George Washington Cowles.

Landmarks of Wayne County, New York online

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Wavne county contains 356,513 acres of land, of which about 275, 0(H)
acres are improved.

At the time of the first settlement of this locality by white men, the
streams of the county abounded with fish. Salmon ran up Salmon
Creek and other streams in great numbers, and they added much to the
food supply of the pioneers. The land was covered with a thick forest,
principally of hard wood trees, such as oak, hickory, beech, birch and
maple, with some soft woods on the low lands. The cutting away of
these forests by the pioneers was a task of great magnitude ; but it gave
them a source of cash income at a time when there was almost no
other, through the manufacture of potash from the ashes of the burned
logs, and in later years from the timber and fire-wood. The forests
were filled with wild animals — deer, bears, wolves, all of which were


numerous, with such smaller animals as the beaver in very early years,
the raccoon, hedgehog, squirrels, etc. While the bears and wolves
were destructive of domestic animals, they with the numerous deer
furnished an ever-ready source of food to the settlers.


Indian Occupation of Western New York— Treatment of Indians by White Men —
Relation of the Indians to Wayne County — The Jesuits and their Work — Local
Operations in the War of the Revolution — Indian Remains.

The first white man who penetrated the wilderness which once
covered what is now the State of New York, found its northern and
western parts inhabited and dominated by nations of that remarkable
race of copper-colored people whom we call Indians — in reality the
native Americans. The question whence they originated is shrouded
in mystery and so must remain ; but we well know whither they are
going. Unnumbered ages hence their disappearance from the earth
may be enveloped in the deep oblivion that now hides their origin.

The detailed history of this race cannot be followed in this volume,
nor is it desirable that it should be; for it is writ upon the glowing
pages of the past by many gifted pens. As to the right or wrong of
their conquest and rapidly approaching extinction, wise men differ.
At the foundation of the question is the fact that in the world's history,
civilization must advance at whatever cost to the uncivilized; the
ignorant must go down before the educated; the weak before the
strong; might, if not always right, will triumph. If the Indians with
their undisciplined passions fired by the white man's rum, armed with
the guns placed in their hands in exchange for valuable furs at a ten-
fold profit, driven from their hunting grounds when no longer a source
of gain to the invaders — if they finally retaliated and committed bar.
barities, the record of which fills the pages of history with horror, what
else should have been expected? The fact remains that there is not an
instance on record where the natives did not receive the first visit of
the white man with hospitality and kindness. We may well, there-
fore, give a thought to what it was that produced the great change in


the attitude of the Indian towards his Caucasian superior. The former
never desired to part with his lands; and the latter stole what he could
not buy. 1 The Indians retaliated by murdering" the thieves. With
Champlain shooting with his terrorizing gunpowder upon the guileless
Iroquois in 1600 on the lake that bears his name; 2 with the sancti-
monious Jesuits beguiling the natives to secure their allegiance — and
their furs — for France; with the sagacious Dutch following Hendrick
Hudson up the great river that bears his name, within a year or two
after Champlain killed his first Indian a little farther north ; and with
the English landing on the Atlantic shores a few years later, to hood-
wink the natives out of their lands — with all this going on it is scarcely
a marvel that the gradually aroused Indians became revengful. The
correspondence of that lifelong friend of the Indians, Sir William
Johnson, with his superiors, is one long catalogue of remonstrances
against the wrongs of every kind to which the natives were subjected.
The Iroquois Indians, as they were first called by the French, known
as the Five Nations (subsequently the Six Nations) by the English,
were established across the State of New York beginning with the
Mohawks on the east, with the ( hieidas (with whom the Tuscaroras
were subsequently practically amalgamated), the Onondagas, the
Cayugas, and the Senecas next, in the order named. What is now
Erie county, and contiguous territory on the west and north, was oc-
cupied by a nation called by the French the Neuter Nation, from the
fact that they endeavored to and generally did, remain at peace with

