these eighteenth-century encumbrances left the Montauketts, resentful of their white neighbors, in a position of tenancy on their ancestral homelands.[7]

Documentary and archaeological sources, together, provide a means for understanding when a more permanent Montaukett settlement was moved from North Neck to Indian Fields. For instance, white missionary Azariah Horton arrived in Montauk in 1741. In a diary entry from December of that year, he mentioned visiting the wigwams of Montaukett people in Montauk who were suffering from illnesses. His entries provide clues to Montaukett settlement locations, at a time when according to agreement with the town of East Hampton, Montauketts could live at either North Neck or Indian Fields. Horton’s presence was followed by that of indigenous missionary Samson Occom, who arrived in 1749 and married Mary Fowler, a Montaukett woman, in 1751. Both Occom and Horton mentioned in their records that Montaukett men were working at sea during their visits. Occom lived in a wigwam that he constructed, like the other members of the Montaukett community. The Montaukett settlement may have been at North Neck at the time.[8]

The Montaukett settlement at North Neck has never been investigated archaeologically and there is substantial residential development in the area today. The Indian Fields site, on the other hand, has been surveyed by archaeologists. Based on archaeological evidence, Indian Fields seems to have a more permanent Native settlement by 1750/60.

In the 1970s, archaeologists from the Long Island Archaeology Project at Stony Brook University investigated some of the Indian Fields site. They uncovered a total of 23 archaeological features, including five house patterns, three middens, seven storage features, two stone walls, and six additional unidentified features; each feature was tested at varying levels of intensity. I used the archaeological data from two of the previously-excavated Indian Fields households for my dissertation in anthropology, which was an intra-site comparison for indigenous economic conditions during the rise and fall of the commercial whaling industry, specifically between 1750 and 1885. Both households are viewed as loci for Montaukett identity construction, consumption, and labor, as they provide the material traces of everyday lives.

Tracing the movement, settlement, and even dynamics of household membership (including names, ages, and genders) for the Montauketts in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is no small task. For a group like the Montauketts at Indian Fields, and probably for most “outsider” and/or reservation groups elsewhere, recovering a reliable documentary record has inherent difficulties because of the irregularity of Montaukett documentation by whites, the frequent misrepresentation of race and ethnicity of various East Hampton residents by whites, and because the Montauketts themselves did not document their presence. For these reasons, I consulted a variety of sources in hopes of reconstructing some aspects of settlement and household dynamics. Town records, account books, land transactions, legal documents, and formal complaints by and about the Montauketts inform a reconstructed account of the Indian Fields residents over roughly 150 years. In this paper, my discussion is limited to one of these households: the home of Jeremiah Pharaoh and Alloosa Tallman.[9]

Jeremiah Pharaoh knew Samson Occom, although the details of their relationship are not well-understood. The quotes that open this article were recorded in a law book that was once owned by Occom and subsequently used by Pharaoh as a diary. These comments position Jeremiah Pharaoh’s experiences within a complex setting of colonialism and indigenous struggle. Pharaoh, like many other indigenous men, chose a whaler’s life of years at sea, while his family members at home were facing difficult economic and socio-political challenges. All around, this was a time of struggle for Montaukett survival and survivance.[10]

Economics of Whaling

Whaling has a long, dynamic social and economic history in East Hampton town. The seventeenth-century settlers of East Hampton learned early on from Montaukett traditions the value of whale products. The white residents of Southampton who moved there to build the settlement were already familiar with the presence of whales that swam close to the shoreline. In the early years, residents waited for drift whales to wash upon the shore. The carcasses were considered the rightful property of town proprietors, who divided shares accordingly. By the 1660s, there was a growing demand among East Hampton residents for European consumer goods. In order to obtain those goods, white East Hampton settlers increased their production of goods that were in demand in Europe. It was at this time that residents of the East End turned to coastal whaling.[11]

Coastal whaling involved the use of small boats just off the coast to herd whales onto the shore. This economic change from communal to private, for-profit enterprise marks the determination of the white settlers of East Hampton to participate more effectively in the English mercantile economy. The “Whale Design,” as it is referred to in the East Hampton Town Records, demanded not only construction and use of small boats, but a cheap, willing source of labor. Although the white men of the town wanted to profit from whaling, they were unwilling to perform the labor themselves; they learned from mining drift whales that it was arduous, dangerous, and nauseating work. The indigenous residents of the town, therefore, became useful to the white residents as a labor source.[12]

According to local history, indigenous people were highly-desired participants in whaling ventures from the beginning because of their familiarity with whales. Early town records, including land deeds between the Montauketts and the white settlers, noted that the Montauketts maintained rights to whales that were beached or drifted near shore. They were known to use parts recovered from beached whales, and local lore suggests that they had a long history of whale hunting in small boats off the coast. But according to Lynn Ceci, there is no archaeological evidence for indigenous whaling in canoes or other small watercraft before the arrival of Europeans. The indigenous community was an obvious source of labor because they were available, willing to work, and developed a reputation as skilled whalers. They too wanted commercial goods and whaling provided the means to acquire them. In the earliest contracts, white whaling companies provided indigenous laborers small boats, harpoons, and other equipment, and promised half of all the right whales that were caught.[13]

