Historic Monument - Ockanickon's Monument, Burlington

The typical search for the name "Ockanickon" results in a list of camps bearing the name. Popular camps named for Ockanickon include the Boy Scouts of America and the YMCA. These camps are dedicated to a great Indian Chief of the mid-1600s for the difference he made in the lives of many new settlers to the area that has since become New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.

Under a large sycamore tree in Burlington City, New Jersey, lie the monument and gravestone of Chief Ockanickon. The rock that lies behind the Friends Meeting House is small in comparison to the Washington Monument or the Statue of William Penn atop Philadelphias City Hall, but Ockanickon is of equal importance to this area. Ockanickons monument is a rock with a bronze plaque attached. The plaque was dedicated in 1910 by the YMCA and YWCA camps of Burlington. This monument marks the burial location of Ockanickon after his death in 1681. The plaque reads "Be plain and fair to all, both Indian and Christian as I have been."(1)

Monument to Ockanickon

Monument to Chief Ockanickon, died 1631, monument erected 1930, Burlington.

Detail of Chief Ockanickon's monument, Burlington.

The epitaph on Ockanickons monument consists of the words of advice he said to his successor, his nephew Jahkuroe, while lying on his death bed. Ockanickon wanted a truthful and honest Indian to lead the people of the Lenni Lenape. He decided to establish his nephew as the new leader since he the two other Indians he had selected were rumored to have poisoned him for his position as chief.(2)

Ockanickon helped the first Quakers who settled the area of West Jersey. When they arrived, they were not the first to encounter the Lenape Indians, but they were the most respectful. One Indian king said at a meeting that the Quakers were the first to give them alcohol and care about them. They did not give them alcohol in an attempt to turn the Indians against each other.(3) The Quakers became friends with the Lenape and established trade and commerce.

William Penn and the Quakers purchased land from the Lenape and formed Burlington, New Jersey. Burlington was not officially incorporated till 1693. In 1861 Penn acquired a land grant from Charles II, in which he received the land now known as Pennsylvania; this was the same year as Ockanickons death.(4) The sale of the land pushed the Lenape west to Ohio. In Burlington, the Quakers built their first Meeting House in 1683, where Ockanickon lay buried beneath the large sycamore tree.

The rock that lies above the earth stands as more than the gravestone of an Indian leader; it is a monument to a hero and a friend to all, no matter the color of their skin or their place of origin. While Ockanickon does not have a statue of himself atop a city building, he has several youth and family camps named in his honor. In some respects, there is no better suited establishment to honor him than a friendly family outdoor program.

In 1910, the YMCA and YWCA Camp Associations donated the plaque that was put on the rock to commemorate the life and words of Ockanickon. The YMCA and YWCA are still active camps in Medford, New Jersey. In Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the Boy Scouts of America named their camp after Ockanickon in 1940, in honor of the assistance he gave to William Penn.(5)

(Gabrielle Burgess, Spring 2009)

(1) Veit, R. F., Nonestied, M., New Jersey Cemeteries and Tombstones: History and Landscape (Rutgers University Press, 2008), pp. 15-16.

(2) Stevens, L. M., The Poor Indians: British Missionaries, Native Americans, and Colonial Sensibility (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), pp. 186-188.

(3) Budd, T., Good Order Established in Pennsylvania and New Jersey (Ayer Publishing, 1971), p.66.

(4) "William Penn," Wikipedia. Retrieved February 3, 2009. See link below.

(5) Boy Scouts of America. (2000). See link below.

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