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Celebrate the Trails at the Minisink Battleground Park

John Conway
Posted 4/26/24

In his ‘History of Sullivan County,” published in 1873, James Eldridge Quinlan labeled Cushetunk resident Nathaniel Evans a “mischief making fellow and a nuisance” to his …

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Celebrate the Trails at the Minisink Battleground Park


In his ‘History of Sullivan County,” published in 1873, James Eldridge Quinlan labeled Cushetunk resident Nathaniel Evans a “mischief making fellow and a nuisance” to his fellow residents of the Cushetunk settlement.

Much—but not all—of Evans’ bad reputation came from an ongoing feud he engaged in with Daniel Skinner, one of the most prominent residents of the settlement, a feud that eventually ended up in court.

The feud with Skinner involved some abuses Evans claimed he witnessed Skinner perpetrate on some of the Native Americans in the region, for which Evans wanted Skinner jailed. Skinner had to produce numerous witnesses to his behavior, who filed depositions on his behalf with a local magistrate. The fact that Skinner was not arrested did nothing to alleviate the tension between the two men.

Another time, Evans claimed under oath that he had been enlisted by Joseph Ross and other Tory residents of Cushetunk to carry correspondence to Chief John of the Tuscarora nation, trying to entice him to attack and lay waste to the settlement in the years just prior to the Revolution. Ross and the others denied the allegations.

But there was more to Nathaniel Evans than his penchant for being in middle of disagreements and controversies. He was also very knowledgeable about herbal remedies for many maladies, and able to concoct tonics and elixirs from formulas and ingredients he had learned from the Native Americans. It was a knowledge he put to good use—usually for a fee—and led to him being known throughout the Delaware and Wyoming Valleys as Dr. Evans.

When the Revolutionary War broke out, Evans fought on the American side, unlike many of the residents of Cushetunk, which was mostly a Loyalist stronghold. Evans was originally part of the Connecticut militia, which was absorbed into George Washington’s Continental Army, and later served as a sergeant with New York’s 12th Regiment.

Evans survived the war, but he eventually wore out his welcome in the region, and moved his family to Ohio, where he made a living as a Seneca oil salesman—Seneca oil being a crude oil collected from naturally occurring springs that the Seneca tribe used for medicinal purposes. According to local histories of the region, upon moving to Ohio, Evans constructed a rudimentary shelter around one of the oil springs there and collected this crude for more than a year before taking it by canoe to Cincinnati where he bottled it and sold it as a cure-all.

While the remedies he learned from the Native Americans were often effective in treating any number of diseases and injuries—some of the Europeans who observed them in use described them as “splendid and miraculous”-- the Seneca oil apparently proved much less so, and Nathaniel Evans became more well known in Ohio as a smooth talking salesman than as a medical doctor.

The story of Nathaniel Evans and the stories of the plant-based remedies he learned from the local Lenape tribe indigenous to this region will be just a small part of the history to be discussed on Sunday, April 28 at the Minisink Battleground Park as this columnist, your Sullivan County Historian, leads another Highland History Hike beginning at 2 p.m.

The hike is being held in conjunction with national Celebrate Trails Day, which has been designated by the Rails to Trails Conservancy as the day prior.

Participants should gather at the Tusten Pavilion at the Battleground prior to the start of the hike, and a brief introductory lecture will start it off. Topics to be covered during the saunter along the trails include the language and legacy of the Lenape, the arrival of the Europeans to the area and the establishment of the Cushetunk settlement, the timber rafting industry and its impact of the region, and the Revolutionary War and the imprint it left on Cushetunk and the surrounding area.

In the event of severe weather, the hike will be canceled, and all decision regarding that will be announced on the Facebook page of The Delaware Company (https://www.facebook.com/TheDelCo).

The Minisink Batlleground is located at 58 County Road 168 in Barryville, just three-quarters of a mile off NYS Route 97, the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway. The Battleground Park is owned and maintained by Sullivan County, with historical programming provided by the Barryville-based non-profit history education group, The Delaware Company.

The Highland History Hike is open to the public. There is no fee to participate, and no pre-registration is necessary.

John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian and a founder and president of The Delaware Company. Email him at jconway52@hotmail.com.  


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