In subsequent contracts the laborers’ conditions change and their entitlements are vaguely defined; eventually, indigenous laborers no longer received half of the catch. Historians point to a level of coercion by white whaling companies that even included the use of liquor to ensure indigenous participation. They controlled the labor source to return season after season through debt and indentured servitude. Contracts that required laborers to pay off already-established debt are also well-recorded, like the following entry from the town records:

Bee it knowne to all men by these presents that I Harry Alias quauquaheid Indian of Montaukut doe firmly bind and engeadge my selfe to John Stretton Sr: of Easthampton upon Consideration that I am Much indebted to him upon former accompts : and his present supply of my present necessity : doe I day bind and engeadge my selfe to goe to sea awhealing for the said John Stretton the next Winter after this present instant that is to say ye year : 1681 : Naither will I engeadge my selfe to any other parson upon any accompt Whatsoever to defraud the said John Stretton in the premises hee allowing mee one halfe shear as formerly…[14]

At least eleven similar contracts that include mention of debt are recorded in the town records between 1677 and 1684. A system of credit allowed indigenous men to purchase goods from local merchants and traders, in exchange for their share (or “lay”) of the catch during the following whaling season. Yet whalers often came back empty-handed, as debt would exceed wages (especially during failed whaling ventures). By this system, indigenous laborers were in a form of bondage, or debt peonage, to their creditors with little chance of ever paying off what they owed. The system guaranteed their labor season after season, and kept indigenous whalers at the mercy of merchants and creditors, who controlled the sale and pricing of consumer goods to debtors.[15]

The seventeenth century East Hampton settlement profited quickly and substantially from coastal whaling, meeting demands for whaling products worldwide. In 1687, seven whaling companies from the East End produced 2,418 barrels of whale oil (each sold for between 1£ 10s. to 2£ a barrel). Try-works (large pots for processing whale oil and blubber) and warehouses for the preparation of raw goods were constructed at Northwest Harbor, near Gardiner’s Bay. Whalebone and oil, horses, meat and hides, fur, cordwood, planking, turpentine and other raw materials were traded from the port at Northwest Harbor, established in 1653, to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, England, and the Caribbean. Commercial goods, including ceramics, glasswares, guns and ammunition, sewing tools, textiles, molasses, sugar, and rum, were imported from Europe and the Caribbean.[16]

Eventually, the over-hunting exhausted the coastal whale population in New York and southern New England. When coastal whaling became less lucrative, the small-boat whalers were replaced by schooners that eventually had to travel out farther from the coast and deeper into international waters in search of whales. Nantucket led the northeast colonies in deep-sea whaling from roughly 1712 to 1750. According to Kathryn Grover, more than half of the Nantucket whaling crews between 1725 and 1734 were comprised of Native Americans from Long Island, Cape Cod, and Martha’s Vineyard. Whaling companies sent ships forty or fifty miles off shore at first, then around 1750, when try-works were performed on deck, larger ships and bigger crews were sent out to deeper and deeper ocean waters. East Hampton whites also participated in these ventures, and a few organized companies and outfitted ships that sailed from Northwest Harbor and Sag Harbor. They continued to rely on indigenous labor, and sought legal action to insure their employment.[17]

Indigenous labor was vital to deep-sea whaling throughout the late eighteenth century and into the nineteenth century. Although maritime enterprises and trade suffered from taxation, trade embargoes, and several wars leading up to the Civil War, indigenous men remained employed in whaling and seafaring. By this time, Northwest Harbor could not accommodate the larger ocean-going vessels, so Montaukett and Shinnecock men (from neighboring Southampton) sailed out of the growing ports of Sag Harbor in the town of Southampton, New London in Connecticut, and Nantucket in Massachusetts.

Although exploitative labor practices continued, not all indigenous men in southern New England faced coercion, debt, and indentured servitude in seafaring. Indigenous autonomy and power are demonstrated in Nantucket account books from the second quarter of the eighteenth century, when they earned four times the salary of Boston seamen. Perhaps the history of indigenous employment in Nantucket whaling, along with the ability of indigenous laborers to negotiate higher salaries, are among the reasons that Montaukett men like Jeremiah Pharaoh, who lived at Indian Fields, chose to sail out of Nantucket instead of eastern Long Island ports. Through the nineteenth-century, whaling ships often included tri-racial and multi-national crews. White, indigenous, and African-American seamen encountered sailors from international ports as vessels travelled for sometimes years at a time. New Bedford replaced Nantucket as the leading whaling port in New England in the nineteenth century, while Sag Harbor rose to prominence, too. The northeast coast witnessed a whaling boom between roughly 1820 and 1860, of which Sag Harbor’s ventures are best-documented. In 1847, 63 whale boats totaling 23,330 tons shipped out of Sag Harbor with 1800 whalemen aboard while 32 vessels returned with 4,000 barrels of sperm oil, 64,000 barrels of whale oil, and 600,000 pounds of baleen. Crews included Portuguese, Hawaiian, Fijian, Malay, Ethiopian, Cape Verdean, West Indian, African American, and Montauk and Shinnecock men.[18]

