A Moment in History: Remembering Rebecca Kellogg Ashley

On occasion I find a story that can’t be found in the classroom history books. I might not have known about Rebecca Kellogg Ashley–except that I love history.

I have lived in this town for fifteen years. My children started school in this district in 1998. I have never joined the local historical society, but I’ve learned much of the history of the area. I live just miles from where this history took place.

When we first moved here I met local Historian, Marjory Hinman who wrote a book called–Onaquaga: Hub of the Border Wars. That book graces my Iroquois Indian history shelf along with others.

During the 1700’s, the Oneida Indians lived as far north as the Albany area, spreading south, all the way to Windsor, New York. It’s beautiful country and from Cooperstown, the Susquehanna River flows down state into Pennsylvania and back up into New York. There was plenty of room for the tribes to enjoy the rich land, lakes and rivers.

Two tribes lived here: the Oneida and Tuscarora. It is the closest place where the Susquehanna comes to the Delaware River and has a low place in a bend in the river to carry across. Thus making it a great place for trading.

Deerfield, Mass. February 1704—

Rebecca Kellogg was captured at age eight, along with her brother, sister, and father. They were taken to the Christian Mohawk settlement near Montreal. She was adopted by the Haudenosaunee Mohawks, and there she married and had children.

Rebecca’s father and brother escaped, but Rebecca never returned to New England until she was thirty-three years old. She and her children visited her family, but never returned to live there. Apparently sometime during these years, her husband died. Rebecca began working tirelessly as an interpreter among native people in the Mission School at Stockbridge, Massachusetts where famous Rev. Jonathan Edwards was in charge of this Mission School.

In 1745 she married again, to a man named Benjamin Ashley. Rebecca was twenty years older than he, but it is possible they married, as it was the proper thing to do in those days.  Both of them accompanied Rev. Gideon Hawley to start a new mission at Onaquaga.

The Indians at Onaquaga adopted the white man’s ways of building and living in log cabins with stone chimneys, glass windows, and the people planted crops.

Public Domain
Chief Joseph Brant

Chief Joseph Brant had a farm with cattle at Onaquaga and married the daughter of an Onaquaga chief. If you remember in your history, Chief Joseph was highly educated, and a mastermind at military tactics. He chose to fight with the British against the Americans and Onaquaga was used as a base of his operations.

Susquehanna River at Onaquaga

During the years, 1748 to 1777 missionaries ministered to the people in the village. The Rev. Gideon Hawley left diaries containing valuable information after he left the settlement. He wrote a map of the village.

Little was written about Rebecca Kellogg Ashley’s work at the mission in Onaquaga. She knew the needs of the people because she had lived with them, she knew their language well, and had a heart for the Oniedas. Rebecca gave her energies into the service of others.

Rebecca Kellogg Ashley lived with the natives at Onaquaga many years and understood their needs completely. They fondly called her Wausaunia, which means the bridge.

Onaquaga Bridge
The bridge at Onaquaga.
Sign at the bridge.

There is no other white woman reported in that time of history, who lived among the Indians of Onaquaga. Rebecca spent the rest of her life there, and when she died in 1757 the people “lamented her loss.”

 

There is a stone marker on Dutchtown Road in memory. She is buried at the base of Onaquaga Mountain.

Rebecca Kellogg Ashley monument

Sadly, Gen. James Clinton came through in 1778 and destroyed the village of Onaquaga on the way to meet Gen. Sullivan at Tioga Point.

Motherhood for the First Time

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”—Winnie the Pooh.

“Making the decision to have a child—it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”—Elizabeth Stone

The first time it happens it is set apart from all other births. It doesn’t mean that you will love this child more than any other. It is your initiation into birthing.

It is going into the complete unknown with all its wonders, its magic…and fears, but not quite like an astronaut going into space.

Is the baby a boy or girl?

Will it look like mama or daddy?

Will it be short or tall, blue eyes or brown?

Will he be smart like dad, or sensitive like mom?

Then the inevitable scary thoughts you don’t want to think—will I have a healthy baby? Thoughts creep in during those long nine months, and linger at the back of your mind and take some of your joy. Try as you may to push them from your mind…you still wonder. Could I handle it if my child was unhealthy?

There is nothing to do but “trust God.” Yet it sounds so trite, as if saying would make you believe it and be completely safe.

To the Father, He makes babies whole, even if they do not appear whole.

You read the books, (or currently the apps). The doctor educates you each month on what to expect, but you are never ready for labor until you experience it.

It’s been a long time since I was in labor with my first child, but I still remember how I felt when I first saw her. You hold your baby for the first time and you’re shocked at the intensity of love. You carried that baby for nine months and slowly learned to love, though you never saw him, never held him in your arms. Have you not felt it yourself? How did that love grow?

I am on the other side of it now. I am a grandmother once again, for the 18th time, (yes 18). This time, our youngest had her first baby and I saw once again, the total, complete change of a wife opening the door to motherhood.

I saw it so completely on her face.

The wonder is not so much the birthing, but the carrying, the waiting, then the first sight. Those unknowns are pushed aside, forgotten, when you see your child.

 

That first look, the first touch of that baby soft skin…the pudgy red face all wrinkled up, and the arms and legs flying everywhere trying to understand what happened to that warm place he came from.

 

When his Mama holds him to herself, he stops flailing and snuggles in. He knows the smell of her, though he was in the womb. He knows her voice, and looks towards it.

Birth is miracle like no other.

“There really are places in your heart you don’t even know exist until you love a child”—Anne Lamott (quotes from an unknown source).

You wonder where this strong love came from when you just met him. You wonder how you could love someone you just met so fiercely.

Nothing would ever be the same again, motherhood bloomed.

Welcome to motherhood!

Welcome to the world little one.