Samuel W Durant.

History of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers online

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Online LibrarySamuel W DurantHistory of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 3 of 192)
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Professor Worthen, of the Illinois State Geological Survey,
says this limestone near Chicago is completely saturated
with mineral oil, though it is not capable of being collected
to advantage. The color of this rock is commonly a dark
bluish-gray. Its structure is often nodular or concretion-
ary, and sometimes abounds in chert or hornstone. It
occasionally contains gypsum.

The rocks of the Niagara period, like those of the Tren-
ton, abound in fossils: Radiates, Molhishs, Onnoids, Braclii-
opods, LametlibrancJdates, Gasteropods, and Crustaceans.

The Salina Period. — Next in succession comes the
Salina formation, or Onondaga salt group, which aifords the
brines of Central New York.

" In Onondaga County the beds in the lower half are
tender, clayey deposits (marlytes) and fragile, clayey sand-

® The red and green shales which extend through the south part
of the county belong partly to this formation and partly to the Onon-
daga salt group.

f It is finely developed in this town along the Sconondoa Creek.

stones, of red, gray, greenish, yellowish, or mottled colors ;
and in the upper half calcareous marlytes and impure, drab-
colored limestone, containing beds of gypsum, overlaid by
hydraulic limestone. The rock is sometimes divided by
columnar striations, like the Lockport limestone, the origin
of which is probably the same as for those in that rook.
The seams sometimes contain a trace of coal or carbon. "|
Serpentine, mica, and hornblende are occasionally found.
The gypsum-beds of Michigan are located in this forma-
tion. The beds are from 700 to 1000 feet thick in Onon-
daga County, but diminish towards the east, and are only
a few feet on the Hudson. This formation is almost des-
titute of fossils, but abounds in sulphuric and carbonic acids.

Lower Helderberg Period. — This formation of lime-
stone immediately overlies the salina-beds, and extends
through the State from the Hudson to Lake Erie at Buf-
falo. This is also called the Water-lime group, and is a
drab-colored or bluish, impure limestone, in thin layers. It
abounds in fossils, exceeding even the Trenton and Niagara
groups in this respect, over 300 species having been named
ahd described, belonging to the Protozoans, Radiates, Mol-
hisks, and Articidntes.

The Upper Helderberg series extend as far west as
Ontario County, but are very thin. The whole thickness of
the Helderberg formation is 400 feet in Eastern New York.
This formation passes through Paris, Marshall, Augusta,
and Vernon.

Oriskany Sandstone. — This is the upper formation of
the Silurian age, and its strata constitute the passage-beds
between the Silurian and Devonian systems. It extends
from Central New York; in the neighborhood of Oriskany,
in Oneida County, southwestward along the Appalachians,
and spreads over a large area in the Mississippi Valley,
where it is partly limestone. It thins out towards the Hud-
son River. It was formerly classed as the lowest of the
Devonian system, but is now referred to the Upper Silurian
on account of the relation of its fossils. " In New York it
consists either of pure siliceous sands, or of argillaceous
sands. In the former case it is usually yellowish or bluish,
and sometimes crumbles into sand suitable for making glass.
The argillaceous sandstone is of a dark-brown or reddish
color, and was once evidently a sandy or pebbly mud. In
some places it contains nodules of hornstone."J This for-
mation is supposed to have been deposited in an open bay of
the sea, after the uplifting of the Green Mountain region,
and when the highlands of Northern New Jersey constituted
an island or reef

During this formation sea-weeds were not uncommon, but
there have been found no traces of terrestrial animals. The
waters abounded with mollusks of various species. The
total number of the different species of fossils in the Silu-
rian formation, described up to 1872, is 10,074, of which
Trilohites form 1579 varieties.

Devonian Age. — This system was so named by Mur-
chison and Sedgwick, from Devonshire, England, where it
occurs, and abounds in organic remains.

In America this formation includes the Corniferous, Ham-
ilton, Chemung, and Catskill periods.

% Dana.



The Coi-niferous includes the Cauda Gall!, Schoharie,
and Corniferous epochs. The Hamilton includes the Mar-
cellus, Hamilton, and Genesee shales. The Chemung in-
cludes the Portage and Chemung groups ; and the Catskill
forms only a single system of rocks, — the red sandstone.