The 1859 discovery of petroleum in Pennsylvania, along with the growing demand for kerosene and the onset of the Civil War, led to whaling’s demise. Men of all backgrounds left whaling for employment in factories. However, indigenous men from eastern Long Island continued to work in whaling through the early twentieth century. They sailed from ships out of Sag Harbor until 1871, a year that marked the final deep-sea departure from the port.[19]

Regardless of market forces, whaling was challenging work. In order to entice men to join whaling crews, companies offered shares of the profit. The more successful a voyage, the higher the share received by crewmembers. Men were often outfitted for whaling voyages based on credit from their return share. Wives and daughters were also permitted to purchase goods from local merchants using credit from whalers’ shares. The evidence from this is demonstrated in East Hampton account books.

From 1830-1920, indigenous whalemen went to work as free agents. Indigenous men voluntarily went to sea, a viable alternative to mainland and reservation opportunities. They climbed ranks (often achieving higher positions than their African American counterparts), earned larger shares of profits, and earned other privileges like better food and private quarters, the right to be called “sir,” and the ability as petty officers to order their subordinates (who were often white). Some men purchased and furnished houses with their lays, which served as an economic “windfall” upon their return. Some indigenous whalemen even sold their shares of voyages to middlemen in order to receive the cash up front, leaving middlemen to assume more of the risk. But there were still many other men, of all backgrounds, who received poor compensation and suffered exploitation through the lay system, which left some of the financial risk for whaling voyages on the crew as well as the owners. And as whaling resulted in the periodic absence of men, women were left behind to maintain the households and village life.[20]

All of these opportunities produce a range of possibilities for Montaukett men, whose experiences remain minimally understood. From 1828 through 1859, approximately 54 Native American, African American, or mixed-heritage men were listed on crews sailing out of Sag Harbor with one whaling company alone (the Dering company). One of those men, a Montaukett, definitely lived at Indian Fields, and three other Montaukett men probably did as well. In addition to these men, there were other Native residents of Indian Fields who sailed for different companies and out of alternative ports. Although whaling was a reliable means of employment for nineteenth-century Montaukett men, their periodic absence contributed to their “invisibility” in the East Hampton landscape.[21]

Considering the Household

My primary goal with this paper (and with my dissertation) was to understand the material dimensions of specific economic strategies and the construction and maintenance of Montaukett identity. This was accomplished through household-level analysis. In other words, household archaeological sites are typically comprised of pieces of mundane material items associated with daily activities. When archaeologists recover these items, they are interpreted in relation to the identity of the site’s occupants and the activities that likely brought together the specific assemblage of materials. Here archaeological materials and sequences of deposition together tell a story. At Indian Fields, the presence of quartz flakes, a stone pestle, and bone needles for basket making- items associated with traditional indigenous lifeways- are contrasted by the presence of gun flints, metal cutlery, refined earthenwares, and metal sewing tools within the same contexts. The significance of these items lies not in their origin of manufacture (i.e., indigenous vs. Euro-American goods), but in their patterning of daily activities and lived experiences. They provide intimate clues to individual choices, actions, and negotiations that are valuable for understanding the range of experiences of Montaukett people against the backdrop of settler colonialism.

At the time that Indian Fields was occupied, whaling was an important economic activity in which many Montaukett men sought employment. The significance of the whaling industry, and the role of indigenous laborers in that commercial industry, has been mentioned here and outlined in several historical works. But because these works focus on the industry, which removed men at sea for sometimes years at a time, domestic activities at home are often ignored. Archaeological contexts, like Jeremiah Pharaoh’s home at Indian Fields, provide an opportunity to explore the ways indigenous households were sustained while men were absent. These archaeological contexts document the impact of men’s whaling and other subsistence activities on household lives, but they also provide an opportunity to explore women’s activities and their connections to larger socio-political and economic themes.[22]

Jeremiah Pharaoh and His Home at Indian Fields

Jeremiah Pharaoh was employed on many deep-sea whaling ventures in the early part of the nineteenth century, yet he lived in Montauk at Indian Fields. Along with his wife and son (whose names were not included), he was listed as a “True Blooded native” resident of Montauk on an 1806 census entitled “A memorandum of the Familys and the number of each family of Natives living and residing on Montauk.” This document is the only nineteenth-century enumeration of the residents of Indian Fields prior to the 1870 Federal Census. Even though the Federal government began census counts in 1790, the enumerations did not include “Native Americans, not taxed” as a rule of apportionment before 1870. This policy, along with the absence of indigenous whaling and seafaring men from the landscape, make populations counts of indigenous people incomplete.[23]

Placing Jeremiah Pharaoh at Indian Fields in the nineteenth century requires multiple lines of evidence. In addition to the 1806 census document, a scrimshaw bone knife handle bearing the name Jeremiah Pharaoh was recovered from a household context at Indian Fields. These data were starting points for connecting the early nineteenth century household with the identity of its occupants: Jeremiah Pharaoh, his wife Aloosa Tallman, and their son.

