Portrait of Indian Hannah

Portrait of Indian Hannah
Oil on Canvas
66 x 48 inches

For inquiries, please contact the artist at info@adrianmartinez.com or call 484-273-8352.

Portrait of Indian Hannah

In this painting Indian Hannah is imagined at the end of her life, under a full moon, preparing what she knows will be one of her last ritual acts of reverence in her family’s graveyard, located on Abraham Marshall’s farm in a stand of ancient trees. Pictured immediately behind her, the last, great hemlock tree marking the graveyard has finally fallen. Around this “mother” tree, Hannah has gathered all of the branches that in the past would have been the mother tree’s children (and future Lenape) living where they always have and doing what they always did.

Hannah sits, completely absorbed in her purpose. Old flint arrowheads and knives are arranged on her dress. The arrowheads, mysterious and magical remnants of her peoples’ past, are to her, talismans, not the utilitarian bits of stone her ancestors crafted long ago. She prepares to make a sacred fire using a steel trade knife and an old flint spear point. As this fire consumes the tree and branches, all her tribe ever were or ever could be will be burned to ashes. Her figure is also seen in the distance, in the moonlight, walking to her makeshift bed in Humphry Marshall’s barn. She has been summoned to appear on the county courthouse steps the next morning. Her lifetime friend, Moses Marshall, Chester County Justice of the Peace, will officially take down her life story in preparation for her induction into the county poorhouse the following year. This is required by law to prove that she is a Chester County pauper and not some wandering indigent.

BRIEF HISTORY OF HANNAH FREEMAN

Hannah Freeman (we do not know her tribal name) was born in a cabin in Chester County sometime between 1720 and 1730. While her neighbors called her “Indian Hannah,” she referred to herself as Hannah Freeman. She was a member of the Lenape (Delaware) tribe, but by the time she was born, most of her people had already left the Brandywine Valley. Except for a seven-year period when she and her family were forced to flee the area due to the violent reprisals on all Indians after the French and Indian War, most of her life seems to have been spent quietly on the margins of the Quaker community in the Marshalltown area.

Growing up in what was already a hybrid culture, Hannah was raised by her mother, Sarah, and several aunts. Their primary source of income was as migrant farm labor for the local Quaker landowners which put them in a class of people that could have been legally described as vagabonds when harvest was over. The Marshalls and other locals also employed Hannah and her family as spinners, weavers, and at various other seasonal tasks, often providing living quarters along with the work. In the midst of these menial occupations, Hannah was occasionally sent for as a healer by the local community, who respected her skills. Native lore concerning medicinal plants, their preparation and uses was traditionally passed down through the female line by generations of tribal medicine women, and in her youth, Hannah was apparently singled out to receive this precious knowledge.

From the perspective of the Quaker/Anglo culture surrounding her, Hannah Freeman lived a conventional, if rather mean, material existence. She had odd jobs, planted small patches of corn, squash, and beans and raised a few pigs and cows. Though she is typical of the numerous people struggling to get by in the backcountry, Hannah Freeman saw herself as a person very much apart. Clinging to her seasonal rounds and other “heathenish” rituals, Hannah was described by a contemporary as grandly traveling along their roads as though she “was the queen of the whole neighborhood.” She seemed to be aware of a profound responsibility to her people – past, present and future – as a “place holder.” This proud sense of self-worth, regardless of how absurd it may have appeared to the whites, revealed a commitment to the belief that, despite everything, one day her people would return to the Brandywine River Valley.

Into the West

Into the West
Oil on Canvas
48 x 66 inches

For inquiries, please contact the artist at info@adrianmartinez.com or call 484-273-8352.

Into the West

In this painting Humphry Marshall stands on the edge of a precipice, looking out at the rugged beauty of the landscape as he devises a plan to explore the vast, untapped potential of the American wilderness. In the mid-1700s, America was dependent on many imported plants. Believing that the natural resources of the American continent could replace and even improve upon these imports, Humphry began to plan the details of an ambitious expedition that could benefit his fledging country.

Practical Quaker businessman that he was, Marshall contacted friends and acquaintances who had the influence and money to make his dream a reality. To populate his botanical garden, Humphry Marshall or his agents had made many collecting trips throughout the colonies. Moses, who had begun to work for his uncle full time, had been on an arduous months-long journey to Pittsburgh, begun in the summer of 1784, and had recently returned. Humphry approached Moses and his cousin William Bartram (who was a botanist and a highly skilled illustrator of plants and animals) with the idea of travelling even further west. Moses felt that ventures to even less inhabited areas would require greater planning and a sponsor. Humphry tried to drum up interest by contacting the American Philosophical Society through the help of his friend, Thomas Parke.

Humphry saw another opportunity in 1785 when his friend Benjamin Franklin was elected the President of Pennsylvania (equivalent to the Royal Governor). Franklin apparently was not receptive. Humphry then wrote to his friend Dr. John Coakley Lettsom, an English physician and philanthropist, who was interested in the potential of this trip. He also wrote to Joseph Banks, the president of the Royal Society of London, saying the trip would succeed if “met with proper encouragement.” In spite of these determined efforts, nothing materialized.

In May of 1792, Humphry Marshall received a letter from Dr. Caspar Wistar, a Quaker physician from Philadelphia, who asked if his nephew was interested in travelling west of the Mississippi since Thomas Jefferson and others were sponsoring a trip. Moses did not take advantage of the opportunity. Why he chose not to go is unknown, although the short lead time and his uncle’s failing eyesight may have influenced his decision.

We do know that Thomas Jefferson remained interested in funding a large expedition to the west. Twelve years later, as President of the United States, he commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the newly acquired territory of the Louisiana Purchase and to map a route across the western half of the continent. Lewis was the naturalist and he was tasked with studying, collecting and documenting the flora and fauna along the way. Sadly, Humphry Marshall did not live long enough to see his dream realized.