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from the south, the Hurons, in spite of their leader's re-
monstrances, on the 16th of October turned their steps
towards home. The Onondagas pui-.sui'd tlioni a short


distance, but were soon driven back by tbo Frenc'b ari|uo-

But littlo over a week after the long eortege swept througli
the forests of Oswego County, full of savage pride and war-
like hope, it came hastening back defeated and forlorn, each
wounded warrior being borne on tlie back of one of his
fellows, in a rude wicker-basket. Champlain himself Wiis
thus carried, suffering severely from his wound, and still more
so from the cramped condition to which he was coufiued
by his basket ambulance. As soon a.s he could possibly
bear his weight, he preferred to hobble with halting steps
over the hills thau to remain pent up in the basket, which
he describes as a perfect hell.

Feeling in constant danger of attack from the vengeful
Iifii]iiois, the retreat of the Hurom was more rapid than
their advance, and on the 18th of October they reached
Lake Ontario at the point where they had concealed their
canoes. Though Champlain was anxious to return directly
down the St. Lawrence to Montreal, the Jfaroiis insisted on
taking him back to their own country, where he remained
during the winter; returning in the spring to his friends,
who had for months mourned him as dead.

Such was the first appearance of the white man within
the present borders of the county of Oswego, and, so far
as that county is concerned, the month of October, 1615,
marks the line between history and tradition. Standing
at this divisional point betwixt the known and the un-
known, let us employ a little time in peering amid the
mists of earlier ages and dubious systems ere we go for-
ward on firm ground along the ever-broadening historic
pathway from 1615 to 1877.



Thoir Various Names— Their Origin— Curious Traditions— The Prob-
able Truth— Formation of the Confederacy— Atotarho— The Sys-
tem of Clans, Sachems, and Chiefs— Prowess and Eloquence-
General Characteristics— Three Tribes in Oswego County.

At the time our history begins, the territory of the
present county of Oswego was unnuestionably in the pos-
session of that celebrated confederacy, whose renown has
far surpassed that of any other North American Indians,
and who were variously known as the Five Nations, the
Iroquois, the Iledonosannee, and the People of the Long
House. The term " Five Nations" explains itself The
appellation Iroquois was given them by the French, but is
not a French word. Old maps show a tribe of Indians
called "CoKis," located near the site of Kingston, Canada;
also " Isles des Couis" and " Bay des Couis,"' in that
vicinity. Another map designates the country of the Six
Nations as that of the '^Hiro Couis." It would seem,
therefore, that the name "■Coicis" first belonged, or was
given, to the Canadian Indians, and that the French, sup-
posing the Five Nations to be of the same tribe, gave them
the specific designation ''Iliro,' though what that means

is unknown. From •'Iliro Couis" to "Iroquois," the change
is easily seen.

The Five Nations Ciilled themselves Ilriloiwsiinnee, liter-
ally, " We form one cabin," thereby denoting that they
were all of one political household ; and this name has been
translated, with substantial correctness, "The People of
the Long House." They also called them.selves " Oiigwe
Honice," meaning Superior Men, but this appellation lias
never been adojited by the whites, though it is in some
sort continued by the proud motto of the Empire State, —
" Excelsior."

When first discovered by the whites, each of the Five Na-
tions was on the ground which it continued to occuiiy down
to the outbreak of the American Revolution, and their names
have been perpetuated by the waters whereon they dwelt, —
that of the Mohawks by the Mohawk river, those of the
Oneidas, the Onondugas, the Cnyugas, and the Scnecns by
the lakes bearing the same appellations. These tribes, or
nations, were linked together in a kind of federal union,
which decided all questions of war and peace, and perhaps
other matters affecting the general welfare, if any such
there were. The origin of this league, the origin of the
tribes which composed it, are alike uncertain. Where they
were when found by the Europeans they might have been
a thousand years, for aught that is positively known. But
there were several traditions among the Iroquois regarding
their origin, all pointing in the same direction, and all link-
ing the history of the confederacy in an especial manner
with the county of Oswego.