The first two divisions of the Corniferous period of the
Devonian outcrop only in the eastern half of the State.
The Schoharie grit may possibly reach Oneida County.
Both divisions thicken towards the Hudson River. The
upper divisions, the Onondaga and Corniferous limestones,
may possibly be found in Oneida, as they certainly exist
forther west.* The thickness of these latter formations is
about 20 feet for the Onondaga, and 50 feet for the Cor-
niferous. The latter is of a dark grayish color, and occasion-
ally black. " The limestone of this period in some places
abounds in mineral oil. AtTerre Haute, Ind., a well 1500
feet deep, into Corniferous limestone, yields two barrels of oil
a, day, and a second, 1775 feet deep, twenty-five barrels."f

This formation abounds in fossil plants and animals.
" The remains of Vertebrates, under the form of fishes,
appear first, in America, according to present knowledge, in
the rocks of the Corniferous period. "■j'

The Corniferous is so named from the Latin words cornu
(horn) aiid fero (I bear), alluding to the seams of horn-
stone (flint-like quartz) with which it abounds. It is full
of fossil corals, and here, also, the Conifers and Ferns, an-
ticipating the Carboniferous age, began to appear. Among
its various forms of animal life were several varieties of Se-
lacMims, or the Shark tribe. Their remains have been found
in Ontario County, N. Y. During the Corniferous period the
continent, from Eastern New York westward, was covered
with an immense shallow coral-bearing sea. This formation
outcrops near Waterville.

Above the Corniferous period comes in the Hamilton,
which includes the epochs of the Marcellns, Hamilton, and
Genesee shales. " The Marcellus shale is, for the most
part, a soft, argillaceous rock ; the lower part is black, with
carbonaceous matter, and contains traces of coal or bitumen,
so as sometimes to afibrd flame in the fire. The Hamilton
beds, so named from the town of Hamilton, in Madison
County, consist of shales and flags, with some thin lime-
stone-beds. The excellent flagging-stone in common use in
New York and some adjoining States, often called North
River flags, comes from a thin layer in the Hamilton. The
Genesee shale is a blackish, bituminous shaly rock, overly-
ing the Hamilton. "f

The Marcellus shale is about 50 feet in thickness, the
Hamilton 1000 to 1200 feet, and the Genesee about 150
feet in Central New York. The last two formations are
finely exposed along the banks of the Seneca and Cayuga

The Hamilton flagging-stone is the best in the country,
and is remarkable for the abundance of its ripple-marks and
wave-lines, which may be noticed everywhere in the side-
walks of Utica. The Black shales are impregnated with
oil to the extent of fifteen to twenty per cent. It is ob-
tained from the rock by distillation of its carbonaceous
substances. It often gives out gas from the borings in the

* Outcrop in Sangersfield.

j" Dana.

oil regions. It also contains great quantities of Pyrites,
and abounds in sulphur springs. The shales contain abun-
dant fossils of plants, but very few animal remains. The
Hamilton beds contain many animal fossils.

Overlying the Hamilton group is the Ciie.mung Peeiod,
which includes the Portage and Cliemang lilpoCHS. The
Portage group consists of shales and laminated sandstones.
This formation has a thickness of 1000 feet on the Genesee
River, and 1400 feet near Lake Erie. It is developed in
the neighborhood of Cayuga Lake, but does not appear in
the eastern part of the State. The Chemung group covers
a large area of the southern portion of the State, and hag
a thickness of 1500 feet south of Cayuga Lake. It is made
up of sandstone and coarse shales in various alternations.

The Chemung period and the Catskill, which overlies it,
are not developed in Oneida County. These close the De-
vonian Age. The Carboniferous formation, overlying
the last mentioned, is not found, except in its lower por-
tions (the sub-carboniferous), in the State of New York.

Oneida County afibrds a fine field for the study of the pri-
mary and primordial rocks, and the various formations up
to the close of the Upper Silurian. The region covered by
it abounds in drift, — boulders, gravel, sand, clay, marls, etc. ;
and it has all the features of a semi-mountain region, — lofty
hills, wide and narrow valleys, deep ravines and gorges,
thundering waterfalls, swift-flowing streams, and its charac-
teristic vegetation. It also has its broad table-lands, its
extensive alluvial bottoms, its beautiful lakes, its charming
vales, and level plains.

