The First Indian Doctors, Part 2 – “Prince Quack Mannessah” of Gallatin, New York

Is the above an example of “Old” versus “New” in our local history?  It is up to the reader to define. . .  

If you knew the history of Mannessah, you might conclude that the above is a culturally-insensitive NY State Education Department sign on Christian Indian religious traditions, philosophy and medicine, practices labeled as “Quackery” by our first local physicians.  This is not neccessarily the case.  We are unfortunately reminded of the history of  pro-Euroamerican, pro-allopathy biased interpretations of the valley’s medical history by this State historical plaque posted in 1932.  This plaque’s description, although acceptable for the time, was produced in a manner that is completely out of context in terms of culture, time and place. 

This page explores the history of this important conflict that exists in our local cultural history.


The traditional way of reviewing the relationship between American Indian culture and European or Euro-American culture is to consider the latter as the dominant part of this relationship and the former as submissive culture forced to undergo assimilation.  For every ten or twenty pieces of knowledge or history the dominant society tries to pass on to the other, there is at least one piece of knowledge that the less dominant group offers back, something of tremendous value to the new social setting.  This is especially true for the practice of medicine, with the most important contributions derived from the indigenous end, like the introduction of sacred places, legends involving burial sites and medicinal springs, and those tales of the local herbal medicines that doctors later learn about and begin to make better use of.

Well before these medicines were made a part of the daily medical training in the Hudson Valley, numerous benefits had already been reaped from the local natural resources by European immigrants.  They incorporated certain parts of these traditions into their daily living routines.  During the first years of cohabitation in this region, the mineral springs were the first to be of primary interest, leading to the establishment of famous medicinal spring settings like Ballston Spa, as well as the barely known healing waters of local places like Hubbell Springs, Pine Plains, and the numerous rivulets emptying into the Hudson River at the western edge of Poughkeepsie.

Specific settings were also considered very healthy to reside in during the late 1700s and early 1800s.  Those residing well-inland from the Hudson River, in a region that is now the eastern edge of the State of New York, lived a considerable distance from the crowded towns being built along the popular shipping ports of the Hudson River.   The fortunes attached to this included the safety of these rural communities from of the contagion brought in by ships along the river.  This gave the people residing here a different viewpoint about the the natural history of disease, the viewpoint that living deep within the edge of the wilderness, adjacent to small hamlets, offered families both the opportunity to engage in the local economic growth while standing clear of the most contagious of diseases, like the measles, small pox and yellow fever being brought in by ships.  All of that was occurring as settlers continued to migrate into the most distant rural parts of New York, avoiding any recurring threats that newcomers had to offer them and in the long run avoiding the worst of these epidemics such as throat distemper (diphtheria) or dysentery that arose due to poor sanitation practices and infected drinking waters.

This transition of a community from its first period of development as a wilderness setting with well-distanced log cabins and stone houses into a more developed farming like community with regularly travelled streets and “crowding” set the stage for a series of events to happen in the local evolution of this locally growing population.  Occupations would change along with the need for certain skills.  Any Native American who took to such a social scene would also begin to display characteristics of both the traditional lifestyle interwoven with the new occupation-defined lifestyle he or she would engage in.  This sequent occupancy behavior had attached to it new diseases and new threats for new diseases.  This also provided the opportunities needed for certain forms of medical beliefs and practices to become a part of the local establishment and to cross cultures from those of Native American tradition to those of early Euro-American cultural settings.  This is exactly what took place in the region between Pine Plains and Gallatin, NY, when a local Mahican Indian child baptised Mannessah became what would later be called an “Indian root doctor.”

In the Pine Plains area, this hamlet setting set the stage for physicians closely associated with the local, and relatively speaking, bustling business area of Pine Plains village, the opportunity to learn about these very rural healers.  These physicians, even if they lived in the outskirts on some well-farmed piece of property, became the ruling philosophers of medicine at times for the local area, which was much to the dismay of regular doctors residing in the larger towns miles away such as Millerton, Sharon, and Poughkeepsie.  The only counterparts to these backwoods country doctors in the Pine Plains region were the traditional home or domestic physicians, one or two local religious doctors and the local mixed breed family healers, herbalists, midwives and self-proclaimed “physicians” or “doctors” who were taught by someone else in the family.  These latter sets of healers constituted those people most often referred to as “quacks” in these settings.  But the American Indian doctor who lived just north of Pine Plains in the mostly farming community setting of Gallatin, was perhaps one of the most skilled and respected physicians of the region.  European trained or not, he was far better than some of the regular doctors residing in nearby towns and villages, and had experiences that made him worthy of immediate, local respect, and far better than the unsuccessful surgeon or blood-letter residing in some distant disease-ridden urban town.

Mannessah was one such physician, as much a “Prince of Quack” as a German physician practicing within a mostly English community, or the Dutch-English trained post-Boehmite and Borden-trained doctor (Dr. Cors. Osborn) whose philosophy sometimes mimicked the yin and yang of chinese traditions and the alchemy of a century or two earlier, or the Jewish physician practicing medicine as a loner adhering to his teachings in the Torah and Book of Moses.  Ethnocentricity is what defined the quacks in medicine during this time, Anglican, and in certain places, Calvanist, Episcopalian and Protestant ethnocentricity and nothing more.  Such prejudice continues today, in the form of a sign referring to Dr. Mannessah of Gallatin, NY, and the “Prince Quack” of his time. Modern historians, in particular medical. Historians, never seem to be able to set their cultural biases aside. In many ways, Mannessah’s knowledge and practice was safer and had healthier outcomes than the practices of many or most of the locally licensed, politically accepted doctors of regular medicine.

From “Medicine Man” to “Indian Doctor”

Before there were too many regular trained physicians residing in this part of the New World, American Indian medicine provided the common person with some very good examples of medicines and how to make the best use of them.  With these medicines, they could take on the skill of certain Indian practices involving herbal medicine, but leave behind the traditional Native American philosophy defining whatever type of herbal medicine use was being adopted.  Physicians on the other hand were much slower in accepting new discoveries, and quite often were the last to see the grains of knowledge that could be separated from all of the chaff out there on the local medicine teachings.  Like most people, physicians had their own personal belief systems they relied upon first when determining whether or not to approve of some new discovery.  For most professional doctors, belief came first, proven efficacy came second.  Typically, long before these doctors or any other members of their profession were able to validate and ultimately accept such claims for a particular plant use as being true, many more important indigenous medicines had already been put to good use.   Cultural biasness, fear of change, lack of desire, and absence of making sense of a new discovery were often the behaviors that prevented physicians from learning from the local peoples’ experiences, until they have the opportunity and willingness to experience the same sorts of changes themselves.

When the European or Euro-American doctors took on some part of the Native American or American Indian tradition, it was because they either believed in the paradigm they were witnessing or saw some value in the medical effects based upon their own professional paradigm.  In some if not most cases, physicians transformed the original philosophy placed before them by substituting four directions and four colors with their four humours belief, or by completely disposing of the animal spirit concepts of Indian medicine, describing these as alternative ways to explain the truth based on their own Western European teachings and philosophy.  To the European doctor, the lancet was better than the thorn, the old world medicine better than the new world medicine.

The practice of early Indian medicine in Gallatin, New York is one example of this early form of Indian medical practice that remained fairly untouched by local western European influences during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  The medicine practiced just north of Pine Plains by Mannessah led some of the local physicians to refer to him as Prince Quack Mannessah.  Based on a more modern interpretation of this particularly biased retelling of local American history, we can state with certainty that Mannessah was neither a prince nor a quack.  He was simply a healer from another culture living within a fairly prejudiced social setting.

Mannessah was one of the very few remaining Indians to profess knowledge in, promote and practice a traditional form of Indian medicine.  This form of healing, once it became popularized and made more acceptible to the local popular culture, became known as “Indian Root Doctoring” and was more often than not practiced by non-Indians.   As the first and most authentic and traditional of these so-called “Indian Doctors,” Mannessah made use of the local plants, and based his practice on traditions passed down by others in the local Mahican tribe.  His practices and philosophical beliefs were therefore obviously different from his neighbors, and based upon a brief review of the neighborhood setting for where he resided, Manessah and his family was perhaps one of several outlying families that lives according to a belief system very different from that of the local community–which was very Christian in every way, shape and form, the product of generations of Christian culture and family upbringing.

Over time, some of Mannessah’s traditional living practices led him to become known amongst the locals.  Even though he was born and raised as a child of a Christian Indian family, Mannessah and his family members were not always given the respect that such a good Christian Family deserved according to the local teachings.  In time, this led to social prejudice taking a stab at his family history and tradition during the earlier years, and later his own reputatio leading him to become known as “Prince Quack.”   But exactly when this new nickname for Mannessah came to be is uncertain.  It’s meaning is somewhat obvious.  Other doctors in the vicinity considered him to be different, not skilled enough to bear the stamp and label of the State, in accordance with Governor Clinton’s first laws to require physician be tested and certified by their peers, a law developed around 1794 and passed in 1797.  Although the individual pieces of this time in early New York State medical history require further dissection to interpret the exact meaning of his nickname, based upon time and place, it is safe to say that this meaning, culturally not professionally, tell us more about Mannessah’s history, personal, cultural, and professional, than any other traditional method usually applied to analyzing the role of a person in local history.  Mannessah’s name alone reveals to us an important part of the local culture that until now went unrecognized and remained unwritten as a part of our local history.

The reason for this exclusion of an important part of our local history is the long-lasting presence historians have had for medicine, especially in the medical history discipline.  Medical historians just want to write about their own past, at the risk of excluding and over time losing forever the knowledge and history that exists for other cultures.  This allopathic ethnocentricity remains true even for today.  As a result it does more to hinder the progress that can be made using knowledge that any other type of science history out there.  Just because Thomas Edison invented the light, doesn’t mean the other inventor is naive to science.  Only those who choose sides are truly naive in this case,  Unknowingly, this prejudice that exists against other medical professions reminds us of what we don’t know about the body and health, more than how much, and how little, the doctors may have accomplished for the time.

Past medical historians have traditionally taken on this extremely biased approach to understanding the meaning of past medicines and their philosophies.  When I first drove by the sign recognizing “Prince Quack Mannessah” just north of Pine Plains, I had just completed my study of the Moravian Mahicans and was about to review an Indian Burial site with blue grey slate as its ca. 1840 tombstones.  It is now 15 months later and I can finally produce this page.

The primary reason so many writers of the local past missed the opportunity to determine the importance of Mannessah in local medical history is that their approached to studying medical history were enraptured by the biasness of medical science, history and politics.  The extremely biased historians of days now passed can no longer play into their acceptance as medical history writers.  Along with its founders, the “science of researching ‘Quackery'” is now dead.   There are better ways now to interpret the contributions people like Mannessah made to his local community as doctors, not quacksalvers.  If the current day historians in New York and the Hudson Valley are truly injterested in the truths of our local medical history, then certainly they can see why I like to teach in my classes that the “Indian Doctor” of today is not the “Indian Doctor” of the past.  The medicine man of today is not at all like the medicine man of the past.  If Indian Doctors of the past are quacks, so too are the blood-letters and poorly trained surgeons of the past who perform surgery without concerns for hygiene, treat DTs with prescriptions for 95-97% alcohol, and who prefer the much stronger mineral remedies and toxins as more modern replacement for old time plant decoctions and infusions.  Over the past century or two, we have admired the many “doctors” of the past with their unique life histories, paying homage only to those we consider “professional” and “officially trained and licensed”, according to personal, cultural, and governmental biases.

The “Indian Doctor”

At the time Mannessah’s story was penned by the local historian, the term “quack” was about 150 years old.  Generations earlier, around the time Mannessah practiced, the term “quack” was just 50 years of age, and very popular.  Used previously to refer to the “charlatans” who sell patent medicines and such, this term “quack” had a different meaning during the mid-17o0s when it was assigned to Mannessah.   Not only were doctors considered “quacks” around this time.  Religious leaders, politicians, salesmen, craftsmen, and even local community leaders were at times given this verbal badge of honor.  Whereas the previous of “quack” was in reference to artisans turned against the common person, like a salesperson overly voicing his comments at a local farmer’s or “flea market”, we have since modified its use greatly.  Today, we only associate its use with what is sociologically, culturally and professionally considered “legal” medcine versus illegal medicine, socially incorrect ways of healing versus socially correct ways of healing.  Such was not the case during Mannessah’s time in Pine Plains, New York–1790 to ca 1855/1860.

