The following is an incomplete and imperfect list of Nanticoke leaders in the 17th and 18th centuries. Although relatively little of the tribal hierarchy is known, there seems to have been a hereditary emperor who exercised some degree of authority over the entire Nanticoke territory and those who lived there, including not only the Nanticokes, but also members of other tribes who were somehow his or the tribe’s subjects (e.g., the Wicomisses in 1668). Note that the Maryland authorities negotiated a treaty with the first emperor mentioned, Unnacokasimon, but eventually appointed or removed emperors as they saw fit. Lesser leaders, termed chiefs by the English, exercised authority at each town.
It is assumed that John Smith met an emperor in June of 1608, for his impressive map of the Chesapeake region published in 1612 shows a king’s house or town labeled Kuskarawaok about halfway up the river, but his account of the voyage does not mention an emperor, or any leader for that matter.
Between the 1640s and 1660s, official Maryland records usually describe the Nanticokes as hostile enemies of the province, but offer few details on the tribe.
Unnacokasimon (or Unnacokasinnon, Unnacokasimmon, etc.) was an emperor of the Nanticokes, and is assumed to have lived at Chicacoan Town. His subjects included the Wicomisses (not to be confused with the Wicomicos or Wicomicons). He signed an important peace treaty in 1668. By July 1687, he had died and been succeeded by his brother, Opeter, also known as Ohopperoon. Someone told the English that Unnacokasimon had been poisoned by members of the tribe who opposed the English (and, presumably, Unnacokasimon’s policy towards them), and that the new emperor was a usurper.
Opeter or Ohopperoon was Unnacokasimon’s brother, and became emperor when he died. It’s unclear when this occurred, but official documents penned in the summer of 1687 seem to imply that the transition had occurred recently. Someone told the Maryland authorities that Unnacokasimon had been poisoned by members of the tribe who opposed the English, and that Opeter was a usurper. However, he renewed his brother’s peace treaty shortly thereafter.
Ashquash was a son of Unnacokasimon. He was declared an enemy of the province in 1692, but remained emperor (or was later reinstated). In 1705, Panquash and “Annotoughk” signed a peace treaty on his behalf. In 1713, he left Maryland to live with the Susquehanna Indians.
Panquash was one of the leaders of the Nanticoke in 1698, when the General Assembly established the reservation on Chicacoan Creek. The legislation also mentioned Annatoughquan. Panquash was mentioned as one of the chiefs of the Nanticokes in 1719, and again in 1742. Alternate spellings include Panquas and Pantikas.
Annatoughquan or Anatocom was one of the leaders of the Nanticoke in 1698, when the General Assembly established the reservation on Chicacoan Creek. He was mentioned after Panquas. He and Panquash were still leaders in 1719.
Felton was briefly mentioned in 1698, when the English warned Panquash and “Armaulauquan” (possibly an alternate spelling of Annatoughquan) that they did not recognize his claim to be “Emperor of Nanticoke.”
Tom Coursey was one of three Nanticoke leaders who, in 1713, claimed that the tribe had never received “satisfaction” for the vandalism of a quiacason house six years earlier. He was joined by Panquash and Rossakatum.
Rossakatum or Rassekettham was joined Tom Coursey and Panquash It is assumed that Laurel’s Rossakatum Branch, a tributary of Broad Creek, was named after him. He might have been associated with the Broad Creek reservation.
Henry Coursey was described as “the Emperor” in the early 1720s. His relationship to Dixon (or John) Coursey, who was a chief of the Nanticokes by 1742, is unclear.
William Asquash, son of Ashquash, was described as “the late Emperor’s son” in 1725. He lived in Chicacoan Town. It’s unclear whether he was also a chief. He may have been related to Abraham and Jemmey Ashquash, who were living in Chicacoan Town in 1742.
King Toby is assumed to have been a leader of the Nanticokes of Broad Creek Town. In 1725, he was one of the “certain Indians belonging to the Town of Broad Creek” who traveled to Dividing Creek and accused John Caldwell, Jr., Patrick Caldwell, and Thomas Caldwell of some kind of abuse. The record identifies the Indians as “King Toby Lolloway and whist,” making it unclear whether Lolloway was the second of three names, or King Toby Lolloway was one name. Previously, an Indian named Lolloway had been assaulted and badly injured. In 1742, the Shawnees took a Nanticoke named Toby up to Conoy Town. Additionally, a Nanticoke named Tom Tobe signed a petition in support of future emperor George Pocatehouse in the late 1750s. It’s unclear whether these men were related to King Toby.
Simon Alsechqueck was one of the chiefs of the Broad Creek Indians. He was involved in the Winnasoccum event in 1742, and was held by the English authorities until he and Captain John, another chief of the Broad Creek Indians, signed a peace treaty. In 1744, Simon and three other Nanticoke leaders requested permission for the tribe to leave Maryland.
Captain John was one of the chiefs of the Broad Creek Indians. He was involved in the Winnasoccum event in 1742, and was held by the English authorities until he and Simon Alsechqueck signed a peace treaty.
John Coursey, also known as Dixon Coursey, was one of the chiefs of the Nanticokes at Chicacoan Creek. He was involved in the Winnasoccum event in 1742, and was held by the English authorities until he and John Chinehopper, another chief, signed a peace treaty.
John Chinehopper was one of the chiefs of the Nanticokes at Chicacoan Creek. He was involved in the Winnasoccum event in 1742, and was held by the English authorities until he and John Coursey signed a peace treaty.
Note: Four Nanticoke leaders approached the authorities in 1744. Although Simon Alsechqueck was the only one mentioned by name, it seems reasonable to assume that the other three were Captain John, John Coursey, and John Chinehopper. It was at this time that most of the Nanticokes abandoned their reservations and migrated to Pennsylvania. The peace treaty signed in 1742 stipulated that the tribe could no longer elect an emperor.
Peter Prince seems to have been a leader of the Nanticokes who remained in Dorchester County after the majority left in 1744. He died before June 1758.
Peter Monk was identified as a Nanticoke in 1742, and testified against the Nanticokes and Broad Creek Indians. He was appointed to be the “Emperor of the Nanticoke Indians” by Governor Horatio Sharpe on June 3, 1758, following the death of Peter Prince. He was said by some to be a direct descendant of “Annotoughcan” (see above), but the following year Mary M. Cratcher testified that Monk was “a Descendent from the Indian River Indians in Worcester County, and no ways allied to the Nanticoke Indians as I have been Informed by the old Nanticoke Indians…” Apparently, Monk was replaced by George Pocatehouse.
George Pocatehouse or Pocatous was said to have been “a Descendant from the family of old Panquash,” and seems to have been appointed Emperor of the Nanticoke Indians in 1759 due to a controversy concerning the eligibility of his predecessor, Peter Monk.
– Chris Slavens