One of the finest collections of minerals and fossil re-
mains in the country is that of Mr. M. Moore, proprietor of
the hotel at Trenton Falls. The Trilobite specimens in his
cabinet are among the most beautiful and perfect to be found
in any country in the world. They vary in size from nine
inches to a half-inch in length, and form a most interesting



There is no tangible evidence in the form of mounds,
earthworks, bone-pits, etc., within the pre.sent limits of
Oneida County, going to show the occupation of this region
by the pre-historic people who once undoubtedly spread over
a large portion of the present United States territory, and
the centre of whose civilization, according to the evidence,
was in the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys. But, according
to the best authorities,! '''^ evidence is abundant in nearly
all the counties lying north, south, and west of Oneida that
the race spread over a large portion of Western New York,
though some authorities refer the ancient works to a period
not anterior to the Iroquois occupation.

Mr. Squier, in his valuable and interesting work, de-
scribes ancient remains in St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Oswego,
Onondaga, Madison, Otsego, Chenango, Cayuga, Chemung,

X Antiquities of the Stn,te of New York, by B. G. Squier; Anieri-
cun Antiquities, by A. AV. Bradford; Ancient America, by Jolin D.



Ontario, Monroe, Livingston, Genesee, Orleans, Erie, Chau-
tauqua, and Montgomery Counties, but ruakes no mention
of any found in Oneida. The worlis examined by Mr.
Squier consisted of palisaded inclosures, mounds, earth-
works, bone-heaps, etc. The largest is described as being
located in the town of Pompey, Onondaga Co., and is esti-
mated to cover 500 acres. It is supposed to have marked
the site of a fortified town. Altogether about 260 of these
works were visited in the counties named by Mr. Squier.
The works generally in the State of New York are far less
extensive than those found in the Ohio and Mississippi
Valleys, and the presumption naturally follows that if they
belonged to the ancient race they were upon the borders of
its civilization, which here failed to reach that prominence
which characterized its existence in the Western States.

Theories without number have been advanced as to the
origin and duration of these ancient people. By some they
are supposed to have been from Asia, and progenitors of
the red race found occupying the continent at the period of
European discovery in the sixteenth century, who are sup-
posed to have degenerated from the civilization of their an-
cestors. Other writers contend that the semi-civilized races
of Central America and Mexico, found occupying those
countries by the Spaniards in the early part of the six-
teeulh century, were descendants of the " Mound-Builders."
The ancient people of Central America and Mexico were
known by various names : Colliuas, Tullccs, Nahuas, Aztecs,
etc. These people had an old tradition that their ances-
tors came from a country fur to the northeast, called by them
Uue-llue, Tlijpalan, which was believed by the eminent
French scholar, Brasseur de Bourbourg, to have been the
valley of the ftlisbis^ippi and its branches, or, in other
words, the country of the " Mound-Builders.''

This tradition related that after many years' occupation
they were driven out at the end of a protracted struggle
and sought a new home in the regions of Central America,
— many of them coming in ships. The terrible race who
finally forced them from their country was called the
Chicluinics. The period of this exodus is supposed to
have been at least 1000 yeai-s previous to the Christian era,
and some writers place it as far back as 2500 years.

It has been ingrained into the descendants of Europeans
in America that the first, or primitive, human beings ap-
peared on the Eastern Continent, and many ingenious theo-
ries have been constructed to prove the position. The
Copper I'accs of America have been compared, times with-
out number, with the people of Eastern Asia, with the
gypsies of Egypt, with the supposed ten lost Jewish tribes,
and many others. Their language has undergone the
same critical examination and comparison, and there have
been very few. writers until recently who have ques-
tioned the theory. But recent investigations in geology
and palaeontology have shaken the confidence heretofore
reposed in the stereotyped traditions of the past, and men
are beginning to be convinced that neither the Sequoias of
California, the tulip-tree of Indiana, the sugar-maple of the
North, nor the palmetto of the South have emigrated from the
slopes of Lebanon or the valley of the Euphrates. Neither
has the bison of the prairies, the wild turkey of the central
forests, or the rattlesnake of the rocks come from some far-

off land. And MAN, the crowning glory of animal life, is
just as likely to have appeared on the American as the
Asiatic continent, or rather he may have sprung into exist-
ence simultaneously in various places thousands of miles
asunder. Why not?

Geologically, the American is probably the older of the
continents, and it is demonstrable that before even the
lowest of the land animals appeared the sea was teeming
with myriad life, that extended to every part of the globe.
The rocks bear unmistakable evidence of this fact ; and the
time is not far distant when the belief will be common that
every form of life — vegetable and animal — has gradually
appeared whenever and wherever the surroundings were
fitted for its existence.