Unlike what history tells us, Mannessah was not a quack or a Christian Indian charlatan, like the state historians proposed when they produce the educational sign during the early 1900s.  He was an Indian with a Biblical name given to him due to his baptism and Christian upbringing since 1770.  He grew up a few miles south of Pine Plains and later moved to land just north of Pine Plains to work on an orchard-vegetable-hay farm, some time around the end of the Revolutionary War.

Another mistake made by mid-19th century historian Isaac Huntting is in the retelling of Mannessah story by claiming the name “Mannessah” was Indian in origin.  Huntting was obvious not a reader of the Old Testament.   The fact that this part of Huntting’s history was published without such notice being made by Moravian scholars interested in Mahican history is interesting, but not problematic.  The fact that to this day later scholars have not realized this mistake made by Huntting by republishing parts of his book, along with telling their versions of the tales of the last of the Mahicans, is strong proof to my claims that biasness is a problem with medical history writers.  If the name Mannessah is of Indian origin, then Columbus made a “discovery”, and Reverend Mannesah Cutler, the famous Massachusetts Reverend and writer of American Indian herbalism ca. 1776/8, was idolizing the Manessahian meaning of “discovering” local Indian medicines. (more on Cutler in a minute, see the end for history of Manessah pulled from a religious scholars informations page)

During the 1790s, the term “Prince Quack” added to Mannessah’s name was a colloquial ‘branding’ assigned to him by the local doctors, whose cultural prejudice led them to conclude that Mannessah was a prime example of the most extreme type of “alternative” that existed in relation to regular medical traditions.  The regular medicine for the time was engaged in by European- and Euro-American-trained physicians in the local region, many apprenticed, some schooled, some family trained in herbalism, midwifery and/or medicine, and a few poorly trained and working more as the true charlatans of their time.   Since Mannessah is so different from these physician, his life pretty much represents the birth of the practice of Indian Root Doctoring in the United States some time between 1785 to 1790.

As detailed in Part 1 of this series on very early “Indian medicine” in American history, there were a few individuals described in the book Aesculapius Comes to the Colonies for whom cultural background played a unique role in their medical beliefs and practice.   One of the most famous Mahican (Mohegan) “medicine men”  is Gladys Tantaquidgeon, of the eastern Connecticut to Stockbridge Massachusetts region [see above photo of her and her story].  Her herbalism was a mixture of recent and traditional history plants uses, incorporating a number of introduced non-indigenous plants into her materia medica during the early, mid and late 1900s, her nearly three-quarters of a century of fame.  Two centuries earlier, there was Dr. Dutee Jerauld, a Huguenot residing in Rhode Island who took on some of the traditional Native American materia medica, utilizing the Prickly Ash to treat rheumatism, and most likely a number of other local backwoods doctors who incorporated some of the local herbs and their purported medical values into their therapeutic regimens.   In Connecticut, there was “Indian doctor” Dr. Andrews residing at one of the local missionary settlements.  Another doctor, Norman Morrison (1706-1761) originally from Scotland who was trained in both regular doctoring and religious doctoring,  tried to professionally embarrass Andrews by sending him a letter written in Latin.  Unable to read the traditional medical language, Andrews replied but had this letter translated and sent to Morrison in the Native American dialect, which Morrison could not read.

Gallatin, New York, is unique in that it had as its claim to fame the full-blooded Mahican Mannessah, the son of two former Mahican tribal members, now Christian Indians.  They gave birth to him and through the baptism made him one of the first Christian Indian Missions boys to grow up in this part of Dutchess and Columbia Counties around 1770.  This childhood was spent twenty years since the original clan members were asked by Governor Clinton to leave Shekomeko.

Mannessah was presumably raised by his parents, but may have also been adopted by a local Christian family due to the unexpected deaths of his biological parents.   Either way, he no doubt learned about his heritage as he grew up and so later became very much interested in the traditional “medicine”  and medical philosophy once practiced by earlier family members.   As a result Mannessah evidently did much to learn this medicine, and as stated in the historical review of him by Pine Plains historian Isaac Huntting he later became honored by other American Indian descendents and referred to in Huntting’s writings as a “Medicine Man” (see much later quote).

Whether or not Mannessah even had a traditional Indian name is uncertain.   That name given to him was considered to be a traditional Indian name in terms of its origins and etymology by a 19th century Pine Plains historian Isaac Huntting.    But a quick review of the Old Testament tells us that the name Mannessah was more than likely of Biblical origin, given to him upon his birth and/or baptism sometime around 1770.  This makes Mannessah an example of one of the first full-blood Mahicans born and raised as a Christian Indian.


Totten’s Book

One of the better compilations of the meaning of the name Mannessah I found to be a late 19th century book about freemasonry and the symbology of the American dollar bill.  The dollar bill was created during Pine Plain’s Mannessah’s younger years.  The interpretation of who the Jewish leader Mannessah was, one of two sons of Joseph and Asenath.  He and his brother represented different tribes, and any merging of duties and practices they engaged in together represented the merging of two tribes, and historically to thirteen tribes of Israel.  Missionaries might have easily seen the parallels between this history and the symbolic merging of two peoples in the Hudson valley taking place at the time.  Pine Plains Manessah’s parents could have been from different tribes, or a European and Native couple blessed by Christian marriage.   (see above link, a book from Connecticut, at base of figure for details.)

The best evidence that Mannessah is not an Indian name is its use elsewhere, in particular by another individual important to Native American medicine history, Reverend Manessah [one ‘n’] Cutler.  Reverend Cutler was one of the first to document Native American medicinal plants uses in extensive detail during the years immediately following the Revolutionary War.   It would be atypical for Manessah Cutler to have been given an Indian name, and since its origins are more likely to be Biblical in nature, the same source is assumed for the identical sounding name for Mannessah of the Shekomeko and Pine Plains Mahicans.

This means that Indian Doctor Mannessah was a pure-blood Indian, but one of the first children Christian Indian descent.  His father and mother were both baptized nearly 20 years earlier in Shekomeko or one of the nearby clan settlements, and were raised during a period of transition in lifestyles from the wilderness life of a “heathen” Indian prior to missionary exposure, to the Euro-American life resulting from the Moravian Missions which his clan became involved with.  This particular period in local history also makes Mannessah one of several, if not the one single most important example of indigenous people from whom the local and regional philosophy of the American Indian Root doctor profession was born.  For the Dutchess and Columbia County region, and perhaps for most of the Hudson Valley and lower New York, Mannessah is an example of a someone who came to symbolize the medical profession and its philosophy in the most rural parts of newly settled New York and its nearby Colonies.  Mannessah is New York’s purest and most authentic claim to fame to the Indian Root Doctoring profession, with a history that pre-dates the forms of medicine most often related to as examples of Indian medicine or Indian root doctoring.  Any of several published books published between 1807 and 1850 on this form of medicine defining how it is to be practiced.  Mannessah’s medicine man practices would be less like the behaviors defined in these popular culture books.  Mannessah’s practice of Indian doctoring is and was the most authentic form of Indian Doctoring out there, with the other forms of medicine practiced much more idealist in nature, hybridized examples of the common Christian European and Native American teachings in medicine.


The Evolution of Indian Root Doctors as a Cultural Phenomenon

The preaching and practicing of “Indian doctoring” as a popular cultural phenomenon began some time during the late colonial to early post-colonial years.  The individuals learning and practicing this healing faith, and later writing about it in the form of popular books, were few and far between. However, they did exist.  For the most part their versions of Indian doctoring were some sort of hybridization of Indian and Christian philosophy, regular medicine and Indian medicine.  Some practitioners obtained this knowledge due to the assimilation and relocation processes underway for nearby Native American groups, and due to the local missions which often led to intercultural marriage bonds.  By late Colonial period, the general public knew a lot about the former Indian settings.  After all, the government was spending ample amounts of time and money purchasing the remaining small land pieces western New York and Ohio that Indians tried to lay claim to.  In the earliest versions of what would later become known as reservation settings, militia leaders in charge of these encampments would make observations on Indian medicine, in particular the herbs that they used, and include this information in their regular reports.   In this way, the knowledge of the local New York-Connecticut use of Lobelia inflata was documented, one of the most popular Indian medicines used by Euro-Americans who were not avid followers of the traditional MDs between 1810 and 1850.

The eminent domain policy was also popular during this time, the purpose of which was for government to take full advantage of all natural resources, including medicines, found on its lands. For this reason, both government and community leaders often relied on this argument to makes claims to certain “unoccupied” territories and then make use of certain local plants abundant at these sites, for lumber, pitch, tanning, and as medicines due to their potential uses taught to settlers as a sign of “God’s intent” for supporting this cause.  Political leaders also applied this argument to how they would significantly modify their wilderness setting into the preferred pastoral setting, re-tilling this soil lightly to form a garden, adding hay and other crops to the local fields they developed, and sacrificing the trees of the local forests in order to develop their ideal farming community.   Within these pastoral settings, in regions where regular physicians trained in the European styles of practice were few and far between, “Indian Root Medicine” as it was practiced by half-blood Indians, or less, was born.

Some of the earliest examples of there non-full-bred “Indian Doctors” were in fact not Indian at all.  They were people who witnessed, mimicked and idealized the practices of this new form of medicine that they heard about or had observed.  Whereas prior to the Revolutionary War was over there were probably already individuals beginning to engage in this form of medicine, it wasn’t until after the War that this form of medicine quickly became very popular.  Aside from “God’s intentions” and eminent domain now ruling in this social setting, a supporting philosophy regarding Indian medicine became popular around this time which stated that wherever diseases existed, medicines for that disease existed as well in the natural setting.  After all, this was the way in which cinchona bark was found more than a century before by a missionary residing in South American where the greatest numbers of cases were also known to exist (malaria).   Likewise, the late Colonial Indian Doctors looking for the same in North America found the flowering dogwood bark (Cornus florida) to be an adequate substitute for South American’s Cinchona spp., and Carolina Pinks an adequate substitute for the South American Ipecac (Cephaelis ipecacuanha).   Unlike “regular” doctors, these alterantives focused on some of the basics of the Indian health maintenance tradition, such as the use of the sweat lodge, the avoidance of blood-letting (although some midwestern tribes practices something akin to this), the heavy reliance on natural signs about how particular plants were used, but still remained bound to Christianity and European traditions when it came to such things as blessing a baby, defining your methods of religious practice, or engaging in public and spiritual ceremonies.

Some past medical historians refer to this period in American medical history as a period of “heroic” medicine, meaning that certain medicine became popular due to local experiences the doctors had and reported about their experiments with the newly discovered local plant remedies. Two examples of these early non-traditional “Indian Doctors” were Jonas Richel and Peter Smith, the son of Dr. Hezekiah Smith, “a home old man, or Indian Doctor” (covered on the Part 1 page).  For the most part they preached, practiced, and published their version of Indian Doctoring from 1805 onward, and interestingly, those who began this profession as very young men and remained successful would much later have another opportunity to promote their skills and teachings soon after the Civil War, a time which they would finally be treated as “elders”, not only for their wisdom and experience, but also for their weekly cordials, tonics, and cure-alls for whatever ailed you.  This method of introduction mimicked certain parts of the local physicians’ stories that gave rise to the popular proprietary or very early “patent” remedies, like the fairly locally invented Dr. Hill’s Balsam for Pleurisy (reviewed and promoted by Dr. Cornelius Osborn, ca. 1760).   Other very popular plant-based remedies like Ayer’s Balsam and Swaim’s Panacea were also born this way.   Even the popular method of vapor cure was developed as a substitute for the Indian method of undergoing a sweat lodge form of therapy; during the early 1800s it became very popular to simply be seated over a fire with a wet towel draped over the head and chest to capture the vapors that were emitted, rather than engage in the building of a traditional sweat lodge requiring a night-long sweating and cleansing ceremony.   Between 1785 and 1795, this transfer of traditional Indian practices for health into the new American way of living was completed.

