John Corbett.

The lake country. An annal of olden days in central New York. The land of gold online

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to going with the army, and it is hoped
that she was rescued by her race before


the snows fell o'er the scene of desola-

At a deserted village on the west side
of Cayuga Lake, Colonel Dearborn on
his trail of desolation, found three
squawks and a young Indian who w^as a
cripple. Two of the squaws were made
prisoners, leaving the other, an old
crone, and the lad inmates of the only
habitation of the town that was spared
from the flames. The troops marched
on, but it was reported among the mem-
bers of the main army after the detach-
ment had joined its forces at Fort Reed,
that soldiers, disobeying the commands,
had returned, and fastening the door of
tlie cabin upon those within, fiendishly
applied the torch and burned it to the

The captives of the campaign were
few, more having been released from the
Indians than taken by the troops. At
Kendaia, Luke Swetland awaited the
arrival of the army. He had been cap-
tured at Wyoming, and made a member
of an Indian family. A boy about three
vears old, evidentlv stolen from some


frontier home, was found at Kanada-
seaga, naked and greatly emaciated, the
only sharer of his solitude, a chicken
with which he was playing. He was
adopted by an officer, but died two
years afterwards. While at Genesee Cas-
tle, a white woman wath a child came to
the army. Her husband had been slain
and she made prisoner in an Indian raid.
The child died on the return march. She
became the wife of Roswell Franklin,
the first settler of Cayuga county.


The Iroquois in their retreat from
homes and hunting-grounds were fre-
quently but a few hours' march in ad-,
vance of the military forces. The old
squaw of Catharine's Town stated to
General Sullivan, that after a spirited
debate as to flight or battle, Butler and
the Tories left in the boats, while early
the next day the women and children
v/ere sent away, the warriors then re-
turning and remaining until nearly sun-
set, departing but a short time before
the troops entered the town. The re-


leased captive of Kendaia, said the de-
feat at Newtown had been announced by
Indian runners proclaiming the death
halloo, in less than twenty-four hours
after the conflict.

Many evidences of the impression
wrought upon the Indians by this disas-
ter to their race were visible along the
route, but the most striking were the
finding of dogs hung up on poles some
twelve feet high, as sacrifices to the God
of War, and the discovery of an inscrip-
tion on a tree near Catharine's Town,
which was chronicled by an adept in
wood-lore as follows: "This day found
a tree marked 1779, Thandagana, the
English of which is Brant, twelve men
marked on it with arrows pierced
through them signifying the number
they had lost in the action of the 29th
ultimo — a small tree was twisted round
like a rope and bent down, which signi-
fied that if we drove and distressed them
yet we would not conquer them."

The spirit of the Senecas, the Watch-
men of the Confederacy of the Six Na-
tions, had been broken, and far from


their forest haunts they congregated
only to have their numbers decimated
by disease. In inadequate quarters
about Niagara, the pestilence finished
the desolation of the Nation, begun by
the forces of General Sullivan, whose
home-returning was marked by the
buoyancy of heart arising from victory.
Wearied by toilsome marches, yet in-
spirited by success, the troops arrived at
Tioga on September 30th, having suf-
fered a loss of but forty-one men during
the campaign, which really closed with
the burning of an Indian town located
near Painted Post, by a detachment sent
up the Chemung from Fort Reed, on
the 27th.

The army found no opportunity for
celebration, until encamped at Fort
Reed, where on September 25th, oc-
curred a memiorable demonstration in
honor of the Thirteen States and the
achievements of the expedition. A salute
of thirteen guns was followed by a run-
ning fire through the lines of infantry,
and cheering from the whole body of
troops. Five oxen were barbecued on


the occasion, and in one brigade thir-
teen fires were kept burning and thir-
teen toasts were drank. The fort was
razed on the 29th, and the following day
the army entered Fort Sullivan with
military parade, to the strains of mar-
tial music and the roar of artillery. The
display preceded a jollification, which
did not entirely cease until the day of
evacuation, Sunday, October 3rd.


The Chronicle of events of the Mili-
tary Expedition was made by many of
those who' participated in its dangers.
In addition to the official report of the
campaign by General Sullivan, several
journals wxre kept, some in part, others
in entirety, and most of them in detail.
Each observer evidenced his inclinations
in his notations, and thus the scenery,
the physical features and the produc-
tions of grain and fruit were themes of
full descriptions. By research of these
and other records were collated the
facts presented in the foregoing articles,
which briefly outline the occurrences of
this epoch in Lake Country lore.