Figure 1. Carved mammal bone handle (scrimshaw). “Jeremiah” is carved on one side (the left view) and “Pharaoh” is carved on the other side (right view). Photographed by the author. Courtesy of Historic Services, Suffolk County Parks.
Figure 1. Carved mammal bone handle (scrimshaw). “Jeremiah” is carved on one side (the left view) and “Pharaoh” is carved on the other side (right view). Photographed by the author. Courtesy of Historic Services, Suffolk County Parks.

As mentioned earlier, Pharaoh’s memoirs note that he sailed out of Nantucket. Although Nantucket whaling suffered during the American Revolution, around 1790 whaling picked up again and continued to flourish until the eve of the war of 1812. Pharaoh probably sought work there because Nantucket had a history of hiring indigenous crewmen, but the local indigenous population had declined rapidly in the eighteenth century. It was there in Nantucket in 1794 that Pharaoh married his wife Aloosa Tallman. Their son Jeremiah was born in 1802, but died only six years later. The 1806 census places their home at Indian Fields, and the archaeological remains provide tangible evidence that corroborates timing.[24]

There are many unanswered questions about Aloosa Tallman Pharaoh’s identity. She and Jeremiah may have met in Nantucket, but archival research produced no results for Aloosa Tallman in Massachusetts, Connecticut, or New York (other than the record of her marriage to Jeremiah). Her ancestral heritage, too, remains a mystery, so it is difficult to imagine her experiences at Indian Fields: was she an outsider or a member of the Montaukett tribal group?

Their home at Indian Fields was a small structure, roughly 14 x 14 feet in size, partly constructed of umortared fieldstones. Only two walls were recovered and a few displaced fieldstones mark a possible third wall. The south wall of the structure was constructed by incorporating a stone fence wall that extended from the corner of a larger fieldstone enclosure. Pharaoh’s house was built in a blend of indigenous and European styles. A dense living surface which included faunal and fish bone mixed with crushed shell and various artifacts was found on the interior floor. Animal skins or reed mats would have lined the floor or served as raised bedding within similar structures. The material deposits suggest that the house was inhabited from the late eighteenth into the early part of the nineteenth century, even while Pharaoh was at sea. But the dynamics of household composition raise important questions about labor, specifically concerning Aloosa Tallman Pharaoh’s maintenance of the household when her husband was away at sea for years at a time.[25]

The architecture at Indian Fields provides important clues to understanding Native identity during a time of economic and socio-political change. Interestingly, Jeremiah and Aloosa’s house exhibits features that are similar to a mid-eighteenth century architectural type that was described by Kevin McBride for the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Connecticut. He described an eighteenth-century house pattern that included aspects of both wigwams and Euro-American frame houses that could be identified “on the basis of the concentrations of domestic debris, such as bones, charcoal, and ceramics.” In addition to this pattern, his description mentions construction of houses “into south-facing hillsides with a fieldstone retaining wall constructed against the hillside,” which is similar to the Pharaoh structure. At the Eastern Pequot reservation in North Stonington, Connecticut, mid-eighteenth century house patterns contain a mix of domestic refuse including ceramics and glass, faunal material, construction materials, and small finds (such as tobacco pipe fragments, sewing items, etc.). One house pattern was noted as either a wigwam with a window pane and some nailed construction or a small wood frame house with the absence of a foundation, cellar, or chimney. Although the results presented in 2010 were from analysis that was still underway, it seems that the small dimensions and ephemeral construction details are similar to Jeremiah Pharaoh’s house at Indian Fields.[26]

Since the Pharaoh house seems to include aspects of both wigwam and English-style frame housing, it is representative of the vernacular architecture recorded at Native American sites throughout southern New England and extending into eastern Long Island. As Mary Lynn Rainey has noted for Nantucket, there was a range of possibilities for Native American house types in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries that variously incorporated aspects of wigwams, longhouses, and English-style frame houses. These sites may be identified in the landscape by a range of cultural and natural features, including soil compaction, builder’s trenches, and the use of natural topography (in addition to the more recognizable post-in-ground and/or dry-laid fieldstone construction). The variability of Native American architecture during the early historic period suggests that Indian settlement practices on eastern Long Island were dynamic and changeable, but certainly influenced by both indigenous and Anglo building traditions.[27]

Because there are so few documents pertaining to the Pharaoh household at Indian Fields, there is a reliance on the archaeological materials recovered from the site to date its occupation. Approximately 4,566 artifacts (including charcoal and coal), 5,801 pieces of bone, 232 pieces of shell, and 4 organic items were recovered from the Pharaoh’s house. The presence of several types of ceramics that were manufactured before the middle of the eighteenth century and hand wrought nails suggest that the site may have been inhabited before the end of the eighteenth century. The absence of whiteware ceramics at the site indicates that the site was abandoned by (if not well before) the middle of the nineteenth century.[28]