Mannessah’s Heritage


Note: the relatively large squarish graphic indicating Mannessah’s place was added to this map, the 1st Moravian Mission point is on the original version.  This image was taken from the 1850 map of Dutchess County in my possession; this map, produced by paint on a loosely lit canvas or cloth base, was owned by a lawyer in Wappingers Fall Village and according to its previous owner hung on the wall of the office, and later home, for more than 150 years.

This modification and popularization of Indian medical philosophy in turn lead to the Indian Root Doctor phenomenon due to the Americanization of a once predominantly European (Dutch-English) culture in the Hudson Valley.  Prior to 1790, Indian doctors rarely existed in the Hudson Valley, and if they did, there were authentic.  “Prince Quack Mannessah” is an important example of this, an authentic Indian Medicine Man who was assimilated into European and Euro-American culture, but due to personal philosophy and perhaps personal stubbornness, worked hard to maintain his cultural heritage, and by doing so became one of the earliest examples of someone referred to as a “quack” by local physicians, and the first to receive such honors as being called “Prince Quack”, the “Prince Charlatan” of his time according to some local onlookers .  With Medicine Men such as Mannessah, the further back in time you get, the more Indian their practices became.  At times, we find a deviation from this rule in terms of how certain medicine men came upon their remedies.  Due to the heavy impact Hudson’s Bay Company had on the Indians for example in Canada, we see examples of where they intentionally deviated from their traditions in order to make better use of the resources provided to them from other counties.  Examples of this (also covered elsewhere) include the addition of some very unique ingredients to medicine bags, like the several Dutch Indies Spices found in one medicine bag according to an observer, or the addition of pieces of paper and perhaps a small trinket or two felt to possess special powers.

Such cross-culturally induced changes may have also been the case for Mahicans as well.  When items like the fruits trees (apple, pear, quince, peach, etc.) made their way into the Hudson Valley due to the Dutch history of the region, some of these must have become part of the local Mahican ethnobotany.  The import of various medicinal herbs not natural to the region, like the various mints, motherwort, clovers, burdock, and even dandelion and plantains, must have had some sort of meaning attached to their medicinal values over time, based on how the Mahicans interpreted their appearances, ecological behaviors, and even spiritual symbolism and interpretations.  Well to the south of Gallatin, in the first Moravian missionary site, there are apple trees, domestic roses and most of the various herbs just mentioned, still growing abundantly in this setting.

This tells us that sometime during the 1740s in Shekomeko history, events were taking place that lead to the establishment of one of the first true “Indian Doctors” who practiced according to native traditions in the New York and Ohio areas.  This new type of medical profession was also developing in places down south near Kentucky, and in western Pennsylvania.  But it was the Hudson Valley setting that offered the earliest and best examples of these interactions between the two cultures that led to the development of this healing group.  It was the true medicine man who started this transition in beliefs, but the influences of overly ambitious local practitioners to spur it on as a new tradition.  From traditional medicine men like Mannessah, numerous other kinds of healing faiths developed within the local European, and Euro-american colonial communities.   If we add to this a strong respect for piety and deity that were attached to these healing practices, we find there to be another important link between the traditional Mahican Indian form of new herbal medicine being developed, and the growth and development of the underlying faiths responsible for these changes.

The religious leaders played an important role in whether or not Indian philosophy and medicine could continue to be practiced according to the original standards.  Whereas many missions attempted to remove certain traditions from the cultures they were trying to convert, the Moravians were not as eager to engage in this process.  In the case of Shekomeko, it was Moravian missionary Christian Henry Rauch who helped defined how this evolution in culture took place in the fairly permanent Christian village setting he helped develop.  Rauch was successful in his conversion of several dozen families of Mahicans and Algonkins to Christianity, all members of this group pretty much.  Along with some later assistants that came to Shekomeko, he and other missionaries helped to change the lives of some settlers by teaching them all about  farming and livestock raising skills.  Like all missionaries, this change was also believed to be responsible for saving a number of souls along the way, in particular due to new epidemics making their way into these communities such as measles and small pox.   Rauch did little to change their natural philosophical interpretation nature, their survival-like attitudes, beliefs and behaviors related to hunting, fishing and gathering local plants and animals.  According to a review of an 1859 return to this settlement by members of the Moravian Historical Society, the missionaries did little to prevent them from using their sweat lodge, or setting up camp in the traditional way that it has always been laid out.  The Moravian missionaries made the best use of this layout and tradition, for with time it enabled them to begin the baptisms they wanted to perform, followed by weddings, along with prayers and traditional burials for the deceased.

A 1745 map of Shekomeko, the stories of which are reviewed extensively elsewhere

Over the next few years of his life, this Christian Indian with an unknown name probably became familiar with the Bible, along with the preachings of the Moravians’ interpretation of Christ and Christianity.  There are a number of aspects of Moravian philosophy and tradition that made their missionaries so effective at changing not only the minds and philosophies of the Indians, but the single most important thing the Moravian missionaries did to obtain this respect they needed is demonstrate on the map above.  This map, produced in 1745, shows that they allowed the traditional locations for the chieftain or sagama and the shaman to be maintained.  This demonstrated a lack of interference with the Mahican’s social belief system when it came to certain parts of their metaphysical traditions.  This respect obviously had an incredible impact on these people, and is in large part why the entire tribe could be converted to Christianity in just a few years.  For the chieftain and the shaman, both of these leaders had to remain at the far end of their encampment, on the other side of a stream.  This stream served a purpose, one had to walk through it to visit either of these two important leaders.  By doing so, they therefore underwent a required spiritual cleaning process.  To the missionaries, this had parallels with the roles that water played in the life of Jesus as well.  To the Mahicans, their Creator communicated with them through nature; to the Missionaries and their culture, due to their upbringing in a very rural part of Eastern Europe, they God did very much the same for them as well.  Therefore, in this map we find evidence for the respect of place and political power that was maintained by how the Moravians dealt with the Mahican camp or village routine.  They built everything else around this traditional setting, ranging from the root cellar, which was symbolically overseen by the oldest leader “Abraham”,  to the placement of the baptismal pool near the 90 degree bend in the stream where a pool was formed, to the placement of the horse barn, the brickhouse the missionaries resided in, the placement of the church near the west end, the location of Mahican and missionary gardens in separate places.  The Mahicans’ largest field was on the west end next to their sagama’s place of stay; this would be where the seasonal blessings would have occurred.

All of this traditional knowledge of the Christian Indian community setting Mannessah would have learned about during his childhood, since by the time he reached adulthood, the village of Shekomeko was no longer there.  He would have also had the opportunities to visit this site every now and then and see its remains, but interpret its philosophy in more detail than the 1859 visitors from the Moravian Historical society witnessed.  According to the Moravian officials visiting this site in 1859, for purposes of placing a monument at this site and seeing the remains of one of their leaders buried there, the old herb garden was still there, and more than likely the original black locust fence poles, rock piles, domestic barberry bushes, roses, and apple trees used to define the edges of its planting fields as well (based on my own visits and documentation of its ecological layout in 2010).

The visibility of the remains of Shekomeko’s living arrangements in effect taught Mannessah was his grandparents’ community was like. This allowed him reconstruct and retain his Native American faith and tradition to a large extent from this moment in his life on. Such a personal history makes Mannessah him the first full-bred “Indian” of the following possible descents: Mahican, Mahican-Algonkin, Mahican-Lenape, Mahican-Connecticut Mohegan, if I stretch this possibility one territory further east or west. This makes Mannessah’s one of our first Indian full-breds, with knowledge and faith in both traditions, who performed his services personally, domestically, and communally as a “Medicine Man” and sagama. He was not “the Prince of Quackery” that the regular physicians liked to call him during the very early 1800s, or the late 19th and early 20th century historians and medical historians of New York (not to mention our recent and contemporary biased writers as well).

Mannesseh’s Parents

Mannessah was most likely converted to Christianity due to these missions-related successes as a young boy.  But his father had experiences which were even more closely tied to these missions.  Mannessah’s father was born sometime around 1740 to 1745.  He most likely underwent baptism soon after his birth, and fortunately never succumbed to the various infectious diseases the European and Euro-American visitors of this site were introducing.   His heritage and names (Indian and Baptismal) are unknown.   But Mannessah’s father, being young during the later years of Shekomeko history, would have been more open to suggestion and therefore was a little more susceptible to the cultural and philosophical changes that his parents, other older relatives, and the missionaries had to offer him.

In view of the time when these events were happening, this represented the period when there was this perfect blending of philosophies, Moravian and Mahican, thereby forming the “Christian Indians”.  To onlookers, like the neighboring Lutheran and Protestants, this success may have led them to question the Moravians’ intent and the legitimacy, and truth of the Christianity they say was contained of their teachings.  This is what led to the failure of the missions due to its location and place in the local society, not its ideology or the nature of its religious philosophy.  In just a few years, these sociocultural problems between Christian Indians and European-Euro-American settlers came to a head, which in turn led to the jailing of the mission’s leaders in Poughkeepsie.  With the increased stress of these cross-cultural conflicts between neighbors came the demise of one of these leader’s health states, he ultimately died once he was released from jail, due a history of consumption or tuberculosis, his conditions were exacerbated and his body finally departed.  Due to such mistreatment by the local politicians and social leaders, it took just five years for the support of the Moravians and Christianized Mahican Indians to dwindle away.  Mannessah’s father would have witness all of this, assuming he too had not yet succumbed to any highly contagious European diseases.  Ultimately, it was the decision of the Governor of New York for all of the residents of the Shekomeko Village to leave.

All of this history of the Moravian Missions was experienced by Mannessah’s father, a young boy born during these years of conflict and cultural-political unrest.  By the time he was a teenager, like most boys his age, he developed an interest in one of the local family’s daughters.  Her name too is unknown, but by the time they both reached 18 to 23 years of age, he wanted to marry her.   This marriage took place some time between 1763 and 1768.  Since the traditional Mahican culture had by then been pretty much exterminated, this wedding took place within a local church setting in the Pine Plains township area, provided by an ordained or otherwise official church leader.  This meant that Mannessah’s father and mother had to be on their best behavior as Christian Indians during this time, and so they probably were.  Having grown up as a convert or Christian Indian, this marriage with the young woman was not much of a problem, be she Indian or non-Indian.  So long as they displayed this in their conversations and ways of life on a daily basis, there were no problems.  So, by 1768 they were married, an event which took place 15 to 20 years after the Moravian missions and Christian Indians were forced to leave Shekomeko in 1750.

This meant that there was a lot of heritage that the newlyweds could soon be forgetful of.  To prevent such a loss, they secured a plot of land to the north of Pine Plains at the border of the counties of Dutchess and Columbia on the Little Nine Partner’s Patent, where they built their own homestead and farm, consisting of rolling woodland hillsides that had to be cleared for their use in growing crops.  Evidence provided by Pine Plains historian Isaac Huntting suggests they may have secured this land due to another wedding between full-blooded Indians that took place just north of Pine Plains, close to the Hoffman farm (see first 1850 map, and footnote beneath the extensive quote in blue of Huntting’s text below) .

From the Traffic Light on Main St, Pine Plains, head north to Silvernails Road, take a left, proceed several miles to the historical site registry sign, which is followed by the first large red barn on the right a quarter mile further down.  Shekomeko is located about the same distance south along the main highway, and a little to the east (see Tschoop’s story).

This couple had a child some time around 1770.  This young boy was baptised and given the Old Testament name Mannessah (spelled ‘Mannaseh’ in the Old Testament).  The three of were fairly well settled within this new colonial neighborhood, now occupied by a number of Protestant and Lutheran families as their neighbors and on occasion some Quakers.  Throughout his childhood years, Mannessah was raised in this wilderness setting, due to which he probably heard numerous tales from his parents about the Shekomeko Mahicans that once had a settlement about ten miles to the south.  As a result, he, like his parents, lived a life as both Indians and Christian Converts, but did what they had to keep this important part of their cultural history alive.

