Local History

Queen Aliquippa: Fact or Myth?

 

        The history and mythology of Beaver County is, indeed, magically interwoven during times of  discovery and research.  The person who seems to have captured the residents of this county in the most historical manner, and whose character and influence has shaped our local geography and the historical events of her time, is unquestionably that of Queen Aliquippa. In this present day, her name is connected to a town, (Aliquippa, formerly Woodlawn, bears her name) antique establishments around the region, and magnificent influence among current culture seekers throughout our nation who continuously demand attention to the illustrious contribution of the Native Americans. Her invincible persuasion and wisdom enlightened the most obstinate of men, and her devotion and love to her people amalgamated and synchronized the stature and sympathy of women. It is not out of proper context to assume that through her enchanted discourse of dialogue and superlative talent of negotiation, she permeated the angry minds of invaders and outcasts, and adopted the mechanical structure of European culture and language into the Seneca nation in hope of establishing a serene structure between the two, that regretfully, possessed in itself by the new visitors, a swelling passion of oppression and superiority.

         Her name, “Aliquippa,” is a Seneca word for “hat” or “cap.” Though it is a continuing debate among local historians, she is believed to have been a member of the Seneca tribe; this tribe resided along the rocky shores of the Allegheny and Ohio rivers. They were also a prodigious member of the Iroquois League of Five Nations(Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Mohawk, and Seneca.) Although her precise date of birth is unknown; it is conclusive, based on meticulous research, that she visited William Penn(the founder of the state of Pennsylvania) sometime in the year 1701; it is reasonable to assume that her birth took place in the very late 1600’s, perhaps in an unknown location in upstate New York; however, there is another legendary version that claims her birth took place in the year 1706 and that she had a twin sister who went by the name of  “Snow in the Face”, who was born in a remote Indian village called “Indian Ridge” in Washington County, PA.  But this claim has no merit to the current evidence of what little is already known.

         In the ensuing years that followed, she married a chief of one the Seneca tribes and had  a son. Accordingly, she outlived her husband and became an outstanding leader among her people. Long before the perilous journeys of frontiersman, trappers, loggers, and blacksmiths inhabited the area of Beaver County, Queen Aliquippa ruled peacefully and wisely as any “male” chief of the Native Americans. Her flawless courage and subservience of white settlers adhering to her commands was a well established testament to her gracious and clever character. Her royal status among the British and French, who would eventually penetrate the virgin territory that would perform an impetuous role in the outcome of the French and Indian War, and as well lay a bloody but victorious fabric on the American Revolution was unprecedented, rendering the reputation of these prestigious Europeans to their knees. One such incident is worthy of mention. In 1748 a gentleman named Conrad Weiser,  an interpreter and diplomat for the Pennsylvania Colony and Native Americans , received an invitation to discuss relations between white settlers and Indians in the region at Logstown, PA(now, present day Ambridge). When he inadvertently did not announce his arrival or visit  the Seneca queen first, she became highly indignant and demanded his presence in her village before his departure. Without wanting to instigate or offending Queen Aliquippa further, he instantly complied to her demands and paid her a full visit that included his leaving her guns and gunpowder; some years later, around 1752, he again paid a visit to her village which was known as “Aliquippa’s Town” ( located on the Ohio river at the mouth of Chartier’s Creek near present day Mckees Rocks, Pa.)  It seems he learned a valued lesson as he had an invitation to dock his boat at a more suitable location, but he docked his vessel at “Aliquippa’s Town.”

   

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Queen Aliquippa historical marker in McKeesport, PA.

  But to put this queen on a more deserved and distinguished elevation, her meeting with another gentleman is even more enticing. In 1754, a young and inexperienced major of the Virginia militia was coming to prominence in the colonies. He was sent into the Beaver County region by the Virginia Governor to extinguish a dispute in the Ohio Valley region and ask the French troops to leave the area. The young major traveled all the way from Virginia to Logstown, and, like many before him, failed to pay tribute to the Queen of these Indian territories. It is proper to mention, or at least make regard, that the young major’s mind was alluding to the “political” tasks that was required of him, rather than deducing peaceful establishments and relations with the already incredulous and indignant Native Americans, who were growing tiresome of unannounced excursions and visits from white settlers in their territories. Learning of this, the major assembled another visitation, at his own expense, visited and established a powerful relationship with the mighty Seneca Queen. Thus, the most “historic” example of evidence we have of her is made in the entry of this major’s journal: “she expressed great concern that we passed her in going to the fort. I made her a Present of a Match Coat; & a Bottle of Rum, which was thought much the better present of the two.” This young major was George Washington.

        With the advancement of the French and Indian War throughout the Pennsylvania region and Washington’s rise and fame, it is evident that Queen Aliquippa was a close and loyal ally of the British till the end of her life. However, as a result of the Battle of Fort Necessity indicated, the struggling relations between white settlers and Native Americans diminished speedily. Nonetheless, the undisputed reputation of Queen Aliquippa, among her exuberant admirers, remain untarnished even in our present time. Her extravagant role in the development of our region accentuated our culture and fertilized our identity with that of the spirit of  the continuing struggle that would give birth to the American Revolution. Her pious cause in the preservation of her people, though glaringly heroic it was (and much respected by the British for many years), was not a significant enough contribution to maintain relations with the growing number of British troops who would eventually become hostile and violent to the Native Americans to act on the “sacred” duties impelled on them by their own King who had different and much darker intentions for our region.

      Some years later, according to local folklore, Queen Aliquippa and George Washington met yet again, on  a hilltop overlooking the Monongahela River. It is also claimed that the exact site is near Mckeesport, PA, just some miles where the infamous town in our region immortalizes her name: “Aliquippa.” Though it has not ever been firmly proved that Queen Aliquippa actually set foot in the town that is named in honor of her, it is logical to assume that she visited extensive parts of Beaver County and implemented her influence and mannerisms with tremendous conviction and valor.

        History, however, does not dispute the credibility or tenacious structure of this exuberant and gallant queen of the Seneca’s. Her remains are entered in the sacred ground of the unknown, or disputed location, of her and Washington’s final meeting.

        On October 26, 2003 a marker was raised in her honor in Highland Park, Mckeesport, Pa. The inscription:

“Queen Aliquippa”

  “An influential leader of the Seneca Nation in this area and ally of the British during the time of the French and & Indian War. Encamped near here when George Washington paid respect to her, 1753. Died 1754; according to legend, buried nearby.”