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ber of the most distinguished gentlemen of the county
were present, together with the few gray-headed
pioneers, who still lingered in the land. Nearly all the
company were the personal friends of Judge Forman,
many of them having been sharers or attentive observ-
ers of his early and patriotic public efforts, for the
social, mental and moral improvement of this county.
Few indeed are the instances, where an individual,
mantled in the hoary locks of age, after an absence of
twenty years, returns to the scenes of his primitive
usefulness, with so many demonstrations, on the part
of friends and former neighbors, of joy and thankful-
ness, as in the one before us. It was also a season of
peculiar gratification to him. Here he beheld the
results of his labors in early active manhood. Here
he beheld the progress of a thriving town founded by
his fostering hand. Here he received the warm greet-
ings of the friends of his early life, and here he met
with them, to bid them a kind, affectionate and last
adieu.

Moses D. Burnet presided on this very interesting
occasion. A formal address of congratulation, on
account of the great success of his early labors, and
the remarkable fulfillment of his hopes and predic-
tions, was made by the Hon. Harvey Baldwin, which
was replied to, in behalf of Judge Forman, (he being



330 THE FOUNDER OP SYRACUSE

unable to articulate distinctly, on account of a paralitic
shock,) by his son-in-law, E. W. Leavenworth.

General Amos P. Granger, Hon. George Gecldes,
Lewis H. Redfield, and several other gentlemen of
note, addressed the party in a very felicitous manner.

The proceedings of this very interesting meeting
may be found in the Onondaga Democrat of the 3rd
of October, 184(3, and other city papers of that date.

From Syracuse, Judge Forman retired to his moun-
tain home, in the milder climes of the sunny South,
carrying with him the most vivid recollections of the
kindness and hospitality of his friends ; looking back
upon a well spent life, much of which was devoted to
the service of his country, without regret ; and forward,
without a fear to the hour when he will be called
away from the scenes of society and earth.

Judge Forman is still living, (1849,) at his home in
North Carolina, having bid adieu to the cares and
business occupations of life.

The character of this distinguished man may be
summed up in a very few words. His mind was of no
ordinary cast, and whether we view him as a fellow-
citizen, a neighbor, a legislator, a jurist, a judge, or as
a man, we find nothing that we cannot respect and
admire. Full of life and energy himself, he infused
with uncommon facility the same spirit into others,
and wherever he was found, in him was the master
spirit of every plan. He possessed a mind of uncom-



HIS CHARACTER 331

mon activity, never wearying with the multiplicity of
his labors and cares; it was stored with an unusual
variety of knowledge, extending far beyond the
boundaries of his professional pursuits, and he pos-
sessed a rare felicity in the communication of this
knowledge to others. This fund of solid and general
information, upon every variety of topic, and his
forcible and happy manner of communication, joined
with the most social and cheerful disposition, rendered
him on all occasions a most agreeable and interesting-
gentleman in conversation, and the delight of every
circle in which he moved. He greatly excelled in the
clear perceptions of the results of proposed measures
of public improvement, and in a capacity to present
them forcibly to others, carrying along with him
individuals, communities and public assemblies, by
his easy flowing language, and a manner at once most
clear, captivating and persuasive. His whole life was
characterized by the most public spirited efforts for
the general good, and the most disinterested benevo-
lence, — always comparatively forgetful of his own
private interest, in his zeal for the accomplishment of
works of public utility. Through the long period of
his stirring and eventful life, he sustained a character
without stain and without reproach, and now standing
on the borders of the grave, is most justly entitled to
the admiration and gratitude of his countrymen.
It was the happiness of the author, in his youthful



332 THE FOUNDER OF SYRACUSE

days, to spend several months in the family of Judge
Forman, at Onondaga Hollow, and he takes pleasure
in this opportunity of testifying to his domestic virtues
and private worth.

[The remains of Joshua Forman were removed
from Rutherfordton, North Carolina, and placed in
Oakwood cemetery in Syracuse. The records kept at
this cemetery show that these remains were placed in
the lot of General Elias W. Leavenworth, May — 1875.
General Leavenworth's first wife was Miss Mary E.
Forman, daughter of Judge Forman. This lot is a
beautiful one, finely located, and the grave is marked
by a handsome marble slab. On the monument, about
which there is a stone canopy, there is written this
inscription : " Joshua Forman. Founder of the city
of Syracuse, Author of the Safety Fund Banking law
of this State, the first person who offered a resolution
in the Legislature and procured an appropriation for
the construction of the Erie canal. He was born at
Pleasant Valley, in the county of Duchess, N. Y., on
the 6th day of September, 1777, and died at Ruther-
fordton, N. C, on the -1th day of August, 18-10."]