2 Chronicles 33 – Manasseh, “imprisoned”, undergoes a conversion (the above right image, in gaol), and humbles himself before God stating that “that the Lord was God” (verse 13).  He subsequently removes the foreign gods (in the above central image, the Jewish pagan god “Molech”) and their idols from traditional religious practice settings.  He then rebuilds the old temple court and produces “the altar of the Lord”, where peace offerings and thanks were then made on a regular basis.  This history infers a history of Mannessah’s life, suggesting he was converted and baptised during his teen years, ca. 1780s.  This method of missionary name choice behaviors and baptism names is detailed extensively on my Mahican Indian-Moravian history pages.


When the time came for Mannesseh to carve his own place in this part of the Hudson Valley, he remained on his parents’ piece of land, became a farmer and raised livestock like his grandparents and great grandparents did in Shekomeko during the 1740s.  Tending to his farm and living practices in much the same way the other Mahicans did, he became professed in both hunting and the uses of the local herbal medicines, and perhaps even engaged himself in some of those practices the shamans engaged in for purposes of personal and cultural survival.  Like the elders at Shekomeko, this meant Mannesseh might have made use  of a sweat lodge, offered his own seasonal blessings for the farm and its animals, and occasionally engaged in certain non-Christian outdoor rituals and survival skills as a true man of nature.

Possible apparel and looks for each of these two “doctors” during this time, especially between 1785 and 1795.  When trying to conceptualize this scenario, realize we are not talking about the idealistic “root doctors” who came to be soon after these events, individuals usually of European or Euro-American descent.   As noted in the upcoming lengthy quote, according to Isaac Huntting, Mannessah was considered a “Medicine Man”.  So the political and social atmosphere in this case is very different.  The term “Prince Quack” is very much based upon a cultural paradigm that only Europeans and Euro-americans had.  This also implies that Mannessah was basing his work based on a different set of belief systems and paradigms, again something very different when compared with the later “Indian Root Doctoring” profession.  [See any of my “transformation of common belief” writings for more on this.  For more on the image to the right, which depicts Minnesota Chippewa Chief Po-go-nay-ge-shick or Hole-in-the-Day, see below.]

In time, as Mannessah grew up, he became known as the local doctor, known much later by members of the medical profession in and around Gallatin as Prince Quack Mannessah.  The label he was given was more a product of his unique religious and philosophical upbringings, than a test of his knowledge and medical skills.  The other doctors were after all still blood-letters, in a traditional medical sense.    Mannessah probably engaged in none of these surgical like practices.  His herbal medicine uses probably consisted of both physical and metaphysical formulas, recipes that the colonists nearby would never fully understand the philosophies and theories for.

By the time Mannessah was 50 years of age, the Shekomeko Christian Indians who migrated westward had met their fate in Ohio.  By being chased, kept away from their corn fields, starved, and slaughtered, by both the local Indians still residing out there and the colonists uncomfortable with their Christian Indian neighbors, those who were not lost due to starvation and sickness were all slaughtered by 1830.

Mannessah’s History

Prince Quack Mannessah (ca 1770 – ca. 1860s, or later) of Gallatin, New York, was yet another one of the “Last of the Mohecans” to survive the missions and be able to relocate and live the rest of his life in the Dutchess County-Columbia County area, about 10 or 15 miles from the famous Moravian Missions site located down in Pine Plains.   Like many residing in this part of the very rural section of New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, there are minimal documents to inform us about much of the detail of what Prince Quack Mannessah’s life was life.  We can conceptualize whom and what he had become following the departure of his people from Shekomeko in the 1750s.  We can assume that perhaps there were some individual who did not leave the region for various purposes.  Such a migration out of the area might have been fatal to the oldest of tribal members there, yet we see that it was exactly these members of the tribe who did in fact leave Shekomeko to make their way to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where they ultimately succumbed to the measles they lacked any immunity to just a year of two later.  From Bethlehem, this particular part of the Moravian Mahican tribe, were forced to move further westward into the wilderness of western Pennsylvania and the Allegheny plateau region of New York, and from there into central Ohio where cultural clashes with neighbors ultimately led to their extinction as a people with a very unique and historically important culture.

Views of this location, along the highway, in two directions

The best insights into Prince Quack Manessah come from Isaac Huntting’s History of the Little Nine Partners of Northeast Precinct and Pine Plains, New York, Dutchess County (Amenia, New York: Charles Walsh and Company. 1897).  During the early 1800s, Isaac Huntting owned the lands on which the Moravian Missions was established in which the successful conversion and baptism of Indians into Christianity took place.  Huntting wrote the following about Mannessah, as a part of his coverage of the Frasier family (Vol. 1, pp. 335-337).

Frazier family — colored people — so numerous and well known in
this part of ” North East Town” in the first half of this century, descended
from a white man, a Scotchman by that name. Andrew, the first of the
name, is said to have been born in Amenia June 14, 1743. He was in the
revolutionary war from its commencement to its end in 1783, and received
a pension through the influence of Judge Stephen Thorne, of Milan. An-
drew settled in Milan about two miles south of Jackson Corners, and it was
his home until his decease, June 2, 1846, he lacking twelve days of com-
pleting his one hundred and three years. This farm which he cleared (it
was woods) for a home is now owned by his grandson, Alfred Frazier, son
of Robert. The house was built about 1809. Andrew Frazier had sons

Adam, John, Andrew and Robert. His daughters who married were Cath-
arine married George Lewis, Tempe married Thomas Rowe, (lived in Ame-
nia,) Lena married Robert Tyler. Four other daughters never married. The
sons of Adam, son of Andrew 1st, were Edward, James. Sons of John,
son of Andrew 1st, were Filo, Andrew, William. Sons of Andrew, son of
Andrew 1st, Edward, Milton, Walter, Charles A., Jacob, John. Sons of
Robert, son of Andrew 1st, Egbert, Robert, Jacob, Alfred, Lewis. Of these
Alfred and Lewis were the only ones living in 1889. The three other
brothers were buried in the family burial ground on the farm not far from
the ancestral dwelling in Milan, and headstones neatly inscribed stand at
their respective graves. The head-stone to Andrew the ancestor stands at
the head of his grave and reads “In memory of Andrew Frazier who died
June 2d, 1846, aged 102 years, 11 mos. and 18 days.”

Some members of these Frazier families intermarried with a family
called May, of pure Indian lineage of the Mohican Shacomeco clan, and
proprietors of the lands in this vicinity. Mannessah, Indian name, was a
“medicine man,” had a son and daughter, and they claimed to be the last
of this tribe of pure blood Indian. Joanna, so called, the daughter, mar-
ried a man named May, They had two daughters, half blood, who respect-
ively worked for Mrs. Reuben W. Bostwick and Mrs. William Eno. Isaac
Smith, Esq,, who lived about a mile north of Hoffman’s Mills, had a house
near his dwelling in which Joanna lived until her decease. She is author-
ity that three chiefs of her tribe or clan were buried on the east side of now
Pine Street in the village near the old pine tree now standing there. The
mounds of these graves were plainly to be seen years ago, and to that ex-
tent corroborate her tradition. (See Pine Tree Lineage. )

Her brother called “Prince” — Mannessah, Indian name — lived about a
half mile north of Hoffman’s Mills to the right of the road near the boun-
dary line between Duchess and Columbia Counties.[**] He acquired knowl-
edge of the Indian medical practice by herbs and roots, from his Indian
ancestry, and applied it whenever called upon. In derision the regular
medical profession called him a ” quack,” and his medicines “quack med-
icine. ” Patrons of the regular profession and others used the epithet freely
and so he was universally known as “Prince Quack.” He had a son An-
dreas, ” Dris,” named for a good white friend, (Andreas Pulver,) who mar-
ried and had children, sons and daughters. One or more of these sons emi-
grated to Michigan and settled near Grand Rapids. The old man Prince
Quack went with them — they retained the name Quack — and in the ’60s he
was living, his hair white, his teeth gone, and his yellow face marked with
deep wrinkles when I last saw him there. He did not know the year of his
birth, but he must have been in or near the ’90s, perhaps had turned for
the hundred point. Some descendants of this Manessah family now live in
the town of Washington, near Millbrook.

**Note: on the 1850 Map at the beginning of this page, a “Bostwick’ owned most of the land east of the downtown Pine Plains area, across what is East Church Road today, just beneath Hammertown.  The May family is not seen on this map, but may have owned land in Columbia County close to or including the land Mannessah moved onto, as well as Joanna and her husband.  The intermarrying of Joanna of Mannessah’s family, with someone from the May family, two full-bred Indian families, may have resulted in Mannessah’s acquistion of a piece of land west of Hoffman’s Mills, offered as a gift to him since he was a “Medicine Man”, or he may have just been allowed to reside there in gratis.

Prince Quack Mannessah of Gallatin has a different life story that can be told.  Mannessah did not move west to Ohio like the Mahican Indians and Moravian missionaries residing to the south back in 1750.  Like another Mahican family we know about that settled along the northern edge of the Dutchess County border (see, Mannessah built a homestead, served as a farmhand for the Hoffman famil,y who owned much of the land in this part of the county north of Pine Plains village, and became a self-subsisting farmer living alongside African American families whose members benefitted from the local manumission practices that occasionally became popular.  Mannessah lived just north of the local village of Pine Plains where he maintained a little bit of his old-fashioned Indian heritage by making them a part of his daily life practices.  His thoughts, belief systems and practices when it came to hunting, fishing, trapping, leather and hides use were probably still as authentic and of the combined Christian and Indian nature these practices tended to be when his grandparents did the same at the Moravian Missions several miles to the south of Pine Plains in Shekomeko.  Growing up as part of a farming family, this meant he himself also took on the skills needed for the farming of corn, hay, grains, vegetables, apples and other fruits, and the raising and breeding of horses, cattle, pigs, and perhaps sheep and goats.  This time period for his life tells us several things about Prince Quack Manasseh’s life that otherwise might not have been determined, had we not been able to define the meaning of an individual’s name.

The reasons and cultural meanings related to his namesake tells us a lot about who he was.  This combined baptismal and culturally-biased “nick-name” of “Prince Quack Mannessah” in actuality has some complexity to its meaning.  It was given to him due to his lifestyle, personal philosophy and beliefs, and was not a simple title given to someone in a derogatory, senseless fashion with little to no reasoning.  He was given the baptismal name of “Mannessah” due to fate, the name “Quack” due to culturally-defined interpretations of who and what he was, and “Prince”, not because he was no longer “King” of some local indigenous people, but instead because he was much like the German-assigned meanings of this term already prevalent in the public and professional medical stories published globally.   Thus these names assigned to Mannessah tell us exactly who and what he was when he resided in Gallatin, NY.

The name Prince has two possible connotations, one which Huntting described above.  The first possibility is a bit of a stretch–it states that to his few remaining peers of Native descent, he was consider chieftain or sagama, but for whatever reason given a subordinate of the anglicized renderings of such positions, for example that of King Philip, chief of the Wampanoag Indians.  This would imply that the term “Prince” was used to refer to the individual serving directly beneath the king.

But the name “Prince” might also be also applied as an additional label of some derogatory fashion.  This possible meaning implies that Mannessah’s claims were too unusual and extraordinary for his neighbors and the local politicians to fully understand, especially if any strongly vocal pro-Christian traditionalists were still residing nearby.  (Former chieftain, John underwent this scrutiny voiced by the local Episcopalians, Calvinists, and even German-Scandinavian Lutherans residing 5 to 15 miles away to the east.)   Such individuals might label his work and medical traditions as “heathenish”, too Native American in its natural philosophy and related medical claims.   This suggests that “Prince Quack” could imply “Prince of Quacks.”

A final option pertains to local cultural history and its global origins.  It would not be not unexpected to learn that Mannessah probably practiced some shamanic-like activities on the side.  But the fact that these activities and their medical claims were akin to those of another highly popular healer of the Germany-Prussian parts of Europe, Prince Hohenheim, provides us with the best insight as to the meaning of this word “prince” at the time as it pertains to Mannessah’s lifestyles, and Mannessah’s medical philosophy and practice.