One account is simply that the Iroqiioif once resided in
Canada, being neighbors and rivals of the Ilitrous ; that
they were defeated by the latter, fled across Lake Ontario,
passed up the Oswego river, and settled on the lakes and
rivers of central New York. A more remarkable tradition,
given by David Cusick, the Tuscnrora chief, is that their
ancestors were called from the bowels of a mountain
near Oswego falls, by Tareuyawayon, " the Holder of the
Heavens," under whoso direction they went eastward to
the Hudson, and thence back to Seneca lake, the several
tribes dropping off on their way. Still another legend,
related in Clark's " Onondaga," is that at one time, when
the Irtquois were in great affliction on account of the
blighting of their corn, the obstruction of their rivers by
monsters, etc., two Onondagas, sauntering on the beach at
Oswego, saw a white canoe coming over the lake, from
which, when it landed, stepped a venerable personage, who
announced himself as the Spirit-man, Taounyawatha, come
to extricate the people from their troubles. He went up
the Oswego river and removed the obstructions at the falls,
so that canoes could pass without portage, though the
cataract has been replaced, on account of the wickedness of
succeeding generations. Then he continued his course up
the O.swego and Seneca, cut in twain with one blow of liis
paddle a serpent several miles in length, which lay across
the stream a little above Three Rivers point, destroyed
numerous other monsters, more terrible than those which
fell under the wrath of Hercules, and, finally, laying aside
his spiritual attributes, lived for a long time as a mere man,
the fijther and adviser of the Iroquois, under the well-
known name of Hiawatha.



All these traditions go to show that the Iroquois origi-
nally came from the north, and that they made their advent
in central New York by way of the Oswego river. Similar
shadowy authority indicates that while there was a general
resemblance and a kind of connection between the five
tribes, yet that they were politically independent for a long
time after their establishment in central New York, and
were often engaged in deadly conflict with each other. At
length, a wise old sachem named Daganawada, perceiving
that all the tribes were likely to be destroyed by each other
and by their common enemies, advised a confederation be-
tween them, and proposed Atotarho, otherwise called Tado-
daho, an Onondaga chief of extraordinary valor, as the
head of the new league. His suggestion was agreed to, and
a humble deputation of sachems sought out the renowned
Onondaga in the midst of one of his swampy fastnesses,
and persuaded him to accept the honors of leadership. One
of the few pictorial representations of Indian origin repre-
sents the terrible Atotarho, seated and smoking, with scores
of living serpents curled around his legs and hissing from
his hair, while two meek-looking ambassadors approach to
oflfer him the presidency of the proposed confederacy.

After the formation of the league, it is said that the
snakes were combed out of Atotarho's head by a Mohawk
chieftain, thenceforward called Ha-yo-went-ha, " The Man
who Combs." Perhaps this symbolizes the fact that the
authority of the Atotarho, or head chief of the confederacy,
was reduced to an almost nominal rank, involving little
more than the privilege of presiding over the general
council of the league ; but Indian symbolism, like Indian
tradition, is of too shadowy a nature to admit of elaborate
discussion in a work of this character.

Not only the early history of the Indian tribes, but their
policy, laws, and organization, as they were before, or even
since, the advent of the whites, cannot be delineated with
any certainty of correctness. When the writer first began
to consult authorities regarding the Five Nations, for the
purpose of writing the history of another county, he sup-
posed, after a short research, that he had mastered not
indeed the minutia9, but the general outlines of the Iroquois
policy, for the first book he read laid down the whole politi-
cal and social system of those tribes with a clearness which
could not be misunderstood and a positiveness which left
nothing in doubt. But further investigation, instead of
increasing, has sadly diminished his stock of knowledge on
that subject, for other authorities give widely diflerent views
not merely as to details, but in regard to the most essential
points in the organization of the Ilcdonosaimee. He is now
fully satisfied that their whole system was far less definite
than is usually supposed, and that the precise and positive
language which might properly be used by the historian to
describe the constitution of a civilized people is entirely
out of place in delineating the shadowy outlines of aborigi-
nal customs.

Yet, as Oswego County was, from its first discovery to
the close of the Revolution, acknowledged by French,
Dutch, English, and Americans to be the property of the
Iroquois, as it was constantly used by them as a hunting-
ground, and as its fortunes during all that time were closely
interwoven with those of that celebrated tribe, it would

seem as if an Oswego County history should give at least
an outline sketch of their character and policy.