CHAPTER XXII



THE LEGEND OF HIAWATHA



The legend of Hiawatha, which gives the traditional
account of the confederacy of the Iroquois Indians,
the most powerful of all the Indian nations in the
United States, has become of great importance,
especially to the citizens of Syracuse and Onondaga
county, where the legend originated, because Long-
fellow has immortalized it in his beautiful " Song of
Hiawatha." Longfellow gave credit to Mr. School-
craft for this Indian tradition; and he adds: "The
scene of the poem is among the Ojibways on the
southern shore of Lake Superior, in the region between
the Pictured Rocks and the Grand Sable." Of course,
Longfellow, as a poet, could locate the scene of his
poem wherever his fancy lead him ; but Schoolcraft,
as an historian, properly located the scene on the
banks of Onondaga lake. Schoolcraft called his
legend: "Hiawatha, or the Origin of the Onondaga
Council-Fire, an Iroquois Tradition ; " and he states
that his information was " derived from the verbal

(333)



334 THE LEGEND OF HIAWATHA

narrations of the late Abraham LeFort, an Onondaga
Chief, who was a graduate, it is believed, of Geneva
college."

The Rev. William M. Beauchamp of Baldwinsville,
New York, justly regarded as good authority on the
history of the Iroquois Indians, in an article published
in the Journal of American Folk- Lore, in 1891, says:
" In any form the tale has been known to the whites
less than fifty years, and the Onondaga version first
had publicity through Mr. J. V. H. Clark, in a
communication to the New York Commercial Adver-
tiser. He obtained it from two Onondaga chiefs.
Schoolcraft used these notes before they were included
in Clark's history, and afterwards appropriated the
name for his Western Indian legends, where it had no
proper place. About the same, time Mr. Alfred B.
Street had a few original notes from other Iroquois
sources which he used in his metrical romance of
" Frontenac," along with some from Schoolcraft.
Thus, when Longfellow's "Hiawatha" appeared, I
was prepared to greet an old friend, and surprised at
being introduced to an Ojibway instead of an Iroquois
leader. The change, however, gave a broader field
for his beautiful poem, a gain to all readers, but as he
retained little beyond the name it may be needless to
refer to that charming work.

"Viewed philosophically, all the legends of
Hiawatha may have been useful to the Iroquois, as



AN ONONDAGA TRADITION 335

harmonizing with, and strengthening the best features
of their character in recent days. As a divine man,
coming to earth expressly to relieve human distress,
he presented a strong contrast to Agreskoue, in honor
of whom they feasted on human flesh, when first
known to the whites. Had such a tradition existed,
however, when the French missionaries entered their
land, it would have been produced to show that their
teaching was nothing new. As a mere man, suffering
injuries patiently, steadily keeping in view one great
and beneficient purpose, not only forgiving but
bringing to high honor the man who had injured him
most, he also taught an important lesson, but this
was learned from no Indian sage. This ideal came
from those white men who spoke of a better life."

From " Clark's Onondaga," it is learned that these
distinguished Indian nations were called by the French
" Iroquois," by the English " The Confederates " or
"Five Nations," by the Dutch "Maquas," and by
themselves "Mingoes;" meaning by all "United
People." Their territory proper, extended from
Hudson's river on the east to the Niagara on the
west ; from lake Ontario on the north to the Allegha-
nies on the south. When it was that these five Indian
nations, composed of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onon-
dagas, Cayugas and Senecas, formed their famous
confederacy is a matter of conjecture. The Onondagas
were considered the third nation. They became, from



