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MYSTERY OF THE UTSAYANTHA LEGEND

Story ID:4227
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Local History
Location:Stamford NY USA
Year:1762
Person:Utsayantha
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MYSTERY OF THE UTSAYANTHA LEGEND

MYSTERY OF THE UTSAYANTHA LEGEND

MYSTERY OF THE UTSAYANTHA LEGEND

MYSTERY OF THE UTSAYANTHA LEGEND

MYSTERY OF THE UTSAYANTHA LEGEND

THE MYSTERY OF THE UTSAYANTHA LEGEND
By Fred Wickert


INTRODUCTION

Just outside of the village of Stamford, New York, once known as “the Queen of the Catskills,” there rises a large mountain, among the taller of the Catskill Mountains. On New York State Route 10 just Northeast of the village on Lake Street is a lake. Both the mountain and the lake bear the name Utsayantha.

When one hears the name, one wonders where that name came from and why it is called that. Inquiry will find that there are several versions of the reason why, but all versions have a common thread. That is that they were named after an Indian Princess, and that there was a tragedy concerning her.


IMPOSSIBLE VERSIONS

Among the stories circulated about the Princess Utsayantha is a version that claims she committed suicide by jumping off the mountain into the lake below. This is obviously false because she had to have had wings to do that. There is a smaller mountain between Mt. Utsayantha and the lake and the laws of gravity simply won’t permit such a feat.

Another story tells that she climbed a huge granite rock forty feet high on the edge of the lake, and dove in the water to her death. I know there is no such rock at the edge of the lake. One story has it that she drowned herself beside a huge rock in the middle of the lake, but no such rock exists.

Yet another story claims she had a lover who was killed in a noted battle of the revolution that took place about two miles from Utsayantha Lake, and that she took her life in her grief over her lost lover in that battle. That too, could not have been. It is well documented historically that battle took place between some settlers and militia from the Schoharie valley and some Indians from Canada and a few British soldiers led by Chief Joseph Brandt. It is also documented as to the disposition of all four of his daughters after the revolution was over. None committed suicide and none was named Utsayantha.


POSSIBLE VERSIONS


One of the versions that could have been accurate was that one early summer morning, the warriors of the village rode off on horseback towards the headwaters of the west branch of the Delaware to confront an enemy war party. They were said to have returned in the light of the full moon, carrying their war trophies together with their wounds. Utsayantha is said to have watched for her lover, among the youngest of the warriors, but he did not return, having been killed on the battlefield. She is said to have got into a canoe her father had made for her, paddled into the lake and drowned herself.

Another version that is possible is that she had a white lover. That she had a child from the white lover. The story says her father killed the baby with a tomahawk and in her grief, she went to the deepest part of the lake and drowned herself.


SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH


I knew there had to be a story somewhere. A mountain and a lake could not have been named Utsayantha without good reason. I determined to find out the truth of the legend and which version was true, if any, and if not, to learn what the real truth is.

I spent three years reading everything I could find on the subject. I also made inquiries of Indians themselves, among those knowledgeable of the old Indian legends of the area. I inquired from both Mohawks and Senecas as they were both known to have come into the area. It is known that the famed Chief of the Revolution, Joseph Brandt considered the area his favorite hunting area. There was nothing to be learned about Utsayantha from them. I also knew the Mahicans were in this area, but there are none left that I know of to get information from.

Eventually, after three years of searching, I believe I now have the real true story of Utsayantha, where she came from, who she was and why the mountain and the lake were named for her.



PART ONE, TEUNIS


Where the Plattekill roars and races toward the Pepacton, (The Indian name for the East branch of the Delaware River) was a large Indian village. The Mahicans abandoned the village before the Revolutionary War, where they joined the remainder of the tribe in Connecticut on the East side of the Hudson River. The village was located where the village of Margaretville, N.Y. now stands. It is near the headwaters of the East branch of the Delaware. On the west side of the Hudson River, the Mahicans occupied the area from present day Kingston, NY to the present day area of Glens Falls, NY., stretching from the Catskills to the Adirondacks.

Following the American Revolution, the thirteen colonies were for the most part, in wilderness. The area now known as the county of Delaware was especially so.

The abandoned village known as Pa’Ka-Ta’ Kan, was discovered by white settlers from the Shandaken area in 1762, and had been abandoned shortly before that. Relics and artifacts continue to be found on the site even today.

Near the village, one lone Mahican remained. He was an ancient warrior whose name was Teunis. Teunis lived many years near the deserted village, in peace among the white settlers. He always welcomed the whites to his wigwam, and as they sat around the fire he shared with them what food he had available.

Often, when his guests were sitting in his wigwam for the evening, Teunis told them the stories of the Catskills and his people. One of these stories was the story of Princess Utsayantha, complete with background, and perhaps with embellishment. His story, the earliest recorded story, I relate to you now, in the belief that it is the true story of Utsayantha and her tragedy.

Teunis, a fine friend to the whites, was forced to flee from his home near Pa’ Ka-Ta’ Tan to a lake in the mountains, that now bears his name. He fled after warning the whites of a Mahican plan to massacre them. He found safety at the small lake and was never molested by his tribesmen for his act of kindness to the white men.


Photo 1. - NYS historical marker at the battle site near Lake Utsayantha.

Photos 2. & 3. - Site of the village of Ubiwacha overlooking Lake Utsayantha.

Photo 4. Portrait of Chief Joseph Brandt

Photo 5. - Lake Utsayantha with the top of Mt. Utsayanth in the background.