The faunal and shell material from the Pharaoh house indicates that the people who lived there- Jeremiah, Aloosa, and their son- ate a diet of mostly marine foods (freshwater and saltwater fish, oysters, and clams) and turtle, with some evidence for larger, land based animals and birds. The remains of pig, cow, sheep and/or deer were recovered in small quantities at the site, along with a few turkey, duck, and possibly gull bones. There were cattle and sheep (owned by white East Hamptoners) grazing at and around Indian Fields, and Jeremiah also owned a cow or sheep of his own. Yet his family subsisted largely on locally-gathered foods. The presence of gun flints, lead shot, and gun barrel fragments indicates that guns were probably used in hunting deer, turkey and duck. Shellfish was gathered from local tidal pools, and fishing took place in fresh and salt water. All of these foods were a part of the Long Island diet- whether Native, African, or European American. But the high percentages of turtle (roughly 29% of the bone) and fish (roughly 43% of the bone) are notable, and indicate economic autonomy (i.e., self-sufficiency through local food collection), as opposed to a dependence on the local market, for feeding the household.[29]

In addition to discarded bone fragments from meals, there was an interesting assortment of bone artifacts. Mammal and bird bones were worked into a number of different items at the site. One bird bone was carved into a tube that may have been used for duck calling. Two additional bird bones have notches carved out, suggesting they may have been attempts at making similar items. Forty-five pieces of bone needles were also recovered. These would have been used in making baskets and weaving mats. In addition, several dining utensils and/or tools had carved bone handles. Although it is unclear if the tools/utensils were purchased at local/regional markets or fashioned on site, it is likely that at least two- the knife handle with Jeremiah Pharaoh’s name carved into it and a bone-handled metal knife with the metal ground down to a pointed awl- were altered by the site’s occupants.[30]

Metal buttons and buckles, metal straight pins, metal dining utensils, ceramics, glass bottles, chimney glass, and a painted glass tumbler are among the many market items that were recovered from the archaeological record. In fact, there is an interesting variety of refined earthenware ceramics from the eighteenth century that includes an Astbury-type teapot, a Jackfield-type teapot or jug, a green glazed Whieldon-type creamware vase or pitcher, at least three different patterns of polychrome painted pearlwares, and some edge-decorated creamwares and pearlwares. These refined earthenware vessels would have been used in serving meals and tea. The minimum number of vessels recovered at the site is 22, and includes three plates, two teapots (one Jackfield and one Astbury), a Staffordshire slipware platter and pitcher, two redware platters (one might be a milk pan), seven pearlware vessels (teacups, bowls, or small mugs), a vase/pitcher, an English stoneware mug, a Rhenish blue and grey jug, a creamware chamber pot, two hollow storage vessels (one redware and one stoneware), and an unusually chunky undecorated redware shallow dish. Utilitarian redwares (including platters and milk pans) would have been used in food preparation and storage.[31]

Bone and metal buttons, beads, needles and straight pins were recovered from inside and outside the structure, but a greater frequency of these items came from inside the dwelling. Such items often enter the archaeological record through loss, as they fall from clothing. But these items may represent sewing activities taking place within the home. The bone buttons and single-hole button blanks (or button backs) may have been manufactured on site. These items, along with the 44 pieces of bone needles, a metal crochet hook, and a metal and bone awl demonstrate sewing and household-level craft production that might be attributed to Aloosa. She may have brought additional money into the house in her husband’s absence, by selling items she made or providing sewing, mending, and laundry services.[32]

The recovery of flaked and ground stone tools at the site is also notable. All of the quartz and non-quartz flakes are categorized as tools, along with the more recognizable bifaces and projectile point fragments. Many of the flakes were large, rather chunky, contained cortex, and had some wear on the edges (either unifacially or bifacially), showing signs of expedient tools. It could not be determined if these flakes were recycled from pre-contact sites, or were made in the eighteenth century. However, it’s important to note that these artifacts were recovered from archaeological contexts that also contained metal tools and ammunition. In addition to these expedient flakes and several convincing bifaces, at least one green wine bottle glass base has scarring from retouching and/or scraping. These items, and their presence at a late-eighteenth through early-nineteenth century sites, challenge existing typologies in both pre-contact and post-contact archaeology because they cross temporal barriers.

