NEW CUMBERLAND, Pa. –
As part of National Native American Indian Heritage Month, Defense Distribution Center, Susquehanna installation recognizes its Native American Indian roots.
In 1917, long before it became a hub for the distribution of supplies for troops around the world, the installation was simply 832 acres of farmland, which was purchased by the government to create a quartermaster base.
The land was purchased from the estate of Jacob Miller Haldeman, a successful business owner and land developer. Haldeman had purchased the land in 1814 from General Michael Simpson, a locally-born U.S. Army and Revolutionary War veteran.
Simpson had purchased the land, then known as the Fairview Farm, along with the Ferry rights across the Susquehanna River in 1784 from John Harris, the father of the founder of Harrisburg.
Prior to this acquisition, Harris owned the land along the Susquehanna River from New Cumberland to the Fairview Farm.
A Native American trader, Harris had a positive reputation for conducting fair dealings with local tribes.
At that time, the Yellow Breeches Creek in the Susquehanna Valley had become a famous pathway for the Conoy Indian tribe, as they had been driven north by disease, war and colonization of their land.
Previously occupying the area between modern-day Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland, the Convoy Indians were forced north in the late 1600’s by colonists looking to create tobacco plantations, as well as by epidemic diseases brought over from England.
After moving into the region they joined forces with the much larger and more powerful Iroquois tribe, which had defeated and driven out the Susquehannocks in the mid-1600s.
Unfortunately, the violence on the Pennsylvania frontier during the Revolutionary Era caused the Conoys to continue their migrations.
The tribe, however, is a great example of how Indian refugee groups have contributed to the diversity of cultures that defined colonial Pennsylvania.