Types of permanent homesteads then popular – log cabin, stone (an old picture of the home of Mohegan medicine woman Tantaquidgeon), and cut log with clay, mud or plaster filler

The origins of the original name for this character, Mannessah, has a different meaning, one misinterpreted by past Pine Plains Historian Isaac Huntting.  Historian Isaac Huntting tells us that this individual’s name in his Native American name, which is possible.  But the spelling of “Mannessah” is remarkably similar to the Biblical name “Mannaseh“, too similar to be a native name, and since it is also a first name found for other non-Indians, Huntting’s assumption of Indian uniqueness is probably in error (was he simply not well read in the Old Testament?).   For this reason it seems very likely that although the name was given to him as a child following his birth sometime in the 1770s, or as a child or young adult being baptized.  The time frame that Huntting interacted with Mannessah, he already had prior experience tory in Dutchess County.  Mannessah obtained the land on which a Mahican settlement was placed, and in the 1740s formed the Moravian Missions of Shekomeko.  These remaining pieces of local Mahican history were now more than 20 years old.  Since the Moravian missions was forced to leave their homestead behind back in 1750, this forcing those who wished to remain in the Pine Plains area to find other places of stay, preferably in the form of an acceptable homestead setting instead of a bark home like before, a much more permanent homestead made using of logs or bricks, and bearing raised walls, a roof, an inside fireplace, and an outhouse.  For this reason, to remain in the Pine Plains area like he did, it seems likely that Mannessah accomplished this by building settling his new home someone in the immediate vicinity, or occupied another homestead setting already raised in this region.

Mannessah’s Philosophy

Based simply on the spelling, and the choice of lettering for this name, and the obvious the lack of Mahican guttural spellings of any sort for example, Mannessah probably received his Biblical name due to the baptism he underwent a month of so after his birth.  From a review I did of the assigning of baptismal names by Moravian missionaries in Shekomeko, we know that this name had some sort of connection to his character as the missionaries interpreted it to be.  In Bible history, Manessah is a prophet.  In Ancient Hebrew, this word mean “causing to forget.”  Could the baptism and renaming of this Mahican to Mannessah symbolize somehow how this process was meant to cause the few surviving Native Americans of the region after their forced removal to Bethlehem in 1750, to forget what has just happened.  How young was Mannessah then?  Was his just a young child or even infant living with his biological parents, or had he been adopted and assimilated by another set of parents associated with the Mahican missions?

Two Manessahs

There are a number of other Manassehs from the Bible he may have also been related to:

  • There is the priest Manasseh who was Jewish born but who later married a Samaritan and left his traditional lands.
  • Manasseh of Judah was a king of Judah.
  • There is this Israelite tribe known as Manasseh.  This is very much possible since American Indians were often considered the Lost Tribe of Israel.
  • There is Manasseh the tribal patriarch and Prophet, the son of another prophet Joseph, according to the Torah.

From the missionary’s point of view, Mannessah could be one or more of any of these character types prior to his baptism and therefore earned this name when he was finally blessed.

For Mannessah, natural theology, God, nature, health and medicine formed a sacred bond.  The woods and fields were filled with many signs and symbols of this important relationship, for example this  moth found ‘by happenstance’ remarkably close to Mannessah’s place following one of my visits and photo shoots.  [Clymene Moth (Haploa clymene), Tiger Moth family – Arctiidae, subfamily Arctiinae]

This suggests to us that Mannessah was old enough perhaps to be displaying his character when he was baptised.  For example, he may have wanted to marry a local Christian woman, but to do so required he be converted.   And even after this marriage was complete, he could have so proven the value of this name by retaining local Mahican philosophy in his mind and living philosophy.  Had such been the case, the natural philosophical rage for the time–the recognition fo a vital force being present in everyone and in nature may have very matched a lot of the religious paradigm he himself developed as he grew up knowing both the Christian and Indian way of interpreting God and Nature.   The naturally existing “Manitou” for the Mahicans and now Mannessah was equivalent to the “God” of his neighbors.

Perhaps Christian Indian Mannessah received his name due to his resemblances to Manessah of the Old Testament name ca. 600 BC/BCE.  According to the writers for the time, Manessah of the “Old Testament World” was “old school” in thinking.  The missionaries for Christian Indian boy Mannessah possibly felt the same; he was not of New Testament “new school” thinking.  To the missionaries of the Shekomeko settlement and nearby Pine Plains hamlet, Manessah’s strong adherence to his family’s natural philosophy heritage, and his behaviors as an Indian child, seemed more like the life of Manessah.  As a result he received an Old Testament name, not a New Testament name as a part of his baptism. Mannessah of 600 BC was coverted from the more archaic practice of polytheism and idolatry, to the newer, Mosaic non-idolatrous monetheist practice of Judaism.  Manessah of Pine Plains would have also  interpreted Jesus as “a unique prophet”, akin to Tecumseh.  If so, Manessah would have concealed his claim that  Jesus was a prophet like Tecumseh, no more no less.  This contrasted with the local Christian morees, which claimed tha Jesus was more than just someone who was simply one step ahead of the others.

There was also news of the Shawnee prophet Tecumseh making its way through the newspapers and popular magazines during this time.  Tecumseh was the primary prophet and leader of the numerous tribes out there being converted, assimilated and/or extinguished during this time.  He survived until 1813, and in the last decade of his life became on the most influential members of a partially assimilated culture to live in the upper part of the new United States.  Mannessah may have been very aware of Tecumseh’s role and place in society, and may have even taken on some of the Tecumseh character as a prophet of his own Mahican type and nature.  This attitude in life would have been very much in synch with the baptismal name inferred prophet character that Gallatin’s Mannessah might have had.  Mannessah of Gallatin could have lived much of his life always occupied in his farming practices, but whenever the opportunities arose, turned into a character very willing to express his philosophical beliefs about things.

There is one other Manasseh whom has to mentioned regarding Quack Manasseh’s history–Rev. Dr. Manasseh Cutler (May 13, 1742 – July 28, 1823).   Dr. Cutler served as a clergyman during the revolutionary war, was elected into the United States House of Representatives, where he served for two periods from 1801 to 1805.    He helped set the stage for the later explorations and then migrations into the Midwest when he helped to draft the Ordinance of 1787 used to govern this “Northwest Territory,” where the Mahican-Moravian settlements were residing.  Like other doctors, he was a member and contributor to the Academy of Arts and Sciences.   He played a most important role in the migration of settlers into Ohio.



The Popular Culture of Indian Medicine beginning around 1790

Much of the politicking that took place as a part of Manasseh Cutler’s life perhaps had nothing to do with Quack Mannessah’s life goals and experiences.  But Manasseh Cutler did accomplish something in his lifetime that Quack Manasseh may have been very much interested in.  Manasseh Cutler  also composed and had published one of the very first treatises on Indian herbal medicines (for which see this google version hereof).  This essay was known as “An Account of some of the Vegetable Productions, growing in this Part of America, botanically arranged.”  This work is mostly a botanical description of the local flora, with occasional ethnobotany notes added.  Cutler mentioned the work of William Withering regarding his documentation of how the Digitalis works as an effective remedy for edema, after witnessing its use by a local female medical botanist in England.   Cutler defined local uses for many of the local native and escaped species [see Appendix at end].  According to the biography on Cutler presented in the beginning of the Lloyd Library reprint of Cutler’s work, Cutler lived in several places during his life, including Killingly Farm, at the boundary of Connecticut and Rhode Island, possibly Windham County, Ct. (his father worked there), Edgartown near Martha’s Vineyard, Yale College, New Haven, Ct., Dedham, Ct., and Ipswich, Massachusetts.

Cutler was of Puritan descent.  According to the Editor of this Lloyd publication, Cutler’s work antedates Johann David Schopf’s work on American medicinal plants by 2 years.  His proximity to the area where Mannessah resided suggests the possibly of some influence upon the local medicine then being practiced, but also vice versa.

Mannessah was more than likely demonstrating an Indian doctoring philosophy during his years of residency in Gallatin.   As noted by Huntting, this is probably where and how the origins of his first name “Quack” came to be.  Mannessah would have been about 20 to 25 when he received this professional branding by the local physicians, approximately the years 1790 to 1795.  As Indian Doctoring became more and more popular for the printing press, the regular physicians had more political and financial problems to deal with.  There were other physicians residing in this region, but this particular series of townships had their own token local practitioners managing medicine as some sort of vital force related cure or a mixture of different herbal medicine traditions produced and popularized locally by printed books, local housewives and Puritans, Quakers, and even perhaps a French family or two with a heritage linked to Albany or the former Albania located a little further north–the southern edge of New France sometime around 1700.

Tuscarora Rice was used to make the first informal “Patent Medicine”, 1711 – Dr. Lee’s Bilious Fever Cure story, patented around 1790,  is  the first truly patented American patent medicine. 

Relating all of this back to Mannessah, he was either a traditional Indian Doctor and Medicine Man, or he was a Shaman, or he was a hybrid of a truly traditional Indian Doctor medicine man and a European trained herbalist.  Right at this time in local history, the ecology was undergoing significant change.  For at least a half century, new plants were being introduced into the region.  Further south, a Quaker hamlet was dispensing of seeds for farmers to plant, in particular clovers.  This would have allowed for native species of clovers to disappear from the grassy areas of the county by the late 1700s.    Plants like red clover, white clover, medicago were all important crops used to rejuvenate the soil and provide fodder for animals.  A number of new mustards were being introduced as well about this time, in particular the winter cress and water cress.  In the Moravian garden once heavily planted to the south, some species from Europe remained growing in that setting well into the 1800s; as we know from the published details on a  visit by members of the Moravian Missions historical society to this former village setting around 1859,  remains of the old herb gardens were still evident.  These European introduced herbs included several mints (only Mentha arvensis is native), the motherwort, some common spices, various mustards, European docks, burdock, and perhaps the domestic rose.  Quack Mannessah’s plant medicines, when he practiced this form of medicine, could have been a mixture of traditional and newly introduced herbal medicine traditions.

A small section of Mannessah’s Land

As a farmer, he was already accustomed to the topography of the place he settled.  It very much resembles the place where two decades early a farm was set up in between the rolling hills of the Shekomeko fields.  This setting gave him the ecological setting needed for farming, livestock raising, hunting, fishing, and searching for medicinal plants.

More insight into the local Mahican philosophy with plants is seen in a small recipe noted in a local Family Bible.  The exact data of this recipe is uncertain, but is has in it a line related to one of its ingredients that shows to us how different the philosophical interpretation of nature and medicine was different between Indian and European, but more importantly between Iroquois Indian  philosophy and traditions and Mahican Indian philosophy and traditions.  This recipes has a phrase in it that recommends one use the bark of the apple scraped on the north side of an Apple tree, close to the ground.  An earlier interpretation of this philosophy that I wrote up defined this particular type of medicine as being color-based in part, and energy-philosophy based.  The north side of the tree implies less sun, more water, more moss, and more colors, altogether producing more energy or vitality, due to the lack of exposure to too much sun.  At the time, the electricity of weather was of primary concern to many.  The excess amount of caloric energy (heat) could have certain unwanted impacts on people and plants, making them too hot and too energetic.  A number of items uncovered in vol. 1 of The American Magazine, published and distributed out of Albany, demonstrate the possibility that this philosophy had been working toward reaching a peak sometime about 1815/1816.

The barn on this piece of property, built just before or after elder (by then 90+ years old) and local Medicine Man Manasseh left the region in the 1860s for the Great Plains

Authentic or Quack? – Medicine as a Culturally Biased Profession

Based upon the name prefix “Prince Quack”, there are a number of possible interpretations of whom Mannessah really was, with insights into what kind of medicine he was engaged in.

