They raised their first wheat, about thirty bushels, in , and harvested one hundred acres in Thus briefly we have outlined the history of the Indian and shown his fate. AT the close of the Revolution northern and western New York was a wilderness, but the march of armies and the forays of detachments had made known the future promise of these erst untrodden regions, and companies, State and Government, took immediate steps, as policy and duty seemed to dictate, to acquire their ownership.
It is notable that the seasons seemed to conspire to render the woods untenable to the Indians when the time approached for the first few isolated settlements of adventurous pioneers. The winter of was marked by its unprecedented severity. All western New York lay covered by a blanket of snow full five feet in depth. Wild animals, hitherto numerous, perished by thousands.
The conclusion of that peace by which American Independence was acknowledged secured no terms to England's savage auxiliaries, although their ancient possessions passed by the treaty of into the hands of the United States.
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The new government desired to make peace with the Six Nations, and a cession of their rights to the vast territory claimed by them. By Act of April 6, , Governor George Clinton, President of a Board of Commissioners consisting of four persons, was authorized to ally with them other persons deemed necessary, and proceed to enter into compact with the Indians. Fort Stanwix was appointed as the place for assembly. Pending proceedings, Clinton learned by letter that Congress had appointed Arthur Lee and Richard Butler Commissioners to negotiate treaties with the same parties; thus the un-' defined powers of the United States opened ground for conflict of interest and authority between State and Confederation.
The General Government maintained its prerogatives, and concluded a treaty at Fort Stanwix on October 22, Its provisions were the terms of a conqueror, as the penalty of opposition.
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It has been asserted that among the sachems whose speeches on that occasion moved their hearers by their eloquence was the renowned Red Jacket, but the evidence is unworthy of credit. This warrior of the Senecas, promoted to a chieftaincy by the influence of his grandmother, became renowned among the whites for oratorical ability, and stands prominent, rather as the last of a line of natural speakers than as illustrious among them.
His death occurred in , at the age of about seventy, and while we find many who had seen him in life, it is a mooted question what immediate locality was honored as his birth-place: The conclusion of the Stanwix treaty threw wide open the doors to sale and occupation of a large extent of territory.
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Pending State and national negotiation, companies of active and influential men were organized to evade the law and obtain for themselves a lease of land, equivalent to actual ownership: In the western part of the State the work of settlement was undertaken by the Holland Land Company from , prior to which date an immense tract of land, a part of whose eastern boundary ran through the middle of Seneca Lake, had been sold to Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham, and by them disposed of to Robert Morris, an Englishman, who in turn sold a large portion of it to Sir William Pulteney and others, of London, England, and the settlement of Montgomery County in its western portion began.
We have remarked that military expeditions had attracted the attention of soldiers to lands, beautiful, fertile, and extensive, and, on their discharge from service, their descriptions of the scenery, soil, and valuable water-power of the Seneca region induced restless families, principally at first from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and later, Yankees from New England, to set out upon the line of march of Sullivan's army and locate themselves along its route.
From an elevation where is now the town of Ovid, the immigrant could stand and look upon an extensive and magnificent view. Nine counties are included in the prospect, which has been changed from an unbroken forest to the valuable homes of a great people. In comparison with other localities of the Empire State, central New York constitutes one of her most attractive sections. Upon ridge, bluff, slope, or plain, the settler could fix his habitation, while from the lakes adjacent could be obtained savory and ample food from the choice fish which teemed in shoals amidst their healthful waters.
By Act of May 11, , Land Office Commissioners were created, whose duty it was made to carry into effect the promises made to soldiers of the Revolution by the Legislature of of bounty lands for reward of services. State lands, on being surveyed and appraised, were advertised for public sale, and any lot unsold could be taken by any applicant by a one-fourth payment and security for the remainder. By the treaty with the Onondagas made in , all those lands originally composing Onondaga County, and now divided and organized as the Counties of Seneca, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Cortland, with portions of Oswego, Wayne, and Tompkins, were set apart by the Land Commissioners for bounties to soldiers, and became known as the Military Tract.
This tract was surveyed into twentyfive townships of sixty thousand acres each, and each township was then re-surveyed into lots of six hundred acres each. Three additional townships were subsequently added, to provide for persons in the Hospital Department and others not accommodated; and the townships of the tract were thus twenty-eight in number. As a matter of curiosity, showing a reference to or knowledge of Roman history for names of these townships, we give the reader the primitive list, as follows: From those townships the present towns of Seneca are derived in the following order: Junius constituted Junius, Tyre, Waterloo, and the north part.
The original course of travel was by way of Oneida Lake and River, and from the south upon Cayuga Lake; but when a State road was cut through by way of Auburn, fiom Whitestown to Geneva, in , and the famous Cayuga Bridge was built in , this route became the great highway of western emigration. He who rides to-day upon the smooth track, at a fare of two cents per mile, and passes safely and swiftly from one side of New York to the other,-he who performs a journey of a thousand miles'perusing the news of the day, or slumbering in the luxurious retreat of a palace car,-may find it interesting to learn of journeyings some eighty years ago.
Those emigrants entitled to military lots came chiefly from the eastern part of the State of New York. Others, however, were from Rhode Island and her sister States, while a large proportion of the families settling on the south side of the outlet were from. The road referred to above was, in , but a slightly improved Indian path, along whose sides, at varying intervals of ten to twenty miles, for a hundred miles, a few rude cabins were scattered.
The road was little used, the Erie Canal was not projected, the Cayuga and Seneca Canal was not in existence, and even the Seneca Lock Navigation Company was yet in the future. The emigrant had still a choice of methods: If he came from Long Island, he launched his bateau upon the Sound and came to New York, thence up the Hudson River, whence, transporting boat, passengers, and effects to Schenectady, he passed up the Mohawk to Fort Stanwix, or Rome; thence crossed by land a brief portage to Vilrick, or Wood Creek, and by that reached Oneida Lake. Sweeping slowly along the lake, the Oswego River was entered, and by that stream he found access to the lake-bound region of Seneca and the Genesee plains beyond.
To one who made that voyage, loo01g back after an interval of poling, rowing, floating, and transporting, for a priod of four to six weeks, his former home seemed very distant, and present ills preferable to a like return.
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Another, and southern route, brought the emigrant along the Susquehanna and Tioga Rivers to Newtown, now Elmira; thence, after transporting boat and effects, he reached the Seneca Lake, and through its outlet came to the port of Scauyes, or, mounting his horse and following Indian trails, he traversed the dense wilds for many leagues to reach this, his future home. Yet a few remain with us who realized these modes- of travel; but most of these pioneers have "fallen asleep. The cause of westward migration deserves consideration. The annals of colonial days reveal the fact that, while the Spaniard ravaged the New World in his lust for gold, the Puritan, Huguenot, Catholic, and Quaker came here to enjoy the rights of conscience and freedom to worship in their own way.
From to the sterile Atlantic coast received these voluntary exiles.
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Families increased in numbers, and the scanty soil gave little return