336 THE LEC4END OF HIAWATHA

their central position and numbers, their strength of
mind, skill in diplomacy and warlike bearing, the head
or leading nation of the confederates. The grand
council-fire of the union was usually kept with them.
They kept the key of the great council house of the
Five Nations; the Mohawks holding the door on the
east, as did the Senecas on the west. No business of
importance, touching the interests of the Five Nations,
was transacted elsewhere but at Onondaga. This
nation is divided into eight several tribes or clans,
called by themselves, the Wolf, the Bear, the Beaver
and the Tortoise. These are called superior clans, and
from these may be selected the chiefs of the nation.
The inferior clans are the Deer, the Eagle, the Heron
and the Eel; from which civil chiefs may not be
elected. Individuals belonging to these latter clans
are not considered eligible to office. Though there
formerly were instances where, by great individual
merit as warriors, they have occasionally been selected
as war chiefs; considered the lowest class of officers
known to their laws. Among the Onondagas the line
of descent is emphatically in the female branch of the
family. The inference to be drawn from this is that
the son is certainly derived from the mother, but may
not be from whom he acknowledges as father.

In referring to the Iroquois confederacy, Mr.
Beauchamp says : " The true date was probably about
A. D. 1G00." The account of this Hiawatha legend.



THE ORIGINAL LEGEND 337

as given by Joshua V. H. Clark, in "Clark's Onon-
daga " is as follows : —

At what period or for what purpose this league was
originally formed, is a matter wholly speculative, as
the records of history and Indian tradition are alike
uncertain, and throw but feeble light upon the sub-
ject. It is supposed, however, that anciently they
were separate and independent nations; and probably
warred with an equal relish upon each other as upon
their neighbors, and perhaps finally united themselves
for purposes of greater strength and security, thereby
enlarging their power and importance at home,
enabling them to prosecute more vigorously their
conquests abroad. Common danger or a desire for
conquest were the motives, rather than a far-seeing
policy, which must have actuated these people to form
a league of consolidation.

By some authors, the time of the formation of the
great league of confederation was about the life of one
man before the Dutch landed at New York. By
others, about an hundred years before that period.
Webster, the Onondaga interpreter, and good author-
ity, states it at about two generations before the white
people came to trade with the Indians. But from the
permanency of their institutions, the peculiar struc-
ture of their government, the intricacy of their civil
affairs, the stability of their religious beliefs and the
uniformity of their pagan ceremonies, differing from



340 THE LEGEND OF HIAWATHA

from the circumstance here related — ' I see everywhere
and see nothing.' From this our English name for
the river Oswego is derived."]

During the observations of the spirit man, (for so
he was afterwards called,) the two men who had lain
concealed, cautiously watching all his movements,
discovered themselves. Ta-oun-ya-wat-ha very civilly
approached them, and after the greetings usual at the
first meeting of strangers, very gravely made inquiries
of them respecting their country and its advantages,
of their fisheries and hunting grounds, and of the
impediments in the way of the prosperity of the nations
round about. To all of which the hunters, (for so
they were,) could give no very favorable answers, but
briefly stated to him the disadvantages they had ever
been doomed to labor under, and the sufferings they
had borne in consequence.

A degree of familiarity and mutual confidence had
by this time become awakened in the bosoms of the
parties, and the greatest freedom of conversation
proceeded without restraint. The hunters provided
for their venerable guest a repast of roast venison, who
received it in thankfulness ; they smoked the calumet
together and were refreshed.

Ta-oun-ya-wat-ha disclosed to the hunters the spir-
ituality of his character and the object of his mission,
after which he invited them to proceed with him up
the river, as lie had important business to transact,



DOING GOOD TO MANKIND 341

and should need their services. After a moment's
consultation together, the hunters consented to accom-
pany him, and forthwith joyfully attended him to his
canoe.

Of the events which immediately succeeded, we
have not now time or disposition to speak, only that
many of them were truly marvelous, and worthy a
place only in the pages of Indian Mythology.

From this, Ta-oun-ya-wat-ha ascended all the
lesser lakes and explored their shores, placing all
things in proper order, for the comfort and sustenance
of all good men. He had taught the people of the
various tribes the art of raising corn and beans, which
had not before been cultivated among them. He also
encouraged them to a more faithful observance of the
laws of the Great and Good Spirit. He had made the
fishing grounds free, and opened to all the uninter-
rupted pursuit of game. He had distributed liberally
among mankind the fruits of the earth, and had
removed all obstructions from the navigable streams.