First there is Mannessah’s own view of the kind of medicine he was practicing.  This view is followed by the interpretation of his practice that the neighbors had, including those most closely associated with him like the farming family he was probably working for, and the immediate neighbors.   Next there was the interpretation that people in the nearby hamlets of Ancram, Ancramdale, Pine Plains, Jackson Corners, Gallatin, etc. that had to be considered.  Finally there was the official impression of Mannessah’s practice that has to be taken into account when trying to decipher the kind of life he would have been leading in his given living and work situation.  These opinions would have been voiced by the local authorities of the region, as well as the colony or state, like the local judge, political leaders, the sheriff, church leaders, physicians and and other medics be they licensed or unlicensed, and the important community leaders.

Being both Indian and a Doctor, Mannessah may have been involved in medicine and healing in both a physical and metaphysical sense.   The origins and time-specified meaning of his nickname “Prince Quack” has a number of interpretations, each of which is defined by time and local perceptions.

If Mannessah was born sometime around 1770, he would have begin practicing around 1790,  1800 at the latest.  If he was born around 1785, he would have begun practicing between 1805 and 1815.  This 15 year difference is important due to the fact that by the early 1800s, a number of medical philosophies became well defined and were actively being promoted and practiced around the Hudson Valley.  In 1797, it was the philosophy of Connecticut physician Perkins that led to the development of the first medical electricians to develop their following in the region.  This in turn led to the formation of a regional medical society as per the orders of State Governor George Clinton and more than likely viewpoints expressed by a number of important physicians in and around New York City and the local congressmen.   Ten years earlier, had a similar attempt initiated through Sharon, Ct. been successful in getting local physicians to meet and form a society, Mannessah may have been effected by a stronger political force acting against his ability to practice his personal form of medicine.

The following events in local medical history are important to note regarding Mannessah’s childhood and first year of practice:

  • 1740–Moravians take up residency with Mahicans at Shekomeko
  • 1745–Approximate birthdate of Manessah’s father
  • 1747–Jewish medicine being practiced by Isaac Marks, until his death around 1780.
  • 1750–Moravians and Mahicans forced to remove from the region and province/state
  • 1760–Dr. Cornelius Osborn’s vade mecum demonstrates everything from 1650 Starkeyism (Christian Alchemy) and Iroquois remedies to Bordenism (a trinitarian vital force theory for life and disease); Dr. Osborn died 1782/3.
  • 1770–approximate birthdate of Mannessah
  • 1782 – Gnadenhutton Christian Indians, removed from Shekomeko, were massacred,
  • 1785 – Rev. Manessah Cutler’s treatise on indigenous medicines is published.
  • 1787 – Sharon, Ct. Medical Association meeting
  • 1787 – compilation of Coldens’s and others’ materia medica is published in Latin.
  • 1790 – earliest year that Mannessah probably practiced his traditional medicine; a medical school in NYC was fully operating for about 3 years
  • 1796/7 – Perkins tractors promoted, out of Ct., known as “Metalic Pointers” by Quakers in Clinton township; popularized by Robert Todd
  • 1797–State Law passed on licensure of physicians, educating physicians, and holding regular medical committee meetings
  • 1798 – 1804.  Publication in sections of Benjamin Smith Barton’s Collections for An Essay Towards a Materia Medica of the United-States.
  • 1799 – Static Electricity generating glass cylinders are popularized by Quaker Jedediah Tallman of Chestnut Grove
  • 1799/1800-Bartow White moves to Fishkill, a physician trained by both apprenticeships and lectureships in the New York City-New Jersey area
  • 1799-1806 – Beginning with the 1793 and 1796/7 epidemics, Yellow Fever’s peak epidemic years are reached, and adequate quarantining policies for ships are established.
  • 1803 – Benjamin Smith Barton’s Elements of Botany is published.
  • 1804 – Thomas Gale’s book on Medical Electricity is published in Troy, NY
  • 1806 – Quaker Doctor Shadrach Ricketson’s book is published, popularizing healthy living practices by way of beverage choice and foodways, exercise, recreation, adequate sleep, hygiene, etc., along with medical electricity.
  • 1806 – Dutchess County Medical Society formed officially, and recommendations for the education and licensure of doctors are developed.
  • 1809-12 – Samuel Thomson’s Thomsonism is developed and promoted verbally and in pamphlet form.  The yellow fever effectively promotes this philosophy making it surpass the values attributed by people in general to regular medicine
  • 1809/12 – Father Peter Smith’s Indian Doctor’s Dispensatory is published.
  • 1810 – Medical Electrician Caleb Child’s coffee house is opened (suggests a post-brunonian ‘nervous energy’-medical electricity-stimulant hypothesis or philosophy).
  • 1810 – Webster’s Global Cooling theory for disease, Livingston’s healthy lands and the resulting merino wool fad reach a peak via Dutchess County Fair
  • 1812/1814-War of 1812 with military medical practices and surgeon’s assistant apprenticeships promoted and popular
  • 1813 – Shawnee Prophet Tecumseh died
  • 1813/4 – Mrs. Smith religious curee advertises her services in Poughkeepsie (prayer cure? laying on of hands? herbalist? midwife?)
  • 1815 – a Small Pox/Cow Pox Vaccine Immunization program is developed and promoted by Shadrach Ricketson
  • 1817 – Arkalus Hooper’s Puritan medicine is preached from Ct.-Northeast township area down to Poughkeepsie
  • 1820 – Poughkeepsie Thomsonian Lapham takes on Thomsonianism and starts to promote it
  • 1824-5 – A School of Reformed Medicine is formed in New York City by Wooster Beach, a NY Medical School graduate
  • 1828 – Jonas Rishel’s The Indian Physician is published.
  • 1836 – Regular doctor Samuel B. Emmons publishese a book – The vegetable physician – reviewing a number of the local indigenous medicines.

With the history of Tecumseh having an impact upon social opinions and attitudes, Manasseh could very well have been considered the most eccentric of physicians  at the Dutchess-Columbia county borders.  This area was rich in Protestant culture and tradition, and had that ever important influx of Puritan teachings and philosophy making its way across the border on occasion from Massachusetts and Connecticut.  Perkin’s Electric Caliper philosophy also penetrated this setting, and the teachings of Thomas Gale and his followers to the north about the natural philosophy of Medical Electricity would have certainly impacted peoples’ beliefs and traditions regarding life, longevity and maintaining good health.  Just a few miles over in Millerton, Arkalus Hooper was being very influential with his Puritanic ideology of using herbs as medicines, as taught to him through the writings of another Puritan physician and preacher, Cotton Mather.  Further south in Poughkeepsie, Christians were looking into strongly advocating Thomsonianism instead of regular medicine due to its sanative, non-mineral remedy nature.   The first regular doctor to call Mannessah “Prince Quack” probably did so well before these other traditions became a part of Dutchess County’s medical history, which means some time just before 1797 when Perkins “Pointers” began to be sold in the southern half of the county, perhaps some time between 1787 and 1795, the most important years in the establishment of the physician’s licensure program for the county.


Two views of the rock in the field with part of an old rusty horseshoe on top

The Meaning behind”Quack”

The influx of philosophy into the region where Mannessah lived was very much ever-changing and multicultural.  But Mannessah was most different from the rest due to something the others did not possess as a part of their philosophy, he was a physician who was still very traditionally minded and probably Indian like in his philosophy, spirit and lifestyle.  He no longer lived in the antiquated wilderness setting typical of his “heathen” predecessors, but he was still very much unacculturated and not at all assimilated.   Mannessah instead lived in  the most productive and modern setting expected of him as a Christian Indian.  Married to either an Indian wife or even a Euro-American wife, whatever the cultural relationship we can be certain he underwent conversion and confession in order for this final consecration of marriage sponsored by the church to occur.  His absence and presence from the church during holy days and on Sundays would probably be well noticed, yet he lived far enough into the wilderness north of the villages and churches to avoid much interference with his day to day prrsonal and professional activities.

Finding the exact time frame when use of the word “quack” became popular once again is difficult.  The meaning of this word has been around since the middle ages  It is from the Dutch word kwakzalver, which refers to making a large sound like a duck.  This noise the original users were referring to was the loud and boisterous selling tactics commonly practiced within community marketplaces.   The following online note for the origins of this term defines a quack as “an unqualified person who claims medical knowledge or other skills  . . . short for quacksalver” (   We know that one form of “quackery” was already common to the local region as a part of this country’s Colonial to early post-Colonial history.  During this time we fiund evidence for the selling of patent medicines such as Dalbys Carminative, Daffy’s Elixir, Dr. Hills Balsam for Pleurisy, and Turlingtons Balsam of Life bottles.  Dr. Osborn of Fishkill, NY, 1760, has his own recipes for some of these (reviewed elsewhere).  This word is of Dutch origin, and may have become part of Mannessah’s common name due to his manner of preaching and promoting his cures as a Mahican Indian.

The following definition for the same appears in Reverend Walter Skeat’s An etymological dictionary of the English language, (1882), p. 481.

This suggests the term “Quack” was not only of local Dutch heritage and history, but that its origins are perhaps due to its use in slang-like fashion by some time between 1726 and 1727 when Alexander Pope wrote the third book in his four-part satire series entitled Dunciad  (See section of  the page’s appendix titled “[259] Appendix. I. Preface”).   Throughout Dunciad, Pope makes fun of the many types of people out there in society, referring to doctors and politicians with this derogatory terms due to how they deal with their life’s troubles.  In a foot note in this book, Part II, referring to line 192 and immediately after, the following appeared:


According to Skeat’s Etymological Dictionary, this is the first use of the term Quack instead of Quack-salver in a published writing.

During the first decade that followed, the use of this term was probably minimal, but quickly built up in popularity during the 1750s as evidence for this appeared more and more frequently in the published literature.  In 1757, when the first history of the 13 colonies was written by American Colonial history William Smith was published (The History of the Province of N ew-York, from the First Discovery to the Year MDCCXXXII.  To which is annexed, A Description of the Country, with a short Account of the Inhabitants, their Trade, Religious and Political State, and the Constitution of the Courts of Justice in that Colony (Printed for Thomas Wilcox, Bookseller at Virgil’s Head, opposite the New Church in the Strand, in London.  M.DCC.LVII)), the author included this increasingly famous term in the following paragraph:

By now, nearly thirty years had passed between Pope’s first use of this slang version of quack-salver (1726/7) and its appearance in Smith’s book (1757).  This term had become a classic in the field of medicine.   Evidence for its popularity appears in a number of journals and books published in the following years.  The following are examples of the early applications of this term to a doctor.