1 As late as July. 1755, an Iroquois chief, in addressing Sir William Johnson, said:
"Brother — you desire us to unite and live together and draw all our allies near us;
but we shall have no land left either for ourselves or them, for your people when
they buy a small piece of land of us, by stealing make it large. We desire such
things may not be done, and that your people may not be suffered to buy any more
of our lands. Sometimes it is sought of two men who are not the proper owners of it.
The land which reaches down from Oswego to Schanandowana (Wyoming) we beg
may not be settled by Christians. The governor of Pennsylvania bought a whole
tract and only paid for half, and we desire that you will let him know that we will
not part with the other half, but keep it." This seems a reasonable speech for a
savage, regarding what he believed to be his own property; and even an Indian is
likely to light when he is robbed.

- The moment they saw me they halted, gazing at me and I at them. 1 raised my
arquebus, and aiming directly at one of the three chiefs, two of them fell to the
ground by this shot; one of their companions received a wound of which he died
afterwards. I had put four balls in my arquebus. The Iroquois were greatly aston-
ished seeing two men killed so instantaneously. — From Champlain 's 'Journal.


the warlike Eries, still farther west, and the Iroquois on the east, until
they were all finally subdued by the latter, long before the coming of
white men. From that time onward until the natives were conquered
by the new comers the Iroquois roamed over a large part of the country,
conquering and triumphant, lords of the soil that bore them.

As far as relates to the territory of which this work is to treat, it was
shared alike by the Cayugas in its eastern part, and by the Senecas in
the western part. "The Cayugas possessed the country between the
Onondagas and the Senecas. It was laved on the north by Lake On-
tario, and stretched southward about ninety miles. It contained all of
the county of Seneca, the easterly half of Wayne, and western parts of
Cayuga and Tompkins. Their main stations were on the east and
west sides of Cayuga Lake a little south of the outlet. Canoga, their
chief town, was on the east side of the lake. Here they had a castle." 1
The Senecas possessed the whole country to the westward indefinitely.
Among these nations of Indians came that remarkable order of
French religious enthusiasts to convert them to Catholicism and secure
their fealty to the French crown. From 1611 to towards the close of
that century, priests of that order came over to Montreal and from
there penetrated all sections of what is now Northern and Central New
York, enduring almost unparalleled privations and often suffering death
in the cause. They were the discoverers of the Onondaga Salt Springs
and taught the natives how to boil the water to obtain the coveted
article. In some instances they appear to have made religious impres-
sions upon the Indians, but with little permanent results toward civiliz-
ing them. With La Salle, in 1669, came two of the Jesuit missionaries,
De Casson and De Galinee. The party landed on the 10th of August
at the mouth of Irondequoit Bay. Father Chaumonot, who labored
among the Onondagas, had been in this region thirteen years earlier.
In November, 1668, the Senecas sent to Montreal a request that a
mission be established among them. Father Fremin came on promptly
and found a pestilence raging among the nation, and called Father
Gamier from the Onondagas to his aid. Fremin established himself in
what is now Ontario county four miles southeast from Victor, and there
founded the Mission of St. Michael. He labored there until 1671, while
Gamier founded the Mission of St. James, also in what is now Victor,
and remained until 1683.

1 History of the State of New York, James Macauley, 1829, Vol. II, p. 300.


It is not known that the Jesuits had a mission or a station in what is
now Wayne county. It is extremely probable that they did not. But
it is just as probable that their boats often landed on the shores of
Sodus Bay, and possibly at other points along the present shore line of
the county. With the decline of the French power and its final extinc-
tion, the Jesuits were driven from the country, and were succeeded
throughout the State by English missionaries, chief among whom was
the Rev. Samuel Kirkland, who labored long among the Senecas and
Cayugas. But it cannot be said that all the religious labor and sacri-
fice that has been expended upon the Indians of the country has accom-
plished much good. The Indian had his religion and his deity, the
"Great Spirit," and it has been easier for the white man to exterminate,
than to convert him.

