Clio Logo
Placed at this location in 1902, and sculpted by John Massey Rhind, this statue stands as an antiquated image of Native Americans. Resembling the Native American imagery of an era (1855-1902) rather than a fitting commemoration, Rhind sculpted this piece during the "Colonial Revival" (1890-1900) when artists sought to commemorate the plight of Native Americans through sculptural art. Commissioned by Charles W. Henry and Mrs. Henry in 1902, Rhind's statue replaced an old wooden carving of a Native American man that perched at this location, known locally as "Council Rock" and "Indian Rock," for half of a century from 1855 to 1902. The original carving of a Native American man acted as a delineated land marker for Joseph Middleton's property line. Middleton commissioned the first wooden carving of a Native American in 1855, which is also the first American made Native American monument in Pennsylvania.

In the winter of 1756, Teedyuscung, the sachem (King) of the Delaware Nation, stood in a conference hall at Easton, Pennsylvania, pleading a case for what he believed to be fraudulent land acquisitions by the Pennsylvania proprietors. Striking his boot on the wooden floor of the conference hall as his boot buckles rattled, Teedyuscung exclaimed to the Pennsylvania government, “this very ground that is under me was my land and inheritance and is taken from me by fraud.” Teedyuscung stood in opposition to the Pennsylvania proprietors and one hundred years later in 1856, Joseph Middleton commemorated Teedyuscung’s defiant presence in the form of a wooden billboard. Middleton’s billboard displayed a carved “rude figure” of an Indian adorned with red war paint and a feathered headdress, a look reminiscent of Native American societies of the Great Plains. Middleton's wooden billboard is also the first American-made public Native American monument in Pennsylvania. Placed on a cliff in Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Valley which is 50 miles south of Easton, PA, where Teedyuscung made his speech long ago, the Germantown Telegraph stated that the billboard stood “in commemoration of his (Teedyuscung’s) last visit to this spot, which happened just one hundred years ago.” Middleton’s billboard, however, did not stand as a commemoration.


        The creation of Teedyuscung’s history in the Wissahickon Valley begins with Thomas Middleton, Joseph’s son. Thomas Middleton published an account of his father’s life in 1901.  The story began in 1855 when his father, Joseph, set out to establish St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill neighborhood. Amid that era’s rising tide of anti-Catholicism, Protestants lashed out against Middleton’s plan. Thomas’ story recalled, for instance, a “dark night” when a “gang of some half-dozen ne’er-do-wells from the Hill” rushed to his father’s house “with purpose to set fire to his property.” It was, in Thomas’ account, a transformative event.  Joseph, according to his son, sold the family home and moved to another plot of land in Chestnut Hill. As was common then among status-conscious landowners, Joseph chose for his new estate an evocative name. He called it “Teedyuscung.”


In 1855, and after moving to his new plot of land in Chestnut Hill, Joseph Middleton commissioned a Blacksmith, carpenter, and an artist to create the aforementioned carved image of a Native American on a billboard, which featured red war paint, a feathered headdress, and a tomahawk; an unfitting outfit for Teedyuscung. The billboard, placed on a cliff known locally as “Indian Rock” located on Middleton’s new property, sought to represent the figure of Teedyuscung. Middleton’s intent, however, was not to recreate Teedyuscung’s history. His billboard was rather an exclusionary place-marker. Distinguishing Catholic space from Protestant space, it represented the defiance and strong leadership displayed by Teedyuscung.  Middleton intended the billboard as a symbol of caution for Philadelphia Protestants who sought to harm him. And thus, Middleton coopted the struggle of Teedyuscung and appropriated his image for personal use. But what began as a sign of warning soon became the foundation for how Philadelphians would come to remember Native Americans and Teedyuscung.


Inspired by the billboard, Middleton’s Catholic parishioners cast their identities in allegiance with the plight of Middleton, Teedyuscung, and Native Americans. The laying of the cornerstone at Middleton’s new St. Mary’s Church caused an uproar in Philadelphia. Philadelphian Protestants opposed the church in 1855, but Middleton’s Catholic followers defended it in terms borrowed from Middleton’s reimagining of Native American history. They called themselves “Bands of warriors,” the “Moyamensing boys”, the “Moyas”, “Hibernias”, and “Vigilants.” Middleton invited these Philadelphians to defend the casting of the corner stone and referred to them as displaying a spirit of “Native Americanism” in defending the corner stone during a “time of war”. These Philadelphian defenders of Catholicism displayed a newfound “Native Americanness” predicated on the past dilemmas of Native Americans, such as cultural and religious intolerance. As Middleton’s parishioners rushed to his aid, and inspired by his identification with Teedyuscung, they sought to display the vigor of Teedyuscung and previous native inhabitants of the Wissahickon Valley. Or so they thought. 