  • 1741.  The History of our Times.   Issue 1, p. 43.  Notes Robert Walpole (1685-1761), the inventor of the “brutal nostrum” known as “Ward’s Pill”, possibly referred to by Fielding in Common Sense  in May 21, 1739.
  • 1741.   The History of the works of the learned …, Volume 1.  p. 276.  “You see, Sir, ’tis Venus, the Mother of the Hero, that doth the whole Work and Japis indeed gives up his Claim, and all Merit of the Cure, and that with just Reason, since he had done no more than what the greatest Quack, and the most ignorant Physician in Italy, might have done as well as he.”
  • 1741.  The Gentleman’s and London magazine.   Section by Monthly Chronologer for Ireland.  “Some Anecdotes relative to major Caldwell . . .”, p. 515. Sep. 24 entry:  Last week a travelling quack doctor under took to cure a child of a scald, at Johnstownbridge in the County of Kildare, on rubbing the head with a composition he had made, supposed to be mercurial, the child expired less than two hours.
  • 1741.  Richard Mead.  A mechanical account of poisons,: in several essays.  xv. “It is very evident, that all other methods of improving Medicine have been found ineffectual, by the stand it was at for above two thousand years: and that since of late Mathematicians have set themselves to the study of it, men already begin to talk so intelligibly and comprehensibly, even about abstruse matters, that it may be hoped in a short time, if those, who are designed for this profession, are are early, while their minds and bodies are patient of labour and toil, initiated in the knowledge of numbers and geometry, that mathematical learning will be the distinguishing mark of a physician from a quack; and that he, who wants this necessary qualification, will be as ridiculous as one without Greek or Latin”
  • 1744.  The Harleian Miscellany… p. 28 (book review).  The Quacks Academy: Or, The Dunces Directory. A new Art to cross the old Proverb, and make a Man a Fool and Physician both at a Time. Discovering the several Methods whereby so many ignorant Pretenders obtain Repute and Practice.  Note:  This written item reviewed in this popular magazine by Thomas Osborn is noted to have a publication date of 1678, with matching 17th century dates for adjacent articles in the magazine implying this is not a printer’s error.  This implies this term may have been in use earlier as well for a short while, with specific reference to medicine.
  • 1750.   A Fund Raising for the Italian Gentleman: Or, A Magazine Filling on the Scheme of Frugality.  What Damage may arise from an Explosion, is calculated, from the accurate Observations of the famous Dr. Atterbury.   By Caleb Fleming.   Page 3 states:  “the Whigs are like bold empiricks and quack-docters, they always promise to do wonderful cures to the body politic, but, when employed, have ever failed in their performance.”
  • 1760.  In the July 1760 issue of The Critical Review, edited by the famous physician and writer Tobias Smollett, the book review article “Art. 16.  Yorick’s meditations upon various interesting and important subjects, viz; Upon nothing; upon something; upon the thing; upon the Constitution,  upon Tobacco; on Noses; upon Quacks; upon Midwives; upon the Homunculus; upon Hobby-Horses; upon Momus’s Glass; upon Digressions; on Obscurity in Writing; on Nonsense; upon the Associations of Ideas; upon Cuckolds; upon the Man in the Moon; upon the Monades of Leibnitz; upon Virtu (sic); upon Conscience; upon Drunkenness; upon a Close-stool; Upon Meditation upon Meditations” (pp. 70- )  the following phrase appears followed by a lengthy discourse: “Oh! reader, when any accident seems to threaten your nose, have recourse to experienced men, of whom there is no want in this city; and beware of quacks and counterfeits—but how to escape them is the question, when you must take the word of each pretender for his own infallibility, whilst he assures you, that all the rest are ignorant impostors. Elixirs, electuaries, genuine Jesuits drops, &c. are advertised in every paper, and all equally promise cure, without hindrance of business, or knowledge of a bedfellow. From Italy this pest derives its birth ; and in France the race of Charlatans abounds, where the quack is at once orator and physician, and retails from a horse or scaffold his medicines to the believing crowd. Peace to all such :  in every profession there are quacks. There are quacks in the law, quacks in divinity, and scribbling quacks. The first abound amongst attornies and sollicitors ; clients on either side are. equally assured of success—amongst the quacks in divinity the pope holds the first place ; but happily his assumed infallibility begins now to be very much called in question; and those remedies for the soul’s diseases, called bulls and indulgencies, which he, like other quacks, formerly retailed to the people, have now lost much of their credit.”
  • 1772.  The complete english traveller, or A new survey and description of England … By Nathaniel Spencer.  p. 18, ‘The Country of Cornwall’ section has: “Dr. Prideaux has been so much celebrated for is, his admirable work, The connection of the history of the Old and New Testament. He had been long grievously afflicted with the stone; and his physicians proposed that he must submit to be cut, in order to alleviate the excruciating tortures, which he suffered. Had he taken their advice he might have been cured; but unhappily an ignorant quack pretended to perform the operation with great ease and safety; which experiment almost deprived him of his life. He was obliged to be carried to London, where the gentlemen of the faculty did all in their power to restore him to health and strength ; but although he lived some years after, yet he was never able to appear in public.”


The Meaning of “Prince”

The exact meaning of Quack for this time in American history is very important to understand.  Instead of visualizing these events in local history using the modern day paradigm and images we typically associate with this very modern-day term.  We have to learn to set aside 90% to 95% of what has been published, voiced, or otherwise distributed out their as “important contributions to medical history.”   Such writings have enough cultural biasness underlying their stories to make them as prejudice as any ethnocentric story written with the goal of shedding new light on Native American rights, the truths about African American slavery or “the real story” behind The Holocaust.  For most of the writings on “alternative medicine” history, medical historians are not as unbiased as they should be or would like us to think that they are (for which reason I rarely cite the “appropriate numbers” of these writers, only the better examples of their writings if and when these are not biased).   The modern view of quacks and quackery is not at all equal to that of the past, during the first years this word was used–to refer to physicians, lawyers and even politicans.  MDs are the worse historians when it comes to writing about past accomplishments or successes when its comes to a field riddled by its history of errors and professional stubbornness, to concede to what everybody else knew was right during the 19th century.

This means that we have to understand the meaning of this professional term or personal name “Quack” that was assigned to Mannessah when his history was written out for the state sign, the first photograph on this page.

We also have to try to develop a better understanding of the adjective preceding it–“Prince”.  Does this refer to the Prince of Quacks (something akin to King of Quacks), or does it have some other culturally-defined slang-related meaning attached to it?

The evidence out there for Mannessah’s lifetime suggests the physicians referred to him as “Prince Quack” either because they meant “Prince and Quack” or there was some some sort of culturally-based reasoning for this title.

In an article entitled “Animal Magnetism” in The Extractor; or Universal repertorium of literature, science, and arts (pp. 97-108),  a review of five books on the history and theory of mesmerism and animal magnetism was provided, which mention of two English promoters Dr. Graham and Manneduke, a “Charlatan” claimed to have mesmerized Ireland by the name of Angelo, the famous Count Castiglione, and Dr. Perkins of Connecticut.  (interestingly, on page 103, a section equating this philosophy of mesmerism with Tai Qi is provided! see appendix note on this.)  On page 102, the following is written about Perkin’s “Metalic Points” (as Dutchess County residents referred to them):

“These instruments, which were about two inches and a half in length, formed of different metals, and resembled a cone divided longitudinally. To cure local affections, and particularly inflammatory tumours, toothach, &c. it was sufficient to draw the point of the instrument lightly over the diseased part, following the direction of the principal nerves, for about twenty or thirty minutes, two or three times a day.  These instruments evidently acted on the same principles as animal magnetism, and although Perkins has taken great pains, in a pamphlet he published on the subject, to show that the operation of the tractors was not dependent on this cause, we cannot but class him with Mesmer and his followers. “

The words “Prince” and “Quack” appear in the common and professional literature for the time in reference to another “charlatan” popular during this period in medical history, an individual of strong cultural significance to the region.   In 1823, an exposé was published about this unusual “Quack” of German Teutonic descent and history–Prince Alexander Leopold Franz Emmerich of Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingsfürst (17 August 1794 – 17 November 1849).

Being referred to as a “Prince and Quack” was possibly becoming popular during this time in the history of “quackery” and medicine.  The only prior association of these two terms for a single individual pertains to the treatment of a “Prince” or important military leader of the Russian army nearly a century before.  Writings about this event state that the Russian leader was injured in battle, and due to the interventions and treatment afforded him by someone many considered a charlatan, he was able to return to the battlefield (see John Cook’s Voyages and travels through the Russian empire, (1770, p. 421).

Prince Alexander Hohlenlohe was very unique in terms of “quacks” prior to this time.  This was due to his apparent ability to perform “miracles” in the strictly religious sense, in ways that typically only saints are associated with.  Of German descent, born near Waldenburg, his mother was Hungarian.  From 1804 to 1815 he was sent to the church and ex-Jesuit Rid for his education, followed by Vienna, Berne, Tyrnau and Ellwangen.  In 1815 he was ordained as a Priest and removed to Rome, where he entered Fathers of Sacred Heart.  Soonafter, he performed his first miracle healing on Princess Mathilde von Schwarzenberg by curing her of her paralysis.  His popularity and fame immediately increased and in 1821, he removed first to Vienna and later back to Hungary.

The most important part of Prince Hohenlohe’s miracles was the role prayer played in this process.  The entry made on Hohenlohe in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) states his successful use of prayers in the following biography published about him (source:

“On 8 June of the same year he was made ecclesiastical councillor, and, in 1821, canon of Bamberg. About this time began the numerous miraculous cures which are alleged to have been effected through the prayers of Hohenlohe. On 1 February, 1821, he was suddenly cured at Hassfurt of a severe pain in the throat in consequence of the prayers of a devout peasant named Martin Michel. His belief in the efficacy of prayer was greatly strengthened by this cure, and on 21 June, 1821, he succeeded in curing the Princess Mathilda von Schwarzenberg, who had been a paralytic for eight years, by his prayers which he joined with those of Martin Michel. Having asked the pope whether he was permitted to attempt similar cures in the future, he was told not to attempt any more public cures, but he continued them in private. He would specify a time during which he would pray for those that applied to him, and in this manner he effected numerous cures not only on the Continent, but also in England, Ireland, and the United States. Worthy of mention is the case of Mrs. Ann Mattingly of Washington, D. C., who was said to have been cured of a tumour through his prayers on 10 March, 1824. Rome did not pass judgment on these supposed miracles and Catholics were divided in their opinion. In 1824 Hohenlohe became canon, in 1829 provost, and later Vicar-General and Administrator of Grosswardein. In 1844 he was made chorepiscopus and titular Bishop of Sardica. He is the author of four volumes of sermons and ascetical treatises most of which were collected and published by S. Brunner (Ratisbon, 1851). His method of curing the sick was continued after his death by his friend and disciple Joseph Forster, pastor of Hüttenheim, who died in 1875.”

During the first quarter of the 18th century, the settlement of the Dutchess and Columbia County regions was primarily by Germans, in particular the Palatines.  This suggests the possibility that Prince Hohenlohe may have had a strong following at the western edge of the two counties, near Germantown (settled 1710 due to the Livingston-Dongan deforestation plan; the town was officially formed in 1788), and perhaps as far south as the little hamlet of Wurtemburg, heavily settled by Lutherans (Palatine, Rhinelanders, and others with Germanic and Scandinavian heritage) just prior to and around 1800.  Hohenlohe would have been known by members of these local communities due to his spiritual-based curing methods, which he based on methods of healing that were most likely common knowledge to these cultural groups.

So how did this perspective on Hohenlohe’s methods of curing someone magically, as if through miracles, compare with the interpretation by locals of Medicine Man Mannessah’s healing practices?  Was Mannessah accused of performing “Magick” in much the same way that Qabalistic Jewish doctors like Isaac Marks of Poughkeepsie may have been accused of doing (such a claim is documented for the Virginia Colony, but not the Dutch Colony)?  Did Mannessah practice medicine by the use of the rattle, the Cross, mysterious songs or prayers to the Creator?  If so, how might they compare with the unique practices of Christian Alchemy that Dr. Cornelius Osborn of Fishkill, who during Mannessah’s younger years believed in and wrote down his recipes for ens veneris (the philosopher’s stone for the time), dated 1762 approximately?  (Osborn’s claims was due to Harvard student George Starkey’s 1649-1651 teachings, possibly adopted, redefined slightly and laid claim to by Robert Boyle in England, but maintained in its original form for more than a century in New York.)  How were Mannessah’s forms of prayer modified or redefined so he would be less criticized for engaging in these practices?  How might he have avoided those problematic interpretations or accusations that the locals learning about them might have voiced?  Were the Palatines and others of Slavic speaking “New Wurtemburg” located just 10 miles to the east of Mannessah’s homestead responsible for his nickname?

Oops!  ‘Jeremiah’ should read ‘Jedediah’

Retrospection on Cross-cultural Influence

Just a few years before Smith’s History . . . was published , Samuel had started up communications with physicians down in the New York City about holding regular meetings in attempts to make sure medical training was provided in an official manner through apprenticeships.  This idea never took hold.  The King’s College school of medicine opened in New York City in 1767 (this later became Columbia University), operating in what is now the Central Park part of the city and Manhattan island.   Following a brief cessation in classes due to the war and the forced removal upstream to Fishkill area, the school recommenced its operations once the war had ended and a treaty was signed.   Just two years before Manhattan opened King’s College, physicians in Philadelphia opened Medical School of the College of Philadelphia in 1765.   There were no other schools in this country, and so historian Smith’s 1757 term “Quacks” became a common practice for New York City physicians voicing their opinions about the rural doctors both personally and professionally.