The presence of stone artifacts at indigenous sites in the historic period are generally interpreted as representing “traditional” indigenous lifeways, while historic-period sites that contain metal tools and an absence of stone artifacts have been interpreted as demonstrating indigenous cultural loss. The problem with these assumptions is that they are based on fixed notions of what it means to be Indian. At a site like Indian Fields where stone tools were recovered with worked glass and market items, the interpretation must be more complex, especially when the indigenous experiences are understood within the context of colonialist policies of Indian removal and land acquisition.[33]

Another challenging artifact type that was recovered from within the structure is a collection of ceramics that do not seem to fit in a ceramics typology for either pre-contact or post-contact archaeology. These items are red-bodied coarse earthenwares, but they are definitely not traditional redwares. They are thin-walled, hand built vessel sherds with a small temper grain size, and they appear to be burnished on the exterior surface. Some of the sherds have scratches on the exterior, but the sherds are too small to be able to identify patterning. They seem to resemble the fragments of Shantok-ware that were recovered from the Sylvester Manor plantation site on Shelter Island. While it is tempting to interpret these ceramics as a form of colonoware, it is also problematic. Colonoware is a local, hand-made ceramic ware that is often found in multicultural contexts that include Native Americans, African Americans, and/or European Americans, providing a starting point for discussing contexts of meaning, use, and appropriation. However, its mere presence at this site is inconclusive.

In addition to the archaeological data, inferences can be made about household sustainability and cultural identity through the analysis of East Hampton account books in which economic transactions with laborers were recorded by white East Hamptoners. For instance, some residents of Indian Fields worked for John Lyon Gardiner, presumably on Gardiner’s Island. Their work and other economic transactions were recorded in a series of Gardiner account books. George Pharaoh obtained potatoes, corn, pork, salt, and sundries from Gardiner and paid for them with locally-caught bluefish and bushels of oysters. Stephen Pharaoh, his wife, his daughter, and possibly his sons pulled flax, caned chairs, and exchanged bushels of oysters for pork, corn, wheat, and an old skiff. Between 1760 and 1845, the economic exchanges of at least eleven residents of Indian Fields were recorded among many transactions in the account books of John Lyon Gardiner, Abraham Talmadge, Gardiner and Parsons, Nathaniel Hand, and Isaac Van Scoy. These transactions indicate that men and women apparently worked equally hard to maintain their households, obtain consumer goods, and bring food to the table. In Jeremiah’s absence it might have been Aloosa who was fishing, gathering oysters, caning chairs and making baskets in exchange for such staples as corn, wheat, potatoes, pork and molasses. Yet, Jeremiah and Aloosa are not listed in any East Hampton account books from 1760-1845. Certainly Jeremiah and Aloosa must have been active in the same local networks as the other residents of Indian Fields, but they may also have participated in networks that extended beyond the Town of East Hampton. Jeremiah’s labor at sea would have led him to other points of exchange along the Atlantic seaboard. Likewise, visitors to Montauk (from New England and beyond), including white and indigenous missionaries, may have brought items for exchange along with them. These external, undocumented trade networks might explain the presence of the polychrome enameled blown-glass mug that was recovered at the site. This item was manufactured in Europe c. 1775-1825 and, to the author’s knowledge, is not encountered with any level on eighteenth-nineteenth century archaeological sites on Long Island (with one exception). Inquiries were made to some historical societies on eastern Long Island, and their collections do not contain comparable items.[35]

Figure 2. Enamel painted glass mug. Photo taken by the author. Courtesy of Historic Services, Suffolk County Parks.
Figure 2. Enamel painted glass mug. Photo taken by the author. Courtesy of Historic Services, Suffolk County Parks.

It is unclear at this point if local merchants sold this type of glass. The account and ledger books provided no information that could be matched with this type of item, and as the curator of the Suffolk County Historical Society informed me, if they had it would have been listed as “glass, fancy” or “glass, extra fancy” with little other detail. To add further context to the regional presence of this item, a similar item was recovered from the Bianco/Carroll site in East Hampton. The presence of this enamel painted European glass at two contemporary indigenous sites forces us to consider the broader regional and global networks in which indigenous people participated through whaling and seafaring.[36]

The Pharaoh household was probably occupied for less than a thirty-year period. Only one child was documented during that time, and he died at six years old. No information is available to indicate that the house was passed to other children or relatives, nor is it known if/when Jeremiah and Aloosa left Indian Fields. But during its occupation, the household was comprised of a small family whose lifeways probably challenged outsiders’ expectations of Indian-ness. Like the other late eighteenth and early nineteenth century residents of Indian Fields, they were using manufactured goods that were obtained through exchange systems at local and regional markets. Yet their choice to remain at Indian Fields while many other Montauketts were moving on suggests that their heritage played an important role in the construction of their identity. They relied on local, traditional foods obtained through fishing, hunting, and shellfishing even though they were facing limitations on access to those resources; yet they kept one cow or sheep, suggesting they participated in animal husbandry on a small scale. Like their neighbors at Indian Fields, they might have obtained corn, wheat, and other agricultural products through exchange. They used metal and stone (quartz, granite, gneiss, etc.) tools for hunting, cutting, sharpening knives, and pounding corn or grain. They drank tea and ate from refined earthenwares, but also used locally-made ceramic wares. The interior of their home would have been a blend of indigenous and European material traditions that marked their presence in a changing world.


The Indian Fields site provides the material traces for Montaukett lifeways, but its interpretation demands our attention to several factors: social and economic conditions, power structures, multicultural interaction, and most importantly, how Montaukett people made sense of the world.

