TAFTON - A Native American chief who worked many years at the long-time Camp Lenape on Fairview Lake, was hailed as a hero in the summer of 1947, when he came to the aid of a stranded ambulance crew and patient.

TAFTON - A Native American chief who worked many years at the long-time Camp Lenape on Fairview Lake, was hailed as a hero in the summer of 1947, when he came to the aid of a stranded ambulance crew and patient.
He was referred to as Chief Oneko, who was described as either a member of the Mohican tribe of upstate New York, or of the Mohegan tribe, which is based in Connecticut. More about this question is covered later.
Camp Lenape was a boys’ summer camp on Fairview Lake, Palmyra Township, Pike County, that operated from 1920 to 1993.

Stranded ambulance
 
“INDIAN RESCUES STRANDED AMBULANCE,” was the headline in The Hawley Times, August 14th edition.
On Thursday, August, 1947, an ambulance carrying a patient broke down in the vicinity of Fairview Lake. A passing motorist, identified as Chief Oneko, came by and saved the day. Oneko used his vehicle to push the occupied ambulance six miles to Hawley, where it was quickly repaired. The ambulance then proceeded to the hospital in Honesdale.
We’d like to know how the patient made out but no more was reported. Also not told is what ambulance company was involved. Tafton Fire Company added an ambulance service in the 1950’s. Hawley undertaker Richard A. Teeter, operated a hearse that doubled as an ambulance; another question is if this would have been an option, to transfer the patient in Hawley to Teeter’s vehicle- or was it Teeter’s ambulance that had broken down?
In the ensuing excitement, The Hawley Times writer added, Chief Oneko’s “only companion,” a jet black setter named Wimpy disappeared. Not until the Monday following was any clue revealed as to where the dog went.
That day, various Hawley residents, including the barber Tom Slaier and undertaker Teeter, phoned the chief about an unapproachable black dog roaming the streets of Hawley. “On his second trip to town, the worried Oneko and the hungry Wimpy affected a joyous reunion on the hill at the top of Main Street,” the newspaper said.
Oneko expressed thanks to the Hawley Chief of Police and his many friends who kept an eye out for the dog.
 
About Chief Oneko
 
Chief Oneko was well known in the Hawley neighborhood, having been at Camp Lenape since 1926. At Hawley’s week-long Centennial observance in 1927, he addressed the citizens of Hawley from a stand in the middle of Main Avenue.
At the time of the incident in 1947, he was spending summers as Head Counselor at Camp Lenape. Chief Oneko was a teacher at the Indian School at Albuquerque, New Mexico. The school opened in 1881 as an off-reservation school to teach Native American children English and vocational trades. It was run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The school closed in 1982.
Indian Lodge at Fairview Lake is named after him and several other Indians who had camped nearby. Camp Oneka for girls is named after a New England ancestor of his, according to The Hawley Times.
A picture of Chief Oneko next to a campfire was published in The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1927. The caption states that he is said to be “the last living descendant of the Mohican tribe.” He was pictured on the occasion of an Indian pageant presented on “Pocono Bluff in the Pocono Mountains.”
An Inquirer story in 1930 referred to James Fenimore Cooper’s blockbuster movie, “The Last of the Mohicans.” It states that Cooper apparently did not know everything about Indians after all, since Chief Oneko, a counselor at a boys’ camp in the Poconos, insisted he is a direct living relative of the chief that perished so dramatically in Cooper’s story.
The article in The Hawley Times in 1947, however listed him as a Mohegan. A check with the website of the Connecticut-based Mohegan Tribe lists no chief by that name in their historic timeline. In fact, the Mohegan tribal chief at that period was Chief Burrill Fielding (Matahga), who served from 1937 through 1952.
One potential clue that he may in fact have been Mohegan is his name, “Oneko.” There is a village in eastern Connecticut named Oneko. The village is named after Owaneco, son of the Mohegan Indian sachem Uncas, who claimed large tract of land in that region during colonial times.
Whether “Chief” Oneco’s title carried any tribal recognition has not been learned; a message was left with a tribal spokesperson for information.
More details about Chief Oneko’s life have so far not been found by this writer.
 
Camp Lenape
 
Camp Lenape for Boys was established in 1920. The camp was to be a “brother camp” for Camp Oneka, which started in 1908. The girls’ camp continues along the eastern side of Fairview Lake shore off Route 390. Camp Lenape was established on the north shore, off Ridge Road/Hemlock Point Road.
Mrs. Ernest Sipple, who was behind Camp Oneka, bought the site for Camp Lenape from a Mr. Smith, who ran a small hotel. Ernie Noone, her son, was to run the new boys’ camp. Noone was in medical school, and chose Ed Keene to be his partner in running Camp Lenape. About a year later, Jim Keiser bought the camp.
The Smith hotel became the main building of the camp and was called the Green Monster. It included the dining room, kitchen, offices, infirmary, first aid, bedrooms, bathrooms and storage space. The stable and carriage house became an assembly place for campers known as the Wigwam.
Other improvements included three rows of log cabins, archery and rifle ranges, three tennis courts, baseball field, basketball court and riding circle to earn to ride horseback. Wild West Shows were held. The Nature den was the place to make crafts, ceramics, lather item and baskets.
Once Lake Wallenpaupack was created in 1926, Camp Lenape boys were taken there for three-day canoe trips. They had an aquaplane, row boats and sailboats. Swimming was an important part of camp life.
Numerous other Native Americans visited the camp to present and teach about Native culture and life virtues.
In 1945, Keeling Inn, which was next door, was purchased and renamed as Indian Lodge. It featured 28 bedrooms.
In 1963, Denis and Ann Kiely bought Camp Lenape from Marge and David Keiser, the Keilys’ daughter, Tara Winagle, recalled. They had bought the property next to the camp the year before.
The Kielys started a girls’ camp, known as Blue Sky. Tara said this was because they had two daughters, the camp nurse had two daughters and the head counselor had three daughters.  
Tara recalled that they were fortunate to have Al Douglas on staff, who was known as Chief Thunderpony, and his brother White Eagle. Douglas lived in the area and was a teacher at Wallenpaupack; he ran American Indian programs at the schools.
They also built a new dining hall in 1967 when the “old hotel” burned down. Over the years they added cabins and improved the grounds.  Tara said that the camps served ages 6 to 15; numbers varied but they would often have between 100 and 200 campers.
“My dad was the director and my mom was in the camp office. My brother and two sisters and I all grew up attending camp and then working with kids at various activities,” Tara said. “My parents were the owners until it closed after the summer of 1993.”
Parcels of the camp property were sold to former campers as well as Tara and her siblings have a piece of property. She said they built a home there and she lives there full time.
The main dining hall piece was sold to a resident of the Fairview lake community.
A closed Facebook group page exists for Camp Lenape and Blue Sky Camp.

Main Sources:
The Hawley Times
Wallenpaupack Historical Society
National Indian Programs Training Center, Albuquerque, NM
Vintage newspapers found at Fultonhistory.com
Sterlingct.us (website for the Town of Sterling, CT, where Oneko is found.)
Mohegan.nsn.us (official website for the Mohegan Tribe)