Pennsylvania Indian Traders:Earliest Pennsylvania Traders



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Pennsylvania Indian Traders
Indian Trading Posts of Pennsylvania
Based on The Early Traders of Conestoga, Donegal, and Paxtang, in Hanna, 1911, The Wilderness Trail
Pennsylvania Indian Traders:The Setting
Pennsylvania Indian Traders:Earliest Pennsylvania Traders
Pennsylvania Indian Traders:List of Sketches
Pennsylvania Indian Traders:1718 Tax Assessment
Pennsylvania Indian Traders:License Lists
Pennsylvania Indian Traders:Trading Paths

Earliest Traders

Trade with the Indians may be said to have begun with William Penn himself in his land purchases. Hanna 1928, however, notes that "Penn operated in what, in modern days, would be called a higher sphere." For him, evidence for actual trade with the Indians is found in three early events[1]:

  • On July 25, 1684, the Pennsylvania Council ordered that Robert Terrell "be sent for, to appear before ye Govr. and Council, and all others that sell rum to ye Indians."
  • Jasper Farmar and Nicholas Scull, who lived in what is now Whitemarsh Township, Montgomery County, seem to have begun a trade with the Delawares as early as 1685. At least, in July of that year, some of the Indians along the Schuylkill complained to the Secretary of the Province that the servants of Farmar had supplied them with liquor, made them drank, and then grossly abused them and debauched their wives.
  • In August of the following year Nicholas Scull, a neighbor of Farmar's, complained to the Council that some Indians had entered his house, and carried off a portion of his goods. The Council, however, seems to have concluded that Mr. Scull himself was more to be reprimanded than the Indians; for they entered the record against him that he had, contrary to the law, first sold these same Indians rum, and made them drunk.

The sons of both Farmar and Scull learned the Indian languages, and frequently acted as interpreters in the conferences between the Delawares and the Governor. John Scull, and his brother, Nicholas Scull, Junior, carried on an extensive trade with the Indians both along the Schuylkill and, later, the Susquehanna. John Scull, after 1725, had a store on the east bank of the Susquehanna, above the mouth of Mahantango Creek. His brother afterwards became surveyor-general of the Province. Jonas Askew is mentioned as an interpreter among the Conestogas in 1709; but there is no record of his trading transactions.


  1. Hanna was aware of the earlier trade with the Indians conducted by the Dutch in eastern Pennsylvania (including Old Chester County), but does not dwell on their contribution. The Settlers of New Sweden also carried out extensive trade with the Indians, but Hanna makes no mention of this.