The more traditionally trained European and Euro-American doctors, those who believed in the need for censoring unlicensed physicians and providing professional support for sufficiently trained doctors, were the primary source for the local “Prince Quack” claims circulating about regarding Mannessah’s medical practice and beliefs.   Some time between the writing and publication of Alexander Pope’s Book 3, ca. 1737, and/or Book 4, 1743, and the year when these works became popular in the English and Dutch communities of  New York, ca. 1748 to 1770, there would have been a strong tendency for the Dutch to wish to lay claim to this etymology and history of the “Quack” related claims in Dutchess and Columbia Counties.  In the “title” given to Mannessah was during a time when Mannessah’s work as a herbalist and a shaman, an authentic Indian “Medicine Man”, helped set the stage for the later development of the Indian Root doctor profession.  Mannessah was not a salve maker, nor was he probably a regular user of the sweat lodges like many traditional Indians; he simply was not raised this way.  But he was highly acknowledge by locals as a valuable healer, perhaps even a miracle healer to some, and a magician to others who could make rotten wood glow in the dark (cherry wood does this when infected by a phosphorescent fungus and pieces of wood are torn away from the log).

Mannessah nevertheless had those who were very much against his style of medical practice.  Be this due to his very Native American living practices as a Christian Farmer married to a new American born Dutch or English daughter for some local  burgomaster, politician or Sheriff, the cultural setting made it possible for his name to become known, and worthy of remembering as an early part of this parts of the states local heritage.

It is commonly believed that Alexander Pope’s writing represents the first use of the term “quack”.  With William Smith’s help, this word quickly was made a part of the popular and professional culture slang for people engaged in any discussions about regular and irregular medicine.  Its reference as a “title” for Mannasseh in the historical site sign is perhaps one of the earliest known uses of this term in relation to a specific doctor practice of “irregular” or unofficial medicine in New York’s Hudson Valley.  This would not be a surprise for the local hamlet of Gallatin, located in a heavily Dutch-based region of former New Netherlands, now New York, with the influences of Quakers, Puritans and German Palatines occasionally passing through.  The name “Quack” could have been given to Mannessah as early as his first years of practicing “medicine”, due to some simple popularity of this term following.  Yet his similarities to other medical people with similar claims to both “Quackery” and “Prince” fame are more commonly seen in the 1820s.

Mannessah’s similarities to the internationally famous Prince and Quack for the time, Prince Hohenlohe, is strong evidence that suggests the local regular doctors may have paralleled him as a medicine man with “demonic” (as the Jesuits might have interpreted it) or prayer-like techniques similar to those practiced by Prince Hohenlohe.  Had these practices also resulted in “miracles”, Mannessah’s actions could have have a remarkable impact on the two counties’ local history.

Being a direct descendant of the local Mahicans that once resided in Shekomeko, Mannessah probably still engaged himself at times in the shamanic practices associated today with American Indian medicine, along with some herbal medicine practices as well.   It is also possible that Mannessah was simply another example of the Kickapoo Indian character used to market and make substantial earnings off of some bottle “snake oil” as it was often called.  But more than likely, due to the place and time these events were taking place in local history and Mannessah’s life, he was most likely practicing both the traditional and recently adopted American Indian forms of physical and metaphysical medicine.  Traditional practices like the use of a sweat lodge and local herbs, even those with metaphysical doctrines behind their use, more than likely formed a good part of his practice.  Likewise, he probably learned how to use the many herbal medicines now naturalized to the Hudson Valley region, plants like burdock, dandelion, plantain, and the various clovers so common to this region.

It is important to emphasize here that Mannessah was no more a Quack or Charlatan than most of the other doctors of this part of New York between 1790 and 1810.  He was however a possible example of one of the first physicians to receive the notoriety of having attached to him this traditional Dutch and palatine interpretation of his skills during this period of time in American medical history.  Mannessah was a traditionalist still tied to some of his fellow Indians’ natural philosophy, with a possible sense of devotion to leaders like Tecumseh, and perhaps even certain pacifist leaders of the catholic church.   Were he a “Quack” practicing the traditional Indian use  of sweat lodges and local herbs for metaphysical reasoning much like the earlier Indian plant and roots doctors did, or a “Quack” practicing a mixture of Indian, European and European herbology, relying upon plants introduced as a result of European settlement of this region, either of these options made him just as important to his community as other doctors.   Like Tschoop of the Shekomeko Mahican clan, Mannessah is yet another example of the “Last of the Mohecans” characters which James Fenimore Cooper liked to write about so much, another example of Cooper’s most famous character Nathaniel Bumppo, “Hawkeye”, or to the Hurons and Iroquois “La Longe Caribene”.

PART 1.  Alexander Pope’s Dunciad [a 1751 edition]


Alexander Pope (1688-1744)






PART 2.  Alexander Pope’s Dunciad, 1727 Preface [1764 reference].





Hester Lynch Piozzi.  2 vols.  British Synonymy, Or An Attempt at Regulating the Choice of Words in Familiar Conversation. London, 1794.  Vol. 2, p. 175.


“ARE all titles bestowed on the venally experimental physician who opposes himself to the theoretic student; which is implied in the derivation of the word Empiric, as I am informed. Charlatan is derived immediately from France, remotely from Italy, where ciarlatano means a prating, cackling creature, and answers to our term Quack; the duck being a noisy, boastful, impotent animal, and like enough to the man who Mounts A Bank if no stage can be obtained, and sets forth his own perfections with loud voice, and empty ostentatious manners. Calepine says, the race of these pretenders in modern days shewed themselves first at Cerotana, whence their name; but Ciarlatan seems less far-fetched and most natural. In Aurelian’s time, the famous Quack doctor Manes, author of the Manichean Heresy, which he gathered from the Zoroastrian doctrines in the East where he was born, was sent for to cure the son of Varanes, King of Persia; to whom having given strong assurances of the prince’s recovery, his arrival was most welcome. Medicines composed by him were administered; and the unhappy father had the misfortune to see his son expire in a short time, of their effects, having soon produced a mortification in the bowels. Varanes however hanged the Empiric, then flayed him; when stuffing his skin with chaff, he recommended solid knowledge for the future, instead of mere practice, and founded a college of physicians in his capital.”


Could the settlers of Wurtemburg be associated with the popular culture of Waldenburg?

There was an interesting political transition taking place in Germany and ultimately Dutchess County during the years Hohenlohe underwent his schooling.  The Waldburg area was mediatised into Wurttemburg in 1806, removing many of the leadership positions individual Princes once had. (see

Part 3.  Examples of excerpts of plant medicines taken from Rev. Dr. Manasseh Cutler’s work

Rev. Manessah Cutler information can be accessed at:

Manasseh Cutler’s book

The following medicine are noted in Cutler’s work:

  • Blitum (page 402, notes a specific ton as its growing location and also its savin-like nature)
  • Ligustrum (402-3, use as a dye plant)
  • Verbena (405, emetic and expectorant, used by the American army)
  • Lycopus (405, as a dye)
  • Scirpus (407, used to make chairs)
  • Skunk Cabbage (408-9, see quote in Appendix)
  • Plantago (410, inflamed sores and swelling; cuts)
  • Hamamaelis (412-3, Witchhazel, see quote in Appendix)
  • Convolvulus (416, Cutler notes it as an Indian Snake Bit preventive if juice is daubed onto the hands before handling a snake, pulled from Catesby’s work; acrid purgative, related to Scammony)
  • Ipomoea (417-8, leaves recommended as substitute for Indian or Bohea tea)
  • Datura (419, leaf ointment for external inflammation and hemorrhoids; Edinburgh recommnded use of a leaf juice evaporant)


(to be continued)



The following European ethnobotany with local applicability was provided as well:

  • Salicornia (402, alkali for making glass and soap)
  • Iris (406, mad dog bites)


Cutler’s Flora – Medical Botany Sections

Manessah Cutler’s paragraph on Skunk Cabbage (Arum Americanum; currently Symplocarpus foetidus)


Hamamaelis, p. 413


Convolvulus, p. 417



Sources, Sites

Sites accessed:

  • Laura E. Ray, MA, MLS.  Podophyllum Peltatum and Observations on the Creek and Cherokee Indians: William Bartram’s Preservation of Native American Pharmacology.  Yale J Biol Med. 2009 March; 82(1): 25–36.  Accessed at

Notes on Smithsonian American Indian picture above:


Subject:  Chief Hole-in-the-Day, II (Bug-O-Nay-Gee-Shig/Bugonaygeeshig/Bug-o-na-ghe-zhisk/Joseph Kwiwisens/Po-go-nay-ge-shick), Minnesota Chippewa, 1825-1868

Format:  Albumen print

Image Type: Print

Dimensions: 4 x 5 in.

Culture/People: Minnesota Chippewa

Place: Washington, DC; District of Columbia; USA

Date Created: probably March 1858

Catalog Number: P00839

Collection History: James McClees learned photography in the 1840s and operated studios in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. His McClees Gallery in Washington employed photographers Julian Vannerson and Samuel Cohner in the 1850s and 1860s.

Description: Seated studio portrait of Chief Po-go-nay-ge-shick or Hole-in-the-Day, wearing a double-breasted frock coat with two-toned collar, white shirt and tie, with his lower body wrapped in a blanket

Data Source: National Museum of the American Indian

Record Identifier: NMAI_324981

Internet Source Page:   Image for closely representing Mannessah’s period of time–1785 to NY departure in 1860 (not Mahican however)–was located using “Ojibwa Indian” as the search terms.  see


From Wikipedia:  Michelangelo’s Hezekiah-Manasseh-Amon, with Manasseh as probably the man on the right in meditative remorse, while the woman on the left is thought to be his wife, the mother of Amon and the unnamed son whom Manesseh offered as a sacrifice

The Meaning of the name Manasseh Manasseh

The name Manasseh occurs five times in the Bible. The most famous Manasseh is the oldest son of Joseph and Asenath (Genesis 41:51). Another famous Manasseh is the son and successor of king Hezekiah (2 Kings 21:1). Among the men that divorce their foreign wives during the purge of Ezra are also two men named Manasseh (Ezra 10:30, 33). In Judges 18:30 a Manasseh is mentioned among the tribe of Dan.

The name Manasseh is generally seen as derived from the verb nasha (nasha) basically meaning forget. The name is formed by this verb, and the prefix letter mem, which may indicate the particle that means “from,” hence From Forgetting. Jones’ Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Forgetting, Forgetfulness. NOBS Study Bible Name List reads Making to Forget.

But there’s quite a bit more to this name. The verb nasha (nasha) means to forget but forgetting something to the Hebrews worked different than for us. We may forget something because it fades from our consciousness, it withers due to lack of attention. To the Hebrews forgetting had to do with an active taking away of something. Something was forgotten because God took that something away. And when God forgets something or someone (obviously impossible when forgetting works the way we know it – God can not forget the way we do), He actively pushes that someone away (Jeremiah 23:29), or that something (Job 11:6). The antonym of forgetting is remembering, and since God can not forget the way we do, He also doesn’t remember the way we do. When God remembers someone, He pulls that someone close (Genesis 30:22).

And to make matters even more complicated, there is another verb that is identical to nasha meaning to forget, and that is nasha (nasha), meaning to lend or be a creditor. Scholars perhaps see these two verbs as separate because they seem to denote such different ideas. Perhaps it’s been demonstrated that these two verbs evolved into the same form through different paths. But perhaps these two verbs evolved into the same verb so readily because when we lend to someone, we really push that something away from us. When the person who lends from us then brings it back, we remember the item. In our times of banks and interests, we think of lending completely different than the folks in Biblical times did. Possibly because only a needy person would come and ask to borrow something, Jesus insists that we don’t ask back what we lend (Luke 6:34-35). Biblical lending is really quite like forgetting.

The name Manasseh, therefore, also means From A Debt. This is significant because Manasseh’s brother is named Ephraim, a name with a distinctly bitter secondary meaning. Perhaps Joseph named his son From A Debt, because he figured that besides his gratitude for being rescued, he felt that either God or his family owed him a debt for tearing him away from his father.