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DUNCANS ISLAND. The author has always thought that it was rather strange that this island or group of islands so far away from the eastern shore of the Susquehanna river, and so near to Perry County territory, should be in Dauphin County. But as the line of Dauphin County follows the western shore of the river, this historic island falls within the jurisdiction of this County. Much has been written concerning the history of this island, and the one often is confused with it, Haldemans island, which is near by. These islands, situated at and near the mouth of the Juniata river have a most interesting history. The Indians always made these river islands favorite stopping places. The "Big Island" at Lock Haven; the "Long Island", opposite Jersey Shore, the Isle of Que, opposite Selingsgrove, and, in fact all  of the islands of the Susquehanna river from Lake Ostego to Chesapeake Bay were favorite camp sites and village sites (at least during the summer and autumn season). When the author was a member of the expedition which went down the entire length of the Susquehanna in 1916, he and the other members of the party found evidences of Indian occupation on every island at which the expedition stopped. Implements and utensils of all sorts were found - arrow points, spear heads, banner stones, drills, and pottery fragments were picked up on every island.

Duncans Island and Haldemans Island were both used as village sites by the Shawnee after they commenced to migrate of the Susquehanna, in about 1725-7, previous to their migration to the Wyoming Valley, the West Branch of the Ohio. But long before this period of the historic Indians, the islands and the Juniata Valley were occupied by a tribe of Indians which has not yet been identified. These were the people who gave the river its name, which signifies "standing stone", which was also the name of the village at the mouth of the Juniata, which David Brainerd records in the autumn of 1745, when he visited the island, as "Juncauta". The tribe which lived here before historic times belonged to the Iroquoian group, but, who they were, no one has been able to discover. The members of the Archaeological Expedition gathered a number of unfinished "banner-stones" on these islands in 1916, and many badly weathered arrow points, etc., none of which belonged to the historic Shawnee village people. If Duncans Island, or the Juniata river, could but unfold the mystery which hides the far distant past, we would be able to know who the people were that once lived from Huntingdon to Duncans Island along the shores of the Juniata. We now do not know, nor do we have enough evidence to even make a guess. They may have been Oneida, which name is also a corruption of the same word corrupted to Juniata - but who knows? Historical sketches concerning these islands are given in Kelker's "History of Dauphin County", Vol. I, 430, et. seq., and in Hain's History of Perry County, 118, et. seq.

On the wonderfully accurate survey map of the Susquehanna river, which was made by Charles Treziyulny and George H. Hains, Engineers, in accordance with he Act of Assembly, March 31, 1823, and which was completed in 1827, both the large islands are called "Duncans Island." The larger island, in the Susquehanna was later called Haldemans Island, while the smaller island, in the Juniata river, was called Duncans Island. The "Big Island" to which Shikellamy and other Indian chiefs referred at various Councils, would therefore be the larger island which was know as Haldemans. Owing to the changes which have been made at the mouth of the Juniata since the early days, this is no longer an island. The William Penn Highway and the Susquehanna Trail both pass over this "island" now. The digging of the old Pennsylvania Canal and the various fills which have been made by the state in building the highways, have completely changed the topography of the land at the mouth of the Juniata.

The journal of David Brainerd, previously mentioned, gives under the entry of September 19, 1745, "Juncauta. Visited an Indian town, called Juncauta, situate on an island in the Susquehanna." This evidently was the larger island, later called Haldemans. His description of the Indians, and of their rites, which filled him with sorrow, is the most complete account of anything concerning the Indians of the lower Susquehanna for this early period. The island, which contains about 300 acres, is now the property of William H. Richter.

 

 

 

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