The Common was laid out by the Dutch government in colonial New Amsterdam as pasture land, located adjacent to the freshwater Collect Pond. Later the Commons became as site for the African burial ground, parading troops, public gatherings, and celebrations and executions. The Leni Lenape, American Indians, once dwelled here at the village of Werpoes. Occasionally, you can hear their ghostly war whoops and reports of Indian chiefs seen on the former commons.
Werpoes (perhaps from wapus, a hare) was a native village located on the line of Elm Street, between Duane Street and Worth Street north of City Hall Park and south of Collect Pond. It was the largest Amerindian village on Manhattan Island.
The Lenape believed in one God only, but under him there are manëtuwàk these are “lesser spirits,” and they have various roles to fill. They may not have been the same as the white man’s angels, but perhaps somewhat similar or they could have been ghostly spirits. If a manëtuwàk was observed, a shaman would be called in to calm the spirit to make it go away.
When the N and R subway lines were being constructed beneath the City Hall of New York during World War I, the workmen began to hear strange noises at night. They eventually realized it was the moans of people dying but they did not understand what was being said. Then one of the construction workers, a member of the Leni Lenape Indian people that once inhabited Manhattan Island before the arrival of the Dutch, understood what being said. He explained that there had been a battle at this location. The losers, never receiving proper burial, were meandering through the spirit world in a kind of Indian version of Purgatory. He called in a witch doctor of his people who put the spirits at rest by conducting a memorial service.