The scenery was an object of especial
note, the successive views unfolding be-
fore the advancing column in all their
pristine beauty. The pellucid waters of
Lakes Seneca and Cayuga, mirroring
wooded slopes broken only by the sil-
very sheen of waterfalls, evoked expres-
sions of deep admiration. The thrifty
orchards, the abundance of maize, the
fine forest growth indicating excellence
of soil, the natural meadows on which
fed horses and cattle were subjects of
comment. One mentioned the killing
of many large rattlesnakes; another the
capture of a salmon upwards of two feet
in length, while a third in remarking
upon the great quantities of wild grapes
growing near Canandaigua Lake, fore-
shado\ved the vineyard acreage of to-

The Indian houses varied in degrees
of finish from the frail construction of
bark to the substantial structure of logs,
and were built about the village site
with no observance of order. The dwell-
ings, according to one account, might
have been very comfortable had any


convenience existed for the smoke to
escape except a hole through the roof.
One of the twenty habitations, however,
of Kendaia was provided with a chim-
ney. Queen Catharine's palace was a
gambrel-roofed house about thirty feet
long and eighteen wide. A Dutch
family lived in Catharine's Town, and
departed with the Indians, leaving be-
hind a num.ber of feather beds. The
best constructed Seneca village de-
stroyed was Kanandaigua, consisting of
tw^enty-three large houses, mostly new.

An Indian grave was usually a shal-
low resting place in which the dead en-
cased in bark, moldered away in an
unmarked mound, but o'er the remains
of a chief a painted monumental post
v/as ofttimes reared. Over some of the
old graves about Tioga were raised
mounds of earth to the height of lour or
six feet, the bodies having first been laid
but slightly beneath the surface of the
ground. Tombs of different construc-
tion from those elsewhere were found at
Kendaia, the most notable evidently
that of a chief. Covering the body was


a casement about four feet high, with
the sides and ends curiously painted in
many colors, and over all was a shed of
bark to protect the memorial from the


The Traditions attendant upon this
martial advance into the Lake Country,
will ever remain themes of interest to all
dwellers within its borders. Along the
trail of the invader, legend has located
occurrences not recorded by the chron-
iclers of the event, but which in general
are doubtless true. Many who accom-
panied General Sullivan on the march
which blazed the way for the advance
of civilization, returned at the close of
the Revolution to rear their homes in
this pleasant land, and to their recount
of recollections is evidently due many of
the incidents that have remained un-
v.ritten annals of that olden time.

A beetling cliff, along^ the rocky shore
extending for some miles down the east-
ern side of Seneca Lake from its head,
is known as Painted Rocks. It was said


by old settlers to have borne Indian
paintings on its face in commemoration
of a Seneca Chief, who there met death
in a skirmish with the van-guard of Gen-
eral Sullivan's troops. No record of
such an encounter is extant, but a scout-
ing party is known to have been sent to
the lake from Catharine's Town, while
the main army rested on September 2nd,
and shots may have been exchanged
with warriors in ambush in the thickets
of that locality, with results unknown
to the rangers, yet fatal to the skulking

The appellation of Poney Hollow,
through which flows a tributary to Ca-
}'uta Creek, arose from some fact con-
nected with the return march of the de-
tachment in command of Colonel But-
ler. The course from the head of
Cayuga Lake was up the Inlet, down
the stream of Poney Hollow, and thence
across country to the head-waters of
Newtown Creek, which was followed to
the Chemung. The derivation of the
name of Horseheads is apparent, yet the
record that horses of the expedition were


killed at that point is quite obscure. The
frequent breaking down of the gun-
carriages probably gave rise to the tra-
dition of a lost cannon, for all the field-
pieces taken out on the trail were re-
turned by the troops to Tioga.

The western slope of Seneca in greater
part and the picturesque shores of Lake
Keuka in entirety, had their primeval
solitudes unbroken by the army of inva-
sion, and Indian burial places now mark
the spots where villages existed then or
at an earlier date. One located at the
head of the West Branch of Keuka,
rivals Canoga in the claim of having
been the birthplace of Red Jacket, while
the smoke of others arose from the head
and foot of the lake. An Iroquois vil-
lage once occupied the site of Watkins,
for Indian graves are many to the east-
ward of the entrance to Watkins Glen,
and apple-trees planted by aborigines
and spared by the troops because not
found, flourished above them and fur-
nished fruit for the pioneers.