Middleton’s identification with Native American’s derived from folklore stirred by previous Chestnut Hill residents. Thomas Middleton’s story recalled his father as a man familiar with, and guided by, the folklore of Chestnut Hill resident’s. Explaining Native Americans yearly presence at “Council Rock,” Thomas’ article featured a tale about a Chestnut Hill resident John Piper and his barn. Piper’s daughters Lydia and Susan Piper told Thomas and Joseph the story of their father’s barn, and explained that it served to house and entertain the passing natives on route to their yearly pilgrimage to “Council Rock.” The story inspired Middleton to place his billboard on “Council Rock” decades later, and nourished his belief in a history of Native American presence on his land. His placement of the billboard on “Council Rock” thus established the myth of Teedyuscung’s presence in the Wissahickon Valley. 


     Middleton’s billboard remained perched on “Council Rock” for almost half a century, long after the tensions eased between Philadelphia’s Protestants and Catholics. Describing the deteriorated billboard, Philadelphia’s The Evening Telegraph reported in 1902 that “the action of the weather has long ago worn off most of his [the “Teedyuscung” billboard] war paint and broken his weapons and even parts of his muscular form.” Covered with carvings of couples’ initials etched within hearts or various sentences that declared someone was here, the locals “carved him up until at last he has lost all resemblance to the once fierce aborigine that the combined efforts of a Blacksmith and a sign painter were fairly successful in representing.” In 1902, and in a dire need of restoration, a Fairmount Park Commissioner Charles Wolcott Henry commissioned sculptor John Massey Rhind to create a marble sculpture to replace Middleton’s ailing billboard. Henry wanted to reveal the statue as a new attraction in Philadelphia, and he invited Germantown’s wealthiest residents to a cocktail party prior to the statues commencement: ““Your presence is requested upon the occasion of the presentation to the Commissioners of Fairmount Park of the Statue on Indian Rock, Wissahickon Creek, on Saturday, June 14th.” 


Abiding by Henry’s new idea to present facts and create a new exciting narrative to accompany his statue, men of high status and credibility spoke at the event and portrayed the new attraction as a desirable site to visit. They included United States Attorney General James M. Beck, and Samuel W. Pennypacker, vice president of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and soon-to-be governor of Pennsylvania. “Teedyuscung was most distinguished among them [the Lenni Lenape],” Governor Pennypacker stated, further exclaiming that Teedyuscung was “a great fighter as chief or king of the Delaware’s.” Pennypacker was correct insomuch as Teedyuscung was a great leader and did engage in battle. What he disregarded, however, was Teedyuscung’s reputation for advocating peaceful negotiations with the Pennsylvania proprietors. Beck celebrated Henry’s placement of a truthful commemoration to the original Native American inhabitants of the Wissahickon Valley: “with all the statues in the park, none has ever made any permanent record of the race that lived here for countless centuries, a race most peculiarly identified with the ravine of the Wissahickon.” In fact, the Lenni Lenape had only a minor cultural identification with the Wissahickon Valley and there is limited evidence to prove that they inhabited the Valley for an extended period of time. And yet, to promote Henry’s statue, his orators reimagined the history of Teedyuscung and the Lenni Lenape, attributing both only to the Wissahickon Valley. The statue continues to stands today as an unanalyzed commemoration that fails to relay information of Middleton, Rhind, Henry, or even, Teedyuscung. 

"November 13, 1756,” ed. Julian P. Boyd, Indian Treaties Printed by Benjamin Franklin, 1736-1762, (Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1938), 157.

Although there is no source that states Teedyuscung’s attire on November 13th, there is evidence that he purchased a shoe buckle on July 18th, 1756. See Memorials of the Moravian Church: The Moravian Book Association, Instituted 1870, For the Issuing of Documents and Papers Illustrating the History of the Moravian Church, ed. William C. Reichel, (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1870), 236. 

The Germantown Telegraph, July 18, 1856.

Thomas C. Middleton, “Some Memoirs of Our Lady’s Shrine at Chestnut Hill, PA. A. D. 1855-1900 (Continued)”, Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, 12: 2, (June 1901): 144-145. 

The name “Wissahickon” derives from the original name “Wiessahitkonk,” which means “catfish strem” or “yellow stream.” The Lenni Lenape did fish in the Wissahickon Creek, however heightened colonization by Euro-American settlers forced the Lenni Lenape out of this area of Pennsylvania before the eighteenth century. George P. Donehoo, A History of the Indian Villages and Place Names in Pennsylvania, (Lewisburg: Wennawoods Publishing, 1999), 257.

“Chief in Marble on Indian Rock,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, p. 25, June 15, 1902.

David R. Contosta, Suburb in the City: Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, 1850-1990, (Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 1995), 181-182.

"Our Own Teddy,” Box 34, Vol. 7, 141a, The  Wissahickon: Mostly Collected by Edwin C. Jellet, 1890-1910, VII, Valley Green to Indian Rock, Germantown Historical Society.