The most remarkable characteristic of the Iroquois was
the system of clans, which extended through all the tribes
of the confederacy. Although these associations were far
diflFerent from the Scottish clans, which were almost inde-
pendent nations (and, indeed, from any other societies in
the world), yet the word " clan" is used by the best writers,
as more nearly suiting the case than any other in our

There were, iit all, eight of thase clans, each named after
something in the animal kingdom, viz. : Wolf, Bear, Beaver,
Turtle, Deer, Snipe, Heron, and Hawk. Even in regard
to this important matter we are met with the usual uncer-
tainty which hangs over Indian affairs ; while some au-
thorities declare that all the clans extended to all the tribes,
others say that only the first three were thus widely spread,
and that the other five clans only extended through two or
three tribes each. The latter seems the more probable

Each clan was a large family, all the members of which,
however widely separated among the various tribes of the
confederacy, were bound to each other by peculiar ties, and
were under obligations to aid each other with fraternal care.
The idea of family relationship was strengthened by pro-
hibiting all intermarriage between members of the same
clan. This was strictly enforced by public opinion, and
those who violated it, if any such there were, were visited
with the deepest disgrace. The Mohawk of the Beaver
clan, whom the chase or war had led among the Senecas,
living three hundred miles from his own castle, was at once
made at home among his brother Beavers, though he might
never have seen one of them before ; but he was bound to
treat them as brothers and sisters, and marriage was not to
be thought of

Whether the clan system was the fortunate outgrowth of
fortuitous circumstances, or the splendid invention of some
forest-born genius, there seems to be no doubt that it was
the vital principle of the Iroquois confederacy. The feel-
ing of brotherhood between the dans, carefully preserved
by the prohibition of intermarriage, was a better preventive
of war between the tribes than the most solemn compact
which could have been formed among that barbarous people.
The Oiiondagas could not go to war with the Cayugas, for
in that case the Heron would have been compelled to do
battle with his brother Heron. There must be no strife
between the Oneidas and the distant Senecas, for if there
were it would sunder the fraternal bonds uniting the Bear
which reposed on the shore of Oneida lake to the fiercer
Bear which roamed through the wilderness west of the

In each tribe there were several sachems, having some
kind of authority. This much is certain ; but having ascer-
tained so much, the unfortunate investigator is again sur-
rounded by the clouds of doubt. The general belief is that
the sachems were civil chiefs, having no authority in war.
But Sir William Johnson, who ought to have had as good
a knowledge of the Iroquois as any other white man in
North America, said the sachems were elected chiefly on
account of their warlike prowess. The latter view is much


more consistent with the usual customs of savages than the
former, but the Iroquois were a peculiar people, and. wc are
inclined to believe, from all the testimony, that there was
more or less distinction between civil chiefs and war chiefs.
Morgan, the able author of the " League of the Iroquois,"
says that there was no distinct class of war chiefs among
the Five Nations, but every renowned warrior could beat
up for volunteers, and obtain the leadership of a band of his
countrymen. Certainly in some cases the fighting men of
the Six Nations have been known to choose a leader for a
particular battle only the day before it was to take place.
The truth jirobably is that in regard to both civil sachems
and war chiefs there was a lemleitcj/, so to say, to take them
from particular ftimilies, but there were no definite regula-
tions, and personal prowess, acknowledged wisdom, or
oratorical skill frequently gained the day over the rights
of primogeniture.

All admit that the Oiiondagas had a certain pre-emi-
nence, and that the principal civil chief was always from
that tribe, but the Senecas and the Mohaicks both claim
to have had the honor of furnishing the principal war chief
As these two hist-named tribes were located one at each
end of the " Long House," they were necessarily more often
assailed by sudden attacks than the others, and their prin-
cipal chiefs would naturally be accorded a certain suprem-
acy in warlike atfaii-s.