The Commanders of the Expedition
against the Indians were not only ex-
perienced in war, but men of marked
abihty as well as valor, most of them
having become distinguished in civil life
before the performance of meritorious
service in the Revolution. The roster
of officers included many names high on
the roll of national honor, only those
having been selected to lead the perilous
undertaking who were known to have
especial fitness for the work, and when
the campaign was completed lustre had
invariably been added to their fame.

The Commander-in-Chief, Major Gen-
eral John Sullivan, was born of Irish
parentage in Somersworth, N. H., Feb-
ruary 1 8th, 1740. He was a member of
the Provincial Assembly in 1774, and a
delegate to the Continental Congress
the year following. He was appointed
Brigadier General in June, 1775, ^^^
Major General in July, 1776. He par-
ticipated in the battles of Long Island,
the Brandywine, Germantown and oth-
ers, but his greatest achievement was


the successful leadership of the cam-
paign in the Indian country. After the
Revolution, General Sullivan repre-
sented New Hampshire in Congress,
and was Chief Magistrate of the State
for several terms. He was appointed by
President Washington, Judge of the
United States District Court of New
Hampshire, in 1789, and held the office
until his death, January 23rd, 1795.

Brigadier-General James Clinton was
born August 9th, 1736, in Orange
county, N. Y., where his death occurred
December 22nd, 1812. He was the son
of Colonel Charles Clinton, the brother
of Governor George Clinton and the
father of Governor DeWitt Clinton.
After attaining an admirable Revolu-
tionary record he held important civil
positions. Brigadier-General Edward
Hand was born in Ireland, December
31st, 1744, and died in Lancaster county,
Pa., September 4th, 1802. He acquired
a knowledge of the Indian country while
in command at Pittsburg, previous to
the Expedition. Brigadier-General Wil-
liam Maxwell was also of Irish descent,


but little is known of his personal his-
tory. He died in November, 1798.
Brigadier-General Enoch Poor resided
most of his life at Exeter, N. H. He
was born in Andover, Mass., June 21st,
1736, and died September 9th, 1780.

Colonel Henry Dearborn was born in
Hampton, N. H., in March, 1751, and
died in Roxbury, Mass., June 6th, 1829.
He was Secretary of War under Presi-
dent JefTerson. Colonel WiUiam Butler
was of Irish descent, his family having
settled in Cumberland county, Pa., prior
to 1760. He died at Pittsburg in 1789.
Colonel Peter Gansevoort was of a
Knickerbocker family, and born in
Albany July 17th, 1749. His death oc-
curred after receiving many honors,
July 2nd, 1 81 2. Colonel Thomas Proc-
tor was born in Ireland, but in early life
came to Philadelphia, where he died
March i6th, 1806. The ill-fated Lieu-
tenant Thomas Boyd was from Derry,
Pa., and but twenty-two years old at his
untimely death.



The Sachems of the Six Nations were
men of prowess and sagacity, as well
when driven from the Lake Country as
in the past. Giengwahtoh, or **He who
goes in the smoke," the most powerful
Sachem of his time, had his home in
Kanadaseaga from which he fled to
Niagara. He had the honor, accorded
to no other, of carrying the brand by
which the council fires were lighted. As
Civil Chief of the Senecas his word was
law, and his decisions when convened in
council were never questioned. His
descendant. Young King, allied his war-
riors with the forces of the United States
during the War of 1812.

The War Chief of the Confederacy
was Joseph Brant, a descendant of a
Sachem of the Mohawks and called by
the Indians, Thayendanegea. Among
the Iroquois, in peace the voice of the
principal Sachem was potential, in war
he was but a counselor while the War
Chief became the dictator. Brant em-
braced his opportunity and led the war-
riors to the fray with savage ferocity,


but only to final defeat. He was the im-
placable foe of the Colonies, and his
name became the synonym of slaughter
to the settlers of the border. Yet withal,
he was a man of ability and high accom-
plishments for his race. He died on
British soil, November 24th, 1807, at the
age of sixty-five years.