As we glimpse the material world of Jeremiah and Aloosa Pharaoh (provided through archaeological investigation of their home site at Indian Fields), a few key points are evident: despite the seemingly remote location of Indian Fields, Montaukett men and women were deeply entangled in local and global markets as producers and consumers; and the maintenance of households at Indian Fields involved male and female participation in local food procurement, market transactions, laboring for whites, and craft production. While Jeremiah was at sea, household sustainability was Aloosa’s responsibility.

At the time Jeremiah and Aloosa established their household at Indian Fields, many Native American men from throughout the Northeast sought work on whalers that were beginning to navigate the deep sea. This was before Sag Harbor was established as a whaling port, so Jeremiah Pharaoh travelled to Nantucket to find work. However, he was still aware of the changes that were occurring at his homeland in Montauk. He recorded births, deaths, and the changes he witnessed at home in a diary. His excerpts included the following entry:

I, Jeremiah Pharaoh the bold mariner I sailed the world all over nine long years. When I returned home I found my relations stranded which grieved my heart ful [sic] so.

Pharaoh was clearly familiar with the economic hardships and racialized policies that negatively impacted Montaukett lifeways. He also knew about the influence of Christian beliefs and Occom’s presence on village life in Montauk, as suggested by the entries he wrote in a book that was once owned by Occom. Pharaoh’s household, therefore, provides a material context for understanding these particular conditions for social and economic change at Indian Fields.

We have more to learn about the impact of whaling- economic, social, and cultural- on Native American lives. And for the Montauketts at Indian Fields, whaling was simply one facet of their lived experiences. In Jeremiah Pharaoh’s time, the Montauketts at Indians Fields were faced with encroachment by whites, restrictions on hunting, shellfishing, and fishing rights, town laws that limited residency rights through marital restrictions, and the effects of missionary efforts. Reconciling these historical conditions with the archaeology at Indian Fields can provide depth of context for Montaukett lifeways. This is simply one archaeological example that can contribute to the range of experiences in the lives of Native whalers on Long Island.


[1]Allison Manfra McGovern, “Disrupting the Narrative: Labor and Survivance for the Montauketts of Eastern Long Island” (Doctoral dissertation, The Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York, 2015); Edward Johannemann, “Indian Fields Site: Part 1, Montauk, Suffolk County, Long Island, New York” in The History and Archaeology of the Montauk, Second Edition, ed. by Gaynell Stone, (Readings in Long Island Archaeology and Ethnohistory, Volume III, Suffolk County Archaeological Association. Mattituck, NY: Amereon Ltd, 1993), 645-655.

[2]McGovern; John A. Strong, The Montaukett Indians of Eastern Long Island (Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, NY 2001).

[3]McGovern; Strong.

[4]Strong; McGovern.

[5]Strong; McGovern.

[6]Strong; McGovern.

[7]Strong; McGovern.

[8]Azariah Horton, The Diary of Azariah Horton (1741), in The Christian Monthly History No. 1, Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. Reprinted in Stone, 1993, 195-222; Strong.

[9]McGovern; Johannemann.

[10]Sag Harbor Express, “Bits from Book of Jeremiah Pharaoh,” July 31, 1924; McGovern.

[11]T.H. Breen, Imagining the Past: East Hampton Histories (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1989), 143-205; Helen M. Wettereau, 1983. Good Ground Remembered (Southold, NY: Academy Printing Service, Inc., 1983); Jeanette Edwards Rattray, Montauk: Three Centuries of Romance, Sport, and Adventure (NY: Jeanette Edwards Rattray, 1938).

[12]Breen, 155-168.

[13]Breen, 170; Lynn Ceci, “Reconstructing Indian Culture on Long Island: Fisher’s Study of the Montauk”, in The History and Archaeology of the Montauk, (Readings in Long Island Archaeology and Ethnohistory, Volume III, Suffolk County Archaeological Association. Mattituck, NY: Amereon Ltd, 1993), 2.

[14]Breen; Strong; contract from East Hampton Records of the Town of East-Hampton, Long Island, Suffolk Co, N.Y., With Other Ancient Documents of Historic Value, Volumes I and II (Sag Harbor, NY: John H. Hunt, Printer, 1887) 94.

[15]John Strong identified nineteen contracts in East Hampton Town Records from 1675-1684 in Montaukett Indians of Eastern Long Island, 53; John A Strong, Indian Labor During the Post-Contact Period on Long Island, 1626-1700, in To Know the Place: Exploring Long Island History, ed. Joann P. Krieg and Natalie A. Naylor (Interlaken, New York: Heart of the Lake Press, 1995), 17; Paul Bailey, Long Island Whalemen (Published by the Author, 1956).

[16]Woodward, 59, 50; Wettereau, 4.

[17]Eric J. Dolin, Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America (New York: W. W. Norton, 2007) 91; Kathryn Grover, The Fugitive’s Gibraltar: Escaping Slaves and Abolitionism in New Bedford, Massachusetts (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001) 39; David J. Silverman, The Impact of Indentured Servitude on the Society and Culture of Southern New England Indians, 1680-1810, The New England Quarterly 74(4), 2001:624; William Bradford, Laws of the Colony from 1691-1732 (Folio. New York: Printed by William Bradford, 1732).

