Stop # 12: The Sun Trail & Hunter Road

OSR—Land of the Lenape

The Lenape were called the “grandfathers” by other tribes because they were among the earliest Native Americans to settle in this region. Before the arrival of European settlers, the Lenape lived and thrived across the Delaware River region, what is now portions of Del-aware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York, along with areas in New York City, western Long Island, and the Lower Hudson Valley.

Where you are standing right now--here in Onteora--you are on the Sun Trail, the same path the Lenape once used.

The Sun Trail ran from the Hudson River to the East Branch of the Delaware River and was so called because a Lenape scout could start running at sun-up and reach the other end by sun-down.

There were countless Native American trails through this region. You’ve probably been on others and never realized it. Broadway, in New York City, was part of the Wickquasgeck Trail carved through the woodlands of Mannahatta. North of OSR, much of Rt. 5, from the Hudson River to Lake Erie, was a 350+mile Iroquois trail.

As would happen with so many Native American trails, as Europeans moved into the area, they would turn the trails into roads and that is exactly what happened with the Sun Trail.

The Lenape lived on both sides of the Delaware River, and as Paul Wallace wrote in his Historic Indian Paths of Pennsylvania, “Trails were widened into bridle paths adequate for horses carrying two-hundred-pound packs. By the time of the Revolution, …old trails (were now) roads as far west as Pittsburgh.

Here at Onteora, it would be John Hunter who would shape the course of growth in this region, for after gaining title to nearly 30,000 acres, Hunter hired workers to grade a new road that followed the path of the Sun Trail. When finished in 1815, it opened up multiple settlements, including Beaverkill and Rockland.

Sadly, as more Europeans came to these mountains, the Lenape were pushed out. During the last decades of the 18th century, most Lenape were removed from their homeland by expanding European settlements. The divisions and troubles of the American Revolutionary War and the aftermath of independence from England pushed them farther west.

In the 1860s, the United States government sent most Lenape remaining in the eastern United States to the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma and surrounding territory) under the federal government’s Indian removal policy. Today, many Lenape reside in Oklahoma, with some other communities in Wisconsin and Ontario.

DIRECTIONS: Continue west on the Red Trail.