The eloquence characteristic of the
Iroquois had its greatest exponent
among the Senecas in Sagoyewatha, or
Red Jacket. He was yet a young man
when his Nation was driven from lake-
side haunts, and it was not until the
great councils following the war, that
his oratorical powers gave him distinc-
tion. He lived to see his people despoiled
of their lordly domain, and their clans
scattered to pent up reservations. As a
means of preservation of his race, he
urged adherence to old customs and the
upholding of the ancient belief. Red
Jacket died in the Seneca village near
Buffalo, January 20th, 1830, at the esti-
mated age of seventy years. The site
of his supposed birthplace, was marked
at Canoga on Cayuga Lake, in 1891.


The Seneca Chief Cornplanter or
Gaantuaha, like Red Jacket was a natural
orator, but of greater age at the period
of invasion, and was also a warrior of
prominence. Both spake burning words
in behalf of their Nation at the treaty of
peace with the United States in 1784,
and ever after each remained the firm
friend of the government. Their rivalr}-'
for leadership among their people con-
tinued long, the latter finally triumph-
ing. Cornplanter died March 7th, 1836,
aged upwards of one hundred years.
The closing scenes of his life were
among the Allegany clans of the Sene-
cas, whom he endeavored to bring into
a state of civilization.


The Women of the Iroquois were in-
fluential factors in tribal affairs, and in
the household regulated m^atters alto-
gether, prescribing the locations of
cabins and dictating removals. It was
an equitable feature of Indian polity that
the lands belonged to those who tilled
them as w^ell as the warriors who de-


fended them, and hence in treaties as to
their disposal the opinions of the women
were treated with deference. At the
great council of the Six Nations and the
United States, in Canandaigua, the
autumn of 1794, women were allowed
to express their sentiments before the

The regal titles of two women are
prominent in the annals of the Military
Expedition, though about them clusters
more or less of tradition. Queen Esther
is a name that will ever be inseparably
connected with the atrocities of Wyom-
ing. She is said to have been the grand-
daughter of Madame Montour, the
daughter of French Margaret, and a
sister of Queen Catharine. Her only
son was slain at Wyommg, and her un-
paralleled barbarities at the massacre,
the tomahawking of prisoners, were to
avenge his death. Her village, located
on the Susquehanna near the junction of
the Chemung, was burned by Colonel
Thomas Hartley shortly after this event,
and her deeds were no more of disaster
throughout the valley-side.


Catharine INIontour has her name per-
petuated in stream and valley about the
site of Sheoquaga, the Iroquois village
over which she ruled as Queen Cath-
arine. The statements as to her life are
as of romance. Her reputed father was
one of the early French governors of
Canada, and her maternal lineage traced
from Madame Montour, a noted per-
sonage in the Colonial history of Penn-
sylvania. She was taken captive in a
war-raid of the Six Nations and adopted
by the Senecas, a Chief of that Nation,
Thomas Hudson or Telenemut, becom-
ing her husband. Of her children little
is known, save that she had two daugh-
ters and one son, Amochol. After the
flight of her people, she passed her life
amid the scenes about Niagara.

The "White Woman of the Genesee"
was a noted personage among the Sen-
ecas during the Revolution. Her name
was Mary Jemison before her marriage,
first to a Delaware Chief and after his
death to a Seneca Chief. When a child,
in 1754, her parents, two brothers and
other members of the family had been


murdered by the Indians, and she taken
captive. As time progressed she became
thoroughly an Iroquois in all her habits,
and she did not discard her Indian cos-
tume even after civilization had changed
the valley. She died about the year
1825, rich in flocks and herds as well as
in lands.


The Six Nations driven from the
country about the lakes by the Military
Expedition of 1779, returned not again
to hold supremacy along their waters,
and though divested of the prestige of
power by the campaign, the hatchet
was not formally buried by the
warring element of the Confederacy
until the council with representatives of
the United States, at Fort Stanwix, on
the site of Rome, in the fall of 1784.
By that treaty of peace the Indians were
received under the protection of the gov-
ernment, and secured in the possession
of the lands of which they were then

Council fires burned at deliberations


between the Iroquois and the United
States, in November, 1790, at Tioga, and
again in June, 1791, at Painted Post.
These assemblages were convoked by
the government for the purpose of di-
verting the attention of the Indians of
New York from the wars of the western
tribes, and the endeavors to that end
were successful. The last general coun-
cil held by the United States and the
Confederacy occurred during the au-
tumn of 1794, at Canandaigua, with the
result of the establishment of relations
upon a permanent basis. Reservations
to the Oneidas, Onondagas and Cayugas
were confirmed, and the boundaries fully
determined to the country of the still
numerous Seneca Nation.

