Historical Markers
Queen Aliquippa Historical Marker
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Queen Aliquippa

Pittsburgh Region


Marker Location:
Highland Grove Park, between Highland and Bowman Avenues, McKeesport

Dedication Date:
October 26, 2003

Behind the Marker

In fall 1753, a twenty-one-year-old Virginia militia officer named George Washington journeyed into the Ohio Country to inform French soldiers there that they were encroaching on British territory. The young Washington kept a journal of his three-month trip, recording his impressions of the British fur traders, French military officers, and Indians he met along the way. In one such passage, he mentioned visiting "Queen Alliquippa . . . I made her a Present of a Matchcoat and a Bottle of Rum, which latter was thought much the best Present of the two." Who exactly was Queen Aliquippa, and why did the young militia officer feel it necessary to pay his respects to her, even as he insinuated that she was more interested in drinking than diplomacy?
Like many Iroquois women of the time, she wears a cloak and skirt made from European trade cloth and native-style jewelry in her hair and ears.  She also carries two cradleboards, which  Indian women used to carry and attend to small children.
Sauvagesse Iroquoise (Iroquois Woman).

Unfortunately, we know very little about this woman. Besides Washington's mention of her, there are two other tantalizing references to her in contemporary sources. markerConrad Weiser met her during a journey to markerLogstown in 1748. In his journal, he mentioned stopping at an Indian town "where an old Seneca woman reigns with great authority." During his stay at Logstown, Weiser was visited by the "old Sinicker [Seneca] Queen" again, this time because she wanted to know what had happened to a message she had sent to Philadelphia.

Weiser knew nothing of the message, but gave her a shirt, pipe, and tobacco as presents. She seemed displeased, "because I took not sufficient notice of her in coming down [to Logstown]." The French officer Pierre-Joseph Céloron de Blainville, when he led a military expedition into the Ohio Country in 1748-49, also recorded an encounter with Aliquippa, calling her "an old woman" who was "devoted to the English" and considered herself "sovereign" over the town in which she lived.

What we can gather from these references by Washington, Weiser, and Céloron is that Aliquippa was an old Seneca woman widely regarded as a person of influence and power by Indians and colonists alike. While colonists may have referred to her as a "queen" in the same manner that they referred to male Indian chiefs as "kings" and Indian villages as "castles," scholars today would call her a clan matron.

Like many other Indian nations in northeastern America, the Iroquois followed matrilineal kinship patterns. That is to say, they determined their relations according to their mother's side of the family. Several related lineages, or extended families, would make up a clan, and the elder women of the clan would exercise considerable political influence over the members of that clan, giving them approval to go to war or to make peace and determining the fate of captives brought back by war parties.

The accounts of Washington, Weiser, and Céloron indicate clearly that Aliquippa and her neighbors considered her a locally powerful woman. Colonial agents and officers felt compelled to retain her good graces, and she felt affronted if their gifts did not properly reflect her status. This power probably derived from her role in the founding of the Indian community known as Aliquippa's Town.

Aliquippa's Town was first identified in a 1731 report by Pennsylvania fur traders on the Indians living in the Allegheny Valley. At that time, Aliquippa's Town had only four families, and it was the only Seneca village among the surrounding Delaware and Shawnee communities. However, the report described the town as a "great resort of those [Seneca] people," suggesting that Seneca and other Iroquois stopped there when passing through the region to hunt, trade, or make war farther west and south.

Over the next twenty years, the pace of Iroquois migration into the Allegheny-Ohio Valley increased. While all of the Iroquois nations were represented among this growing population, the Seneca predominated. As the westernmost Iroquois nation, they were the closest to the Allegheny-Ohio Valley, and they had strong ties with the French who had established Fort Niagara and other trading posts in the Great Lakes region. As Seneca participation in the fur trade expanded, their movement in the Ohio Country made perfect sense because of its ready supply of fur-bearing animals.

Back in Onondaga, the seat of the Iroquois Confederacy near modern Syracuse, New York, Iroquois chiefs claimed authority over the Ohio Valley's land and people, but the Iroquois who moved to places like Aliquippa's Town lived independently, recognizing no authority in their affairs higher than their own village councils. This autonomy is what made Aliquippa such a locally powerful person in the Ohio Country. Outsiders like Washington, Weiser, and Céloron had to curry her favor because she held immediate influence over the Iroquois men with whom they were seeking trade and alliance.

By all reports, Aliquippa appears to have been pro-British. Even though the Seneca had longstanding connections to the French, by the 1730s and 1740s, Pennsylvania fur traders brought less expensive and more plentiful trade goods into the Ohio Country. When colonial agents like Weiser and Washington arrived in this region, Aliquippa expected to be part of the negotiations of alliance, thereby preserving her power and extending her network of influence.

Like many other Ohio Indians, Aliquippa paid dearly for her alliance with the British during the contentious years of 1753-54. After Washington's defeat by French forces at Fort Necessity in July 1754, she and other pro-British Indians moved to Aughwick, where Pennsylvania Indian trader and agent George Croghan kept a fortified post. She died there before the end of the year.

Aliquippa's son, a Seneca war captain known as "Newcastle" among Anglo-Americans, continued in her footsteps as a mediator between Indians and colonists, but his career was short-lived. After making two peace embassies among Indians in the northern Susquehanna Valley and Iroquois country in 1756, Newcastle fell ill and died in Philadelphia during treaty negotiations he was helping to conduct. By his request, he was laid to rest in the city's Quaker burial ground.
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