As far as relates to the immediate territory of which this work treats,
it almost or quite wholly escaped the effects of the wars which at
various times during more than one hundred and fifty years, were pros-
ecuted between the French, the English and the Indians. Here the
Senecas and the Cayugas trod the deep forest in quest of game, or
followed the trails to and from the great lake; but as far as known no
conflict occurred in this immediate region. While the Mohawks and
other eastern nations of the Iroquious were, as a rule, loyal to the
English, or neutral, in the long struggle with France, the power of the
French constantly increased for many years among the Senecas; but in
spite of this the French never obtained a firm foothold in what is now
New York State. The English arms, allied with the greater part of
the Iroquois, prevented such a result. With equal facility had France,
England, and Spain as well, parceled out vast provinces in the new
world. The French established a fortified trading post on the Niagara
River in 1683—4, but it was captured for the English under Sir William
Johnson in 1759, and surrendered to the United States in 1796, several
years after the close of the Revolutionary War. In 1729 a trading post
was built on the site of Oswego, under the administration of the colo-
nial government of New York, and five years later it was strengthened
into a considerable fortification. The place was captured by the French
in 1750, and destroyed. The works were rebuilt in 1758 by the English,
and continued in their possession until 1799. Bloody wars continued
until the final extinction of French power in 1763. There was strife
from the beginning to gain the fealty of the Indians. They were not
only extremely useful as fighters for either power, but their friendship


was equally desirable for purposes of trade. (Of course they were
regularly swindled by either party towards which they leaned. )

When the Revolutionary War broke out and England was to be
taught that there were some small portions of the earth whose people
would not submit to practical slavery, the provincials held a council
with chiefs of the Six Nations at German Flats (now in Herkimer county)
and secured from the Indians a promise that they would remain neutral
through that struggle. But through the influence of the Johnsons and
other prominent tories the Iroquois, with the exception of the Oneidas
and Tuscaroras, violated their pledge and adhered to the English
cause through the war. The barbarities of the tories and Indians in
the Mohawk Valley and elsewhere in this State, are too familiar to need
attention here. To punish the Indians, and especially the Senecas,
and to capture Fort Niagara, Sullivan's expedition was organized in
1779. Under that general a large force met the enemy near the site
of Elmira and defeated them with great loss. Thence northward
through the country of the Senecas the victorious Americans marched,
destroying villages by the score and all other property belonging to the
natives. Although not many of the Senecas were killed after the first
battle, they were thoroughly humbled and frightened into submission.
Abandoning from that time their villages east of the Genesee River,
they settled down near Geneseo, Mount Morris and other points in
Western New York.

Indian relics and remains have been found in various parts of Central
and Western New York, many of them merely indicating the former
presence of the natives, while others of more permanent character,
point to a very remote period of antiquity and to the possession of
characteristics by their former owners differing in considerable degree
from those of the Indians with whom the white men first became
familiar. An account of these remains would be out of place in these
pages, and the reader is referred to the various works on that and
allied subjects which are to be found in every library. As far as relates
to the territory of Wayne county, nothing has been found to lead
to the belief that it was more than a part of the transient huntino-
grounds of the Cayugas and the Senecas, or that it was ever the site of
a permanent Indian village.



Early Conditions in Western New York — Sketches of the "Genesee Country" and
the Phelps and Gorham Purchase — The Pre-emption Lines — Organization of Com-
panies to Secure Lands in Western New York— A Very Extensive "Mill Yard"— The
Morris Reserve— The Military Tract as Related to Wayne County.

As we have before pointed out, the larger part of what is now Wayne
county, formerly constituted the northeastern corner of the great
county of Ontario ; while the larger part of the remainder of the
county's territory lay in the northwest corner of the military tract.
The territory of the county also formed a small part of that compara-
tively vast and largely undefined section of the State long popularly
known as "The Genesee Country," celebrated alike for its beauty and
its fertility. Moreover, that part of the present county west of the
new pre-emption line (see outline map) was the northeastern corner of
the great Phelps and Gorham purchase. A brief description of these
several divisions becomes pertinent to our purpose.

