Daniel Nimham (1726–1778) was the last chief or sachem of the Wappinger and was the most prominent Native American of his time in the Hudson Valley. Prior to Henry Hudson’s arrival in 1609, the Wappinger People lived on the eastern shore of the Muhheakantuck “the river that flows both ways” from the City of Manhattan, New York north to the Town of Rhinebeck, New York, east as far as the Norwalk River Fairfield County, Connecticut. The Wappinger were allied with the Mohican People in the north, and by the mid 18th century many had been relocated north to the mission at Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Although some of the Wappinger lands were sold justly, many landgrabbers took advantage of the native people and exaggerated the amount of land agreed upon.
Daniel Nimham may have learned to speak English through the family of Catherina Brett who lived in what is now the City of Beacon, New York. She was friends with the Nimhams and allowed the Wappinger to stay on her land after they had been sold. Most historians suggest Daniel Nimham was born in the Fishkill Creek Region near the hamlet of Wiccopee, New York. Because of Nimham’s multicultural skills, he went to court on several occasions to defend his people’s land rights. Daniel Nimham took over as sachem of the Wappinger People around 1760 following two Nimham sachems before him. Land grabbers had taken tribal ancestral lands in eastern New York during the French-Indian War and relocated many of the native people (the woman and children) to Stockbridge, Mass. while the men were fighting the war.
In 1766, Nimham and three Mohican chiefs: Jacob Cheeksaunkun, John Naunauphtaunk and Solomon Uhhaunauwaunmut from the Stockbridge area and three of their wives traveled to England to speak with King George III of Great Britain. The London Chronicle describes the Nimham group of four chiefs as tall and strong, one being “six and a half feet without shoes…dressed in the Indian manner”. Although he and his group were treated very well, he never had a meeting with the King directly, however he did speak with someone who was in the parliament who agreed to contact the governor in Albany, New York. When he returned he went to court but lost the case.
His son Abraham Nimham (born in 1745) was appointed captain of a company of Indian scouts serving with the Continental Army, a confederacy of Mohicans, Wappingers, Munsee and other local tribes.Stockbridge Militia by General George Washington.
Daniel and Abraham Nimham and his fellow Stockbridge Warriors fought for the American cause during the Revolution and were some of America’s first Veterans. They served with Washington at Valley Forge and later with General Marquis de Lafayette’s troops. It is noted that Daniel “faithfully served in the army as a soldier at Cambridge…In 1775 “.
On August 31, 1778, the Nimhams and fifty of their fellow Wappinger were surrounded then killed by Loyalist, British Dragoons and Hessian Soldiers under the command of Lt. Colonel Simcoe in the Battle of Kingsbridge Cortlandt Ridge in what is now Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. A stone monument to the Stockbridge Warriors who sacrificed their lives for the American cause marks a trail to the battlefield.
Mohican Sachem Hendrick Aupaumut and others of the tribe petitioned the General Court for compensation for the losses at the Bronx Massacre, dated September 22, 1778. “Our young men have been employed in the present War against the common Enemy and many have lately fell in Battle. Their Widows are now left to care of themselves and their children; without help from their husbands, who at this season of the year provided for their families by hunting. We Indians depend on hunting to clothe ourselves and families. But when we get skins we know not where to go to trade for clothing. We are not able to make any ourselves. Our way of living is very different from our english breathren. And by this, we the subscribers, in behalf of our Tribe now earnestly pray you to consider our circumstances, and open your hearts, by providing such way by which we may be able to procure some coarse cloathing particularly Blankets.”
By the early 1800s many of the local native people from Stockbridge had joined the Oneida Nation in New York, eventually journeying west to Ontario and Wisconsin.