From the best evidence which can be obtained there is
every indication that the American continent has produced
its own Fauna and Flora, and consequently the belief is
gaining ground every day that the first human race of the
continent was really both ahorlgiual and indigenous.

The Indians knew very little of the ancient remains :
and, although they were familiar with them, they could
never give any satisfactory idea of their origin. The
famous Mohawk chieftain, Tliay-en-daii-e-gea (Joseph
Brant), being interrogated, stated that " a tradition pre-
vailed among the different nations of Indians throughout
the whole extensive range of country, which had been
handed down time immemorial, that in an age long gone
by there came white men from a foreign country, and by
consent of the Indians established trading-houses and set-
tlements where these tAimnll are found. A friendly inter-
course was continued for several years ; many of the white
men brought their wives, and had children born to them ;
and additions to their numbers were made yearly from
their own country. These circumstances at length gave
rise to jealousies among the Indians, and fears began to be
entertained in regard to the increasing numbers, wealth,
and ulterior views of the new-comers, apprehending that,
becoming strong, they might one day seize upon the country
as their own.

" A secret council, composed of the chiefs from all the dif-
ferent nations from the St. Lawrence to the Mississippi,
was therefore convoked ; the result of which, after long
deliberation, was a resolution that on a certain night
designated for that purpose all their white neighbors —
men, women, and children — should be exterminated. The
most profound secrecy was essential to the execution of
such a purpose ; and such was the fidelity with which the
fatal determination was kept, that the conspiracy was suc-
cessful, and the device carried completely into effect. Not
a soul was left to tell the tale."*



Tub first well-authentic ited visits of Europeans made
to the territory now comprising the flourishing and popu-
lous State of New York were those of Sir Samuel Cham-

- Tins tradition possibly refors to a settlement made by tile French
at Poni|icy, Onondiigii, County, N. Y., in 10(16.



plain and Sir Henry Hudson, in the year 1609 ; the former,
via the St. Lawrence and Sorel liivera and Lake Cham-
plain, in July, and the latter on the Hudson River, as high
up as Albany, in September following.

At that date the region of country extending through
the centre of the State, from the Hudson River on the
east to Lake Erie on the west, was occupied by the most
famous and powerful Indian confederacy of which history
makes mention, — the celebrated Iroqaoise* of the French,
and Five (subsequently Six) Nations of the English ; but
by themselves called the Ho-de'-no-sau-nee, or, literally, the
" People of the Long House.'' These tribes or nations
were ranged in the following order, commencing on the
Hudson River and reading towards the west : jMohawks,
Oiteidas, Onondtigas, Cayitgas, Senecas. The Tascaronis,
said to be a kindred tribe, upon their expulsion from North
Carolina about 1712, applied for and were granted admission
into the Confederacy, but not upon equal terms with the
original members. They were a.ssigned territory to the
south of and adjoining that of the Oiieidas and Oiiundagas,
lying mostly within the present county of Chenango. The
actual population of this confederation has never been
positively known. La Hontan, a French writer of some
celebrity, but of much uncertainty in his statements, esti-
mated it at 70,000. An estimate made by Colonel Coursey
at Albany, in 1677, placed it at 15,000. Bancroft estimated
it, including the Tascaroras, at 17,000. Sir William John-
son, about 1763, computed their number at 10,000.

A tradition among the Seiiecas, as related by Morgan in
his work entitled " League of the Ho-de'no-suu-nee-" states
that at the period of their greatest prosperity the Sciiecas
took a census of their people by placing a kernel of corn
for every Seneca in a corn-basket, supposed to hold about
ten or twelve quarts, which, if filled, — a matter about which
nothing is said, — would give, according to an estimate made,
17,760 grains ; but the story is told in such an uncerUiin
way that it amounts to very little.

Morgan considers that the Confederacy was at the zenith
of its power about 1G50, and estimates the population at
that period at 25,000, divided among the different nation-
alities as follows: Sencais, 10,000; Cayugas, 3000;
Oauiidfigas, 4000 ; Oneidas, 3000 ; Muhawks, 5000. At
the date last mentioned their empire, if the term is ad-
missible, extended nominally from the mouth of the St.
Lawrence to the Mississippi River, and from Hudson's
Bay to the valley of the Tennessee ; though the country
they really occupied was confined to something less than
the area of the present State of New York.