[18]For coercion, see Strong, Montaukett, 54; Russell L. Barsh, “Colored” Seamen in the New England Whaling Industry: An Afro-Indian Consortium, in Confounding the Color Line: The Indian-Black Experience in North America, ed. James F. Brooks (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002), 76-107; Dolin; Nancy Shoemaker, Mr. Tashtego: Native American Whalemen in Antebellum New England, Journal of the Early Republic 33 (Spring), 2013, 109-132.2013; Silverman; John A. Strong, Wyandanch, Sachem of the Montaukett, in Northeast Indian Lives, ed. by Robert Grumet, (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts, 1996) 48-73; Strong, Montaukett; Daniel Vickers, The First Whalemen of Nantucket, in After King Philip’s War: Presence and Persistence in Indian New England, edited by Colin G. Calloway (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1997) 90-113. For autonomy, see Dolin, 93. For Sag Harbor whaling, see Grover; Dolin, 217; Wettereau, 42.

[19]After 1871, Montaukett men from Montauk sailed out of New Bedford (see McGovern).

[20]Shoemaker, 114; Emily Button, A Family Affair: Whaling as Native American Household Strategy on Eastern Long Island, New York. Northeast Historical Archaeology 43(1) 2014, 110-129; Shoemaker, 111; Grover, 27.


[22]Barsh; Dolin; Shoemaker; Silverman; Strong 1996, 2001; Vickers.

[23]Johannemann; 1806 Census in Stone, 409 and McGovern.

[24]Dolin, 91, 182-186; Sag Harbor Express; McGovern.

[25]McGovern; Common Pasture List, 1813, East Hampton Library Long Island Collection.

[26]Kevin McBride, “The Historical Archaeology of the Mashantucket Pequots, 1637-1900: A Preliminary Analysis”, in The Pequots in Southern New England: The Fall and Rise of an American Indian Nation, ed. by Laurence M. Hauptman and James D. Wherry (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990) 96-116; Stephen Silliman, “Change and Continuity, Practice and Memory: Native American Persistence in Colonial New England”, American Antiquity 74(2), 2001, 211-230; Stephen Silliman and Thomas A. Witt, “Complexities of Consumption: Eastern Pequot Cultural Economics in Eighteenth-Century New England”, Historical Archaeology 44(4), 2010, 46-68.

[27]“Mary Lynn Rainey, Native American Architecture on Nantucket Island” in Nantucket and Other Native Places: The Legacy of Elizabeth Alden Little, ed. by Elizabeth S. Chilton and Mary Lynn Rainey, (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010), 25-62; Russell G. Handsman, “Landscape Ecology, Social Exchange, and an Archaeology of Mashantucket Pequot Lives, AD 1715-1760”, Journal of Middle Atlantic Archaeology 29 2013, 159-170; William C. Sturtevant, ‘Two 1761 Wigwams at Niantic, Connecticut” American Antiquity 40(4), 1975, 437-44.

[28]These numbers are estimated because some of the items are missing from the collection and do not have counts, while other items have been broken during curation; McGovern, appendix.

[29]McGovern, appendix.



[32]McGovern. After 1850, the Federal Census lists many women washing clothes for a living (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1850-1900).

[33]Charles R. Cobb, Stone Tool Traditions in the Contact Era (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2003).

[34]Katherine Lee Priddy, “The Manhassets of Manhansack-Ahaquatuwamock: An Analysis”, Bulleting of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut 66, 2004, 85-100; Katherine Howlett Hayes, Slavery Before Race: Europeans, African, and Indians at Long Island’s Sylvester Manor Plantation, 1651-1884 (New York: NYU Press, 2013). Theresa A. Singelton and Mark Bograd, “Breaking Typological Barriers: Looking for the Colono in Colonware” in Lines That Divide: Historical Archaeologies of Race, Class, and Gender, ed. by James A. Delle, Stephen A. Mrozowski, and Robert Paynter, (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2000), 3-21.

[35]John Lyon Gardiner, Book of Colours and Mulattos, 1799-1801, East Hampton Library Long Island Collection, East Hampton, New York; John Lyon Gardiner, Account Book 2, 1801-1806, East Hampton Library Long Island Collection, East Hampton, New York. Arlene Palmer, Glass in Early America: Selections from the Henry Francis DuPont Winterthur Museum (Winterthur, DE: Winterthur, 1993). Mary Mills, historic glass expert at AECOM, aided in the identification of this item. At the 2010 Conference of the Council for Northeastern Historical Archaeology, I saw an image of a similar item in the Plenary presentation. Then in 2013, I showed an image of this item at a Graduate Student Conference at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, and I was approached afterwards by a researcher who recognized it as Stiegel-type glass. I have since learned that this glass is European made (probably German).

[36]Amy Folk, personal communication. Cammisa et al.

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