Previous to the Revolution little was known in Eastern New York
and New England, of the western part of the State. During the
twenty-four years while it was in possession of the English, communi-
cation had been kept open between western posts and the east by
water via Niagara and Oswego. Through this channel and, possibly,
from reports of the missionary, Samuel Kirkland, some slight knowl-
edge of the afterwards famous locality reached eastward.

Sullivan's campaign in 1779, directly into the heart of the Genesee
country, gave it a wider fame. There were many soldiers and officers
in his army who were eagerly watching for a desirable locality in which
to settle when their services in the field were ended; and they were
quick to discover the attractions of Central New York. "Returning
to the firesides of Eastern New York and New England, they relieved
the dark picture of retaliatory warfare — the route, the fighting,
smouldering cabins, pillage and spoliation — with the lighter shades —
descriptions of the lakes and rivers, the rolling uplands and rich val-


leys — the Canaan of the wilderness they had seen." 1 Less than four
years after Sullivan's expedition, the war closed and the restive and
ambitious American spirit began its westward progress.

In the rather reckless division and gathering of the new world by
European powers before their claims to it were fully established, the
English king granted to the Massachusetts Colony a section of territory
larger, propably, than his entire landed possessions, the boundaries of
which grant neither he nor the colonists were then able to define. In
brief, the territory chartered extended from the southern bounds of
the colony to the northern, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean;
but what the distance was between the two oceans no one then knew.
To further complicate the situation, the king afterwards chartered to
New York a section of the same territory previously granted to Mas-
sachusetts. When the Revolutionary War ended and it became there-
by wholly unimportant to the English monarch what should be the
destiny of the country which he had claimed, abused, and lost, the
thrifty Massachusetts colonists urged the validity of their rights as
against New York; but a compromise was effected by a Board of Com-
missioners on the 16th of December, 1786, which gave to New York
the sovereignty of all the disputed territory within her chartered limits,
at the same time giving Massachusetts title in the soil, or the right to
buy the soil from the Indians, who were then in actual possession (the
pre-emption right), embracing all the territory lying west of a line be-
ginning at a point in the north line of the State of Pennsylvania, eighty-
two miles west from the northeast corner of that State, and running
due north through Seneca Lake, and on the north to Lake Ontario,
excepting a strip one mile wide along Niagara River. Massachusetts
was given also the pre-emption right to a tract of 230,400 acres between
the Owego and the Chenango Rivers; this was equal to ten townships,
each six miles square, and became known as "The Massachusetts Ten
Towns." The north and south line above mentioned was nearly identi-
cal with the east lines of Steuben and Ontario counties, and its north-
ern continuation is shown on the outline map herein as "The Old Pre-
emption Line. " The following account of the two ' 'pre-emption lines, "
shown on the accompanying map, we transcribe from Turner's Phelps
and Gorham's Purchase:

Of course it was mere conjecture where this pre-emption line would fall as far
north as Seneca Lake, and parties were interested to have the line fall west of