About the year 1700 their conquests had extended over
the Abenakis nations of New England, the Algunqaias
proper, the Adlroiidacks, the Muntagiials, the Ilurons, the
Tobacco nation, and the Neutral nation of British America.
They had conquered the Lenid Lenape, or Delaionres, the
Andastes, the Erlei, and other nations of Pennsylvania and
New York, aud had carried their arms and the terror of
their name over all the nations living in Ohio, Indiana,
Michigan, and Illinois. In the latter State, towards the

^ Now generally written Iroquois. Tlie origin of the word is in-
volved in much obscurily, and its i-eal uieauing uot certainly known.

close of the seventeenth century, they had nearly extermi-
nated the once powerful nation known as the lUiiii, or
lllliiois. The conquered nations paid an annual tribute to
their masters, who, holding, as it were, the keys of all the
great natural thoroughfares, sat like the eagle in his eyrie,
and kept them all in subjection. From 1609 to the close
of the French war of 1754-60, with few exceptions, they
were the most inveterate and troublesome enemies with
whom the French had to deal, and often carried destruction
aud carnage to the very walls of Montreal aud Quebec.
Through the influence of the French Jesuits, considerable
numbers of them were from time to time persuaded to leave
their kindred and settle around missions in Canada, or on its
immediate borders, upon territory then occupied by the
French. The most considerable of these colonies was the
one founded by the Abbe Picquet in 1749 at Oswegatchie,
or Swe-ga-chie, now Ogdensburg. About the year 1759 this
colony consisted of some 3000 souls, mostly drawn from the
Onondagas and Muhawks. It was broken up in 1760 on
the approach of Amherst's army to Montreal, and its people
scattered in various directions.

Durin" the war of the Revolution, the Six Nations,
vrith the exception of the Oiieidas and Tuscaroras, and
one village of the Muhawks, threw their fortunes into the
scale with the English, and their war-parties were a con-
tinual terror to the border settlements from Lake Cham-
plain to the Delaware. Under the celebrated Mohawk
chief, Tlwy-en-dan-e-gea, better known by his English
name, Joseph Brant, their warriors took part in nearly
every skirmish and battle fought within the limits of New
York, Pennsylvania, and Canada, and their name is legion.
The military expeditions directed against them by the
American Congress, under Colonels Willett and Van Schaick,
and Generals Sullivan and Clinton, nearly put an end to
their Confederacy and their power; and the rapid influx of
immigration following the close of the war speedily com-
pelled the hostiles to give up nearly all their lands, and
reduced the friendly tribes to the condition of a few isolated
and circumscribed communities.

The bulk of the Muhawk nation removed to Canada at
the beginning of the war, settling at first in the neighbor-
hood of the Bay of Quints, from whence they subsequently
mostly removed to the Valley of Grrand River, near Lake

The Oiieidas, notwithstanding their friendship for the
Americans, fared little better than the rest of their brethren
of the Six Nations. Their lauds were eventually purchased
by the State at various times, until little remained of the
once extensive territory occupied by them. A portion of
the nation migrated to Canada, and settled on the river
Thames. Another body removed to the neighborhood of
Green Bay, Wis., and a remnant still remains near their
ancient council-house, or castle, in Oneida County.

The history of the Onondagas is similar, though in some
respects they have been the most fortunate nation of the
league. A large share of their lauds were sold to the
State, and many of them removed to Canada ; some took
refuge with the Seiiecas, and a considerable body still
reside on their original lands in the towns of Onondaga
and La Fayette, in Onondaga County.



The Oii/iiffas, perhaps, fared the worst of all, for as early
as the year 1800 they had entirely abandoned their lands
and removed, some to Green Bay, Wis., and some to San-
dusky, Ohio, from whence they subsequently wore removed
to a reservation west of the Blississippi. A small portion
settled among the Seiiecas.

The Tttscnroras removed from the Oneida territory,
originally granted them in 1712, and settled about the
Niagara River about 1780-85:

The Seiicciis, long the most foi-midablo nation of the
Confederacy, have had a similar experience. The greed of
the white man — the . Christian — has gradually encroached
upon their once extensive domain, until they are at present
confined to three small reservations situated in the counties
of Genesee, Chautauqua, and Cattaraugus.

Online LibrarySamuel W DurantHistory of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 3 of 192)