There was an annual congress of the confederacy held
at the council-fire of the O/iOHcZa^as, composed of six mem-
bers, according to Schoolcraft, but of fifty, according to
Morgan, and perhaps of some other number according to
the next investigator. Probably the larger figure is more
nearly correct, for the IroqKois were not accustomed to trust
much power to a single person ; but Morgan's careful allot-
ment of nine to the Oiieidas, nine to the Mohaicks, four-
teen to the Oiiondagas, ten to the Cayiigas, and eight to
the Senecas, is not in accordance with the miscellaneous
manner in which the Indians generally transacted business.

But whatever the number or the power of their chiefs,
whatever the details of their organization, the Iroquois had
already, at the advent of the white man, made themselves
the dread of all the nations round about, battling fiercely
with the Hiirons of Canada, with the Eries on the shores
of Lake Erie, and with the Cherokees of the far south,
while they had reduced to abject submission the Mohicans
of New England, the Delawares of Pennsylvania, and
many other feeble or timorous tribes.

Their republican system of government, too, and their
frequent attendance on councils and congresses, had de-
veloped their rude eloquence, in which they always took
great delight, until in all North America there were none
who could so stir the hearts of their hearers as the orators
ef the Hedonosannee.

Aside from their political skill, their valor in war, and
their eloquence in council, the People of the Long House
closely resembled the savages who surrounded them. Like
them, they were not quarrelsome towards those of their own
tribe or league, but were apt to look on all others as their
enemies, and to visit them with the most terrible cruelty.
Like them, they lived iu rude wigwams, skimmed over the
wave in fragile bark canoes, went very scantily clad in the

skins of the animals they had slain, and subsisted on the
flesh of those animals, save for the corn and beans raised
by the labor of their squaws.

Such were the ownci-s of Oswego County when Chaniplain
made his unfortunate raid, in 1615. There were, so far as
we are aware, no permanent villages of the Iroquois within
the county limits, but parties of them frequently erected
temporary wigwams for the purpose of fishing in its rivei-s
or hunting in its forests. The greater portion of the county
was considered as belonging to the Onondagas, but the
Oneidas po.ssos.sed all the borders of the lake which b(!ars
their name.

According to Morgan, no less than three of the Iroquois
tribes were owners of the territory now forming Oswego
County, and their boundaries were as clearly defined as those
of a modern township. The line between the CayugasaniS.
Onondagas began on the shore of Lake Ontario, a little west
of the mouth of the Oswego, and ran nearly due south to the
Susquehanna, leaving part of the present towns of Oswego
and Hannibal in the territory of the Cai/ugas. The line
between the Onondagas and the Oneidas, according to
the same authority, ran north and .south through " Deep
Spring," in the present town of Manlius, Onondaga county ;
north of that point it bore westward so as to include the
whole circuit of Oneida lake in the Oneidas territory,
then returning eastward to the longitude of Deep Spring, in
the present town of Constantia, and thence running north
through Watertown to the St. Lawrence, giving to the
Oneidas, in Oswego County, the present town of lledfiold
and the eastern part of the towns of Boylston, Orwell,
Williamstown, Amboy, and Constantia. We have not
much faith in the precise accuracy of Indian boundaries,
but, doubtless, the line between these tribes was substan-
tially as above laid down.



French, Dutch, an.l English Colonization— Father Le Moinc in Oswego
County — Cros.sing Oneida River — Laboring among the Onomlagas
— Le Moinc's Return— Coming of Chaumont and Dablon— Du Puys
and his Colony going up the Oswego — Their Returning Flight —
Their Mysterious Story— Another Strange Talc — End of Coloniza-
tion in Central New York.

For forty years after the visit of Champlain, naught of
especial interest is known to have happened in the county
of Oswego. We use, and shall use, that term for conve-
nience, meaning the territory now composing the county of
Oswego, though that county had no legal existence until
two hundred years after the beginning of its own history.
In like manner towns will be referred to by their present
names long before their municipal existence began, in order
to designate without cumbersome repetition the territory
afterwards comprised within their limits.

