Chief Tuccamirgan: a legacy of friendship


Jordan Oldenburg

The monument dedicated to Chief Tuccamirgan as it stands today on Bonnel Street in Flemington

Jordan Oldenburg, The Delphi Staff

Long before Hunterdon County was settled by Europeans, the tribe of the Delaware Native Americans roamed and cared for Hunterdon’s land. Today, our community still embraces the culture and friendship that was shared centuries ago by a Delaware tribe Chief and an early settler of Flemington, NJ. 

In March of 1738, near what is now Mine Brook in Flemington, a German settler named John Phillip Case (anglicized from Johan Kaes) settled a tract of land which ran along what was then Tuccaminjah Creek. Not far from that land up the stream was the encampment of Chief Tuccamirgan’s tribe of Delaware Native Americans. 

In the 18th century, immigrating from a foreign country to the rural countryside of Hunterdon and building a life from the ground up was no simple feat. However, John Phillip Case was in luck; the benevolent chief and his tribe were the first to befriend and help the family. 

In March of 1738, Chief Tuccamirgan and his tribe assisted Case in building a sturdy log cabin home for him and his family. They protected the Cases from the dangers of the wilderness and showed them how to live off the land.

As time went on, the Delaware Chief and Case’s bond became stronger. The Cases had many young children, and the Delaware Chief and his wife, having none of their own, would frequently “borrow” some of the Case children. They would bring the children back to their wigwam up the creek, taking good care of them and spending the whole day together. They would then return the Case children to their father at the end of the day. 

It is also believed that Chief Tuccamirgan carved a crib out of a tree and gifted it to John Phillip Case to use for one of his babies. The Chief and his wife found great joy in the Case children, and they gladly spent their days babysitting and becoming second parents to the Case children. 

The friendship Tuccamirgan and Case shared was an unbreakable bond. The Chief referred to John as his “blue brother,” and together they would smoke “the pipe of peace” over the course of their friendship. The ancient pipe bowl that accompanied Tuccamirgan’s pipe, an artifact which was already hundreds of years old at the time, was gifted to John as a sign of their friendship. It was passed down in the Case family until it was donated to the Hunterdon County Historical Society in 1925. 

While nearing his death in 1750, Chief Tuccamirgan requested to never be parted from his best friend and to live in the afterlife as he had lived with the Cases: peacefully and together. Thus, John Phillip Case had the Chief buried on his land, in the first grave of what would then become the Case Burying Ground. 

Chief Tuccamirgan was buried with his hunting tools in a deep grave, sitting upright, facing the east. On the night of his funeral, there was a ceremony in which his tribe, family and friends sang and danced around a great fire until morning. 

In October of 1925, the locals of Flemington gathered for a ceremony in the Case Family Burying Ground, in which a marble monument dedicated to Chief Tuccamirgan was erected. The monument can still be seen standing proudly in the small cemetery on Bonnell Street today. 

Chief Tuccamirgan did not just leave behind a name for Flemington’s parks and roads. Over 250 years ago, he gave life and an unshakeable friendship to a family of settlers, and thus left behind a legacy of harmony and respect. Chief Tuccamirgan’s peaceful spirit of friendship is still very much alive today, and it is continually embraced by the community of both old and new residents of Hunterdon County.