1 Turner.



Geneva, leaving that place and a considerable tract of land between the military
tract and the Massachusetts lands. Seth Reed and Peter Ryckman, both of whom
had been Indian traders, applied to the State of New York for remuneration for ser-
vices rendered in some previous negotiations, with the eastern portion of the Six
Nations, and proposed to take a patent for a tract the boundaries of which should be-
gin at a tree on the bank of Seneca Lake and run along the bank of the lake to the
south until they should have 16,000 acres between the lake and the east bounds of
the lands ceded to Massachusetts. Their request was acceded to and a patent issued.
Thus situated they proposed to Messrs. Phelps and Gorham to join them in running
the pre-emption line, each party furnishing a surveyor. The line was run which is
known as the old pre-emption line. Messrs. Phelps and Gorham were much disap-
pointed in the result — suspected error or fraud, but made no movement to a resurvey
before they had sold to the English association. Their suspicions had at first been
excited by an offer from a prominent member of the lessee company for "all the
lands they owned east of the line that had been run." They were so well assured of
the fact that in their deed to Mr. Morris they specified a tract in a gore between the
line then run, and the west bounds of the counties of Montgomery and Tioga, those
counties then embracing all of the military tract. Being fully convinced of the inac-
curacy of the first survey, Morris, in his sale to the English company, agreed to run
it anew. They new survey was performed under the superintendence of Major
Hoops, who employed Andrew Ellicott and Augustus Porter to perform the labor.
A corps of axe-men were employed, and a vista thirty feet wide opened before the
transit instrument until the line had reached the head of Seneca Lake, when night
signals were employed to run down and over the lake. So much pains were taken
to insure correctness that the survey was never disputed ; and thus the "new pre-
emption line" was established as the true division line between the lands of the State
of New York and those that had been ceded to Massachusetts. . . . The old pre-
emption line terminated on Lake Ontario, three miles west of Sodus Bay, and the
new line very near the center of the head of the bay. . . . The strip of land be-
tween the two lines was called "The Gore." In addition to the patent granted to
Reed and Ryckman, the State had presumed the original survey to be correct, and
made other grants, and allowed the location of military land warrants upon what had
been made disputed territory. As an equivalent to the purchasers of this tract, com-
pensation lands were granted by the State in the present towns of Wolcott and
Galen, in Wayne county.

The foregoing- interesting description of the two pre-emption
lines has taken us a little out of the chronological order of events.
Previous to the establishment of the second pre-emption line, a com-
bination, or a syndicate, as it would now be termed, was formed
in New York and Canada to obtain control of the Indian lands
in this State. Two companies were organized — "The New York and
and Genesee Land Company," of which John Livingston was manager;
and the "Niagara Genesee Company," composed chiefly of Canadians,
with Col. John Butler at his head. As the State Constitution forbade



the sale of Indian lands to individuals, these companies, working- in
harmony, sought to evade the provision by a lease. So great was the
influence of Butler and his friends that in 1787 representatives of the
Indians gave the New York and Genesee Company a lease of all their
lands (excepting some small reservations) for a period of 999 years.
The consideration was $20,000 and an annual rental of $2,000. Who
can say what would have been the effect of this stupendous deal, if it
had been consummated! But when the lessees applied to the Legis-
lature in the following winter for recognition of their lease, it was
promptly declared void. The next scheme of these magnanimous pro-
moters of early settlements in the Genesee country was to procure a
conveyance by the Indians of all their lands in the State, provided the
State would reimburse Livingston and his comrades for all their
expenses, and convey to them one-half of all the land! As an example
of unblushing business impudence, this proposition stands unrivaled,
for by it Livingston, Butler and company would have secured a prac-
tically free gift of four or five million acres of the best land in America!
The proposition was promptly rejected.

Oliver Phelps was a native of Windsor, Connecticut, and had been a
contractor in the Revolutionary Army. He was a man of prominence
and ability, and from Major Adam Hoops, who had been one of General
Sullivan's aids, learned of the prospective value of the Genesee country.
He determined to secure an interest in the lands over which Massa-
chusetts held the right of pre-emption ; but before he matured his
plans, Nathaniel Gorham had made proposals to the Legislature for the
purchase of a portion of the Genesee lands. The two men met and
after a conference, Mr. Gorham joined with Mr. Phelps and a few
others to consummate the desired purchase. The first proposal was
made in 1787 for the purchase of 1,000,000 acres, at one and sixpence
currency per acre. The Senate refused to concur in the sale, and the
matter was postponed until the session of 1788. Other persons had
taken steps to secure tracts, and a compromise was therefore made
admitting all such to the association, with Messrs. Phelps and Gorham
as representatives. They made proposals for all the lands embraced
in the cession to Massachusetts, which were accepted, the consideration
being $1,000,000, payment to be made in a sort of scrip issued by
Massachusetts and called "Consolidated Securities," which were worth
at the time of the sale about fifty cents on the dollar. As this sale was,
of course, made subject to the Indian rights, Phelps arranged with

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