During those forty years the eastern shore of North
America, and the banks of its rivers, were the scenes of


numerous discoveries, and of frequent efforts at colonization
by the most enterprising nations of Europe. The sturdy
Holland Dutchmen planted themselves all along the Hud-
son to the mouth of the Mohawk, and their bold traders
penetrated far into the territory of the Iroquois, buying
their furs and selling them the fire-arms and ammunition
which that fierce people were only too eager to obtain.
With these they not only wreaked vengeance on all their
enemies of their own race, far and near, but were even
ready to do battle with the hated French, who had so fool-
ishly provoked their wrath, — the wrath of those whom Vol-
ney afterwards called tlie "Romans of North America."

Though the French, by their situation on the St. Law-
rence, had the advantage over other European colonists in
regard to water communication with the interior of the
continent, and though they established numerous missions
and posts on the upper lakes, their respect for the Iroquois
warriors was such that they rarely ventured on the southern
shore of Lake Ontario.

Meanwhile a little band of resolute men and women had
come from old England to New England, and had begun
on Plymouth rock to develop a force which was eventually
to overwhelm Dutch, and , French, and Iroquois, and all
other rivals, foes, and obstructionists.

Though in 1648 the Jesuit father, Jogues, was sent on
a mission to the Mohawks, falling at length a martyr to his
zeal, there is no evidence that any attempt was made to
convert the Onondagas until the summer of 1655. In
July of that year Father Simon Le Moine, another of the
indefatigable followers of Loyola, passed through Oswego
County on that perilous undertaking. Having made a
toilsome journey in a canoe up the St. Lawrence, Father
Le Moine, with one companion, landed at a hamlet of fish-
ermen on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario on the first day
of August. The precise point is not designated, but it was
probably not far from the mouth of Salmon river, or per-
haps at that of Salmon creek. There seem to have been
one or more trails running from that locality to the principal
Onondaga villages, crossing Oneida river below the lake.
Many French parties, at different times, are described as
pursuing substantially this route.

Le Moine and his companion were warmly received by
the Indians whom he met. especially by Huron squaws
held as prisoners among the Iroquois, and who in their own
country had been favorably impressed by the religion of
the French missionaries. All the second day of August,
and until noon of the third, the three devoted men tramped
southward through the forests and over the hills of the
present towns of Mexico and Hastings, traversing a dis-
tance which Le Moine estimated at from forty to fifty miles,
but which was probably much less. At noon of the third
day they reached the Oneida river, across which they were
ferried by an Iroquois warrior whom Le Jloine had treated
kindly at Montreal, and who even carried the reverend
father on his shoulders through the shallow water.

Thence the visitors went to the Onondaga villages, where
Father Le Moine spent a fortnight in praying, exhorting,
holding councils, and otherwise .seeking to gain the hearts
of the Onondagas. So well did ho succeed that the chiefs
begged that more missionaries might be sent, and that a

French settlement might be planted on the shore of Onon-
daga lake. Delighted with these evidences of friendship,
Le jMoine started for home on the 15th of August, by way
of the Oswego river. On the 17th he passed the mouth of
the Oneida, and two or three miles below, near the present
village of Phcenix, he found a hamlet of fishermen. Such
hamlets for fishing and hunting were evidently scattered
here and there throughout the present county of Oswego,
and doubtless elsewhere in the immense country claimed by
the Iroquois. Remaining there a day, Le Moine and his
comrade proceeded very leisurely down the Oswego to Lake
Ontario, which they reached on the 20th of August.
Thence they coasted along the lake-shore, and went down
the St. Lawrence to Montreal, where they arrived on the
11th of September.

No sooner did Father Le Moine report the desire of the
Onondagas than Fathers Chaumont and Dablon responded
to it. They set forth on the 19th of September, arrived at
the Onondaga village on the 5th of November, and re-
mained there through the winter. They, too, ingratiated
themselves so thoroughly with the Iroquois that the latter
renewed their request for the planting of a French settle-
ment, and even the building of a French fort, in their
midst. It has been supposed by some that this friendship
was entirely feigned by the Onondagas for the purpose of
getting the French into their power, but the Jesuit fathers,
with more probability, assigned it to a desire to obtain
French arms, ammunition, and assistance against the
dreaded Cat nation, living on the shores of Lake Erie, and
other tribes with which the Iroquois were at war.

At all events, when Father Dablon returned to Montreal
in April, 1656, bearing the Iroquois' request for a French

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