The Treaty of Big Tree, on the site
of Geneseo, in September, 1797, extin-
puished the title of the Six Nations to


their ancient possessions, with the excep-
tion of reservations that at councils in
subsequent years were released or
greatly lessened in area. Though not
principals in the transaction, both the
United States and Massachusetts were


represented at the negotiations, which
were conducted with the Seneca Na-
tion by capitaHsts, the precursors of
settlement. The great purchase of land
consummated, included about two-thirds
of that portion of the State west of the
Pre-emption Line, the rest having been
obtained at a treaty with the Indians, in
July, 1788, at Kanadaseaga.

The Senecas now occupy two reserva-
tions — the Allegany of 30,469 acres, and
the Cattaraugus of 21,680 acres. Their
population was 2,139 in 1889. The Tus-
caroras have 6,249 ^cres near Niagara
River, and numbered that year 409. The
Tonawandas, a branch of the Senecas,
have 7,547 acres, occupied by about 500
Indians. The Onondagas, yet recognized
as leaders of the Six Nations, have 7,300
acres, on which reside some 450 Indians;
about 125 of the nation being with the
Senecas. The Oneidas are in Wisconsin,
except 178 near Oneida Lake; 75 with
the Onondagas, and 30 with the Tusca-
roras. The Cayugas removed to Indian
Territory, save 160 with the Senecas and
a few with the Tonawandas. The Mo-


hawks left the State for Canada during
the Revolution.


The Revolution closed with a dispute
as to extent of territory, pending be-
tween the States of New York and
Massachusetts. The colonial charter of
the latter conveyed the region between
its north and south boundaries from the
Atlantic to the Pacific, and the subse-
quent charter of New York conflicted
with this grant. An amicable arrange-
ment of the matter was effected in De-
cember, 1786, Massachusetts then relin-
quishing the claim to jurisdiction but
retaining the right of the pre-emption
of the soil from the Indians, to that por-
tion of New York west of a designated
survey, thenceforth known as the Pre-
em^ption Line.

The right of purchase from the Six
Nations thus acquired by Massachusetts
extended over a tract of some 7,000,000
acres, and in 1787, the whole claim was
sold by that State to Oliver Phelps and
Nathaniel Gorham for $1,000,000. At


Kanadaseaga the following year, they
secured title to the eastern third of the
land, an area extending in a body from
Pennsylvania to Lake Ontario, and from
the Pre-emption to a line parallel with
and twelve miles west of the Genesee
River. The remainder of the tract re-
verted to Massachusetts, and was re-sold
to Robert Morris, of Philadelphia. After
the procurement of the Indian title, at
the council in 1797, at Big Tree, it be-
came mainly the property of the Hol-
land Land Company.

The Pre-emption Line extends from the
eighty-second milestone on the boundary
between New York and Pennsylvania,
northward to Lake Ontario, and is the
most prominent landmark connected
with the settlement of the Lake Country.
It is on the meridian of Washington,
strikes Seneca Lake at Dresden, passes
east of Geneva and to the head of Great
Sodus Bay, dividing the counties of
Chemung and Steuben and Seneca and
Ontario. The survey of the true line,
known as the "New Pre-emption Line,"
was made in 1795, under direction of


Major Hoops assisted by Andrew Elli-
cott and Augustus Porter. A vista
thirty feet wide was opened through the
forest by a corps of axe-men, and signals
were employed in the course over

The ''Old Pre-emption Line" was run
at an earlier date, and through the influ-
ence of land-owners who desired it lo-
cated to the west of Geneva, the sur-
veyors did not follow the true meridian.
The deviation began soon after leaving
the Pennsylvania border, and gradually
continued until the outlet of Lake Keuka
was crossed. Then the line bore more
to the westward till opposite the foot of
Seneca Lake, when a northerly course
was resumed and Lake Ontario reached
about three miles west of Great Sodus
Bay. The strip of territory between the
two surveys was called 'The Gore," and.
the State having made grants of the
tract, compensation lands were allotted

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Online LibraryJohn CorbettThe lake country. An annal of olden days in central New York. The land of gold → online text (page 2 of 7)