Pleased with the success of his undertakings, the
spirit-man now resolved to lay aside his divine char-
acter, and in after years to make his abode among the
children of men. He accordingly selected for his
residence a beautiful spot on the shore of the Cross
Lake, (Te-ungk-too, as called by the natives). [Lo-
cated near 'Jordan.] After awhile he totally relin-
quished his divine title of Ta-oun-ya-wat-ha, and in



342 THE LEGEND OF HIAWATHA

all respects assumed the character and habits of a man.
Nevertheless, he was always looked up to as an extra
ordinary individual, as one possessing transcendent
powers of mind and consummate wisdom. The name
Hi-a-wat-ha (signifying very wise man), was spon-
taneously awarded him, by the whole mass of people,
who now resorted to him from all quarters for advice
and instruction. The companions of the spirit-man,
at a subsequent council, were rewarded by a seat in
the councils of their countrymen, and became emin-
ently distinguished for their prowess in war and
dignified bearing in the council room.

After a quiet residence of a few years at his new
location, the country became greatly alarmed by the
sudden approach of a ferocious band of warriors from
north of the great lakes. As they advanced, indis-
criminate slaughter was made of men, women and
children. Many had been slain, and ultimate destruc-
tion seemed to be the consequence, either of bold
resistance, or of a quiet relinquishment of absolute
right.

During this signal agitation of the public mind,
people from all quarters thronged the dwelling place
of Hi-a-wat-ha for advice in this trying emergency.
After a deep and thoughtful contemplation of the
momentous subject, he informed the principal chiefs
that his opinion was to call a grand council of all the
tribes that could be gathered from the east and from



THE GREAT COUNCIL-FIRE 343

the west, that the advice of all might be received;
"for," said he, "our safety is in good council and
speedy, energetic action." Accordingly, runners were
dispatched in all directions, notifying the head men of
a grand council to be held on the banks of the lake
Oh-nen-ta-ha. [Onondaga lake.]

This council was supposed to have been held on
the high ground where the village of Liverpool now
stands. In due time the chiefs and warriors from far
and near were assembled with great numbers of men,
women and children to hold this important council,
and to devise means for the general safety. All the
principal men had arrived, except the venerable
Hi-a-wat-ha.

The council-fire had been kindled three days, and
he had not yet arrived. Messengers were dispatched,
who found him in a most melancholy state of mind.
He told them that evil lay in his path ; that he had a
fearful foreboding of ill-fortune, and that he had
concluded not to attend the great council at Oh-nen-
ta-ha. ' ' But, " said the messengers, ' ' we have delayed
the deliberations of the grand council on account of
your absence, and the chiefs have resolved not to
proceed to business until your arrival."

The White Canoe had always been held as a sacred
treasure, and, next to the wise man himself, was
regarded with awe and reverence. It had been
deposited in a lodge, erected especially for its security,



344 THE LEGEND OF HIAWATHA

to which none but the niost worthy and noted of the
chieftains could nave access. Hither on this occasion
Hi-a-wat-ha repaired, and, in the most devout and
humiliating manner, poured out his soul in silence to
the Great Spirit. After a protracted absence he
returned with a countenance beaming with confidence
and hope. Being over-persuaded by his friends, he
reluctantly yielded to their earnest solicitations. The
White Canoe was carefully removed from its sacred
resting place, and reverently launched upon the bosom
of the river. The wise man once again took his
accustomed seat, and bade his darling and only
daughter (a girl of some twelve years of age) to
accompany him. She unhesitatingly obeyed, took her
place beside her venerable parent in the devoted vessel,
and directly they made all possible speed to the grand
council ground.

On the approach of the aged and venerable
Hi-a-wat-ha, a general shout of joy resounded through-
out the assembled host, and every demonstration of
respect was paid to this illustrious sage and counsellor.
As he landed and was passing up the steep bank
towards the council ground, a loud sound was heard
like a rushing and mighty wind. All eyes were
instantly turned upwards, and a dark spot was dis-
covered rapidly descending from on high among the
clouds. It grew largerand larger as itneared the earth,
and was descending with fearful velocity into their very



AN IMMENSE BIRD 345

midst. Terror and alarrn seized every breast, and
every individual seemed anxious only for his own
safety. The utmost confusion prevailed throughout
the assembled multitude, and all but the venerable
Hi-a-wat-ha sought safety by flight. He gravely
uncovered his silvered head, and besought his daughter
to await the approaching danger with becoming resig-
nation ; at the same time reminding her of the great
folly and impropriety of attempting to obstruct or
prevent the designs or wishes of the Great Spirit.
" If," said he, "he has determined our destruction,
we shall not escape by removal, nor evade his
decrees. " She modestly acquiesced in her kind parent's
suggestions and advice, and with the most patient
submission waited the coming event.

All this was but the work of an instant ; for no sooner
had the resolution of the wise man become fixed, and
his last words uttered, than an immense bird, with a
long and pointed beak, with wide-extended wings,
came down with a mighty swoop, and crushed the
beautiful girl to the earth. With such force did the
monster fall, and so great was the commotion of the
air that when it struck the ground, the whole assembly
were forced violently back several rods, Hi-a-wat-ha
alone remained unmoved and silently witnessed the
melancholy catastrophe of his child's dissolution.

His darling daughter had been killed before his
eyes in a marvelous manner, and her destroyer had



346 THE LEGEND OF HIAWATHA

perished with her. The dismayed warriors cautiously
advanced to the spot and calmly surveyed the dismal
scene. It was found upon examination that the
animal, in its descent, had completely buried its beak,
head and neck up to its body in the ground. It was
covered with a beautiful plumage of snowy white, and
every warrior, as he advanced, plucked a plume from
this singular bird, with which he adorned his crown ;
and from this incident, the braves of the confederate
nations forever after made choice of the plumes of the
white heron as their most appropriate military orna-
ment while upon the war-path.

Upon the removal of the carcass of the monster,
the body of the innocent girl was found to be com-
pletely ground to atoms. Nothing could be seen of
her that would indicate she had ever been a human
being. At this appearance, the bereaved and discon-
solate parent gave himself up to the most poignant
sorrow. Hollow moans and distressing grief told too
plainly the bitterness of his heart. He spurned all
proffers of consolation, and yielded to the keenest
feelings of anguish and unbounded sorrow.

He became an object of perfect despair, and threw
himself down upon his face to the earth, dejected and
disconsolate. The shattered fragments of the innocent
girl were carefully gathered together, and interred in
all the tenderness and solemnity of bitter grief. Every-
one seemed to participate in the afllictioiis of the aged



THE GRIEF OF HIAWATHA 347

and venerable counsellor, and to sympathize in his suf-
ferings and woe. Still, no comfort came to his soul.
He remained in this prostrate situation three whole
days and nights unmoved. The fears of the assembled
chiefs were awakened lest he might become a willing
victim to his own melancholy and misfortune.

Nothing had been done as yet in the council, and
such had been the causes of delay that many began to
despair of accomplishing anything of consequence.
Some even thought seriously of returning to their
homes without an effort. At length a few of the
leading chiefs consulted together, as to what course it
was most expedient to pursue. It was at once resolved
that nothing should be attempted without the voice
of the wise man should be heard. A suitable person
was thereupon dispatched to ascertain whether he
breathed. Report came that he was yet alive. A
kind-hearted, merry chief, named Ho-see-noke, was
directed by the council to make to the prostrate
mourner a comforting speech, to whisper kind words
in his ear, and if possible arouse him from his reverie.

After a deal of formal ceremony and persuasion,
he gradually recovered from his stupor, and conversed.
After several messages had passed between the assem-
bled chiefs and Hi-a-wat-ha, he arose and manifested
a desire for food. He ate and drank of such as was
hastily prepared for him, and acknowledged himself
strengthened and refreshed.



348 THE LEGEND OF HIAWATHA

He was conducted to the presence of the council,
a conspicuous place was assigned him, and all eyes
were turned towards the only man who could with
precision foretell their future destiny. The subject
of the invasion was discussed by several of the ablest
counsellors and boldest warriors. Various schemes
were proposed for the repulsion of the enemy.
Hi-a-wat-ha listened in silence till the speeches of all
were concluded. His opinion was gravely an'd
earnestly sought by many of the surrounding chiefs.

After a brief reference to the calamity which had
so recently befallen him, the wise man said: " This is
a subject that requires mature reflection and deliber-
ation. It is not fitting that one of so much importance
should be treated lightly ; or that our decision should


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Online LibraryGurney S StrongEarly landmarks of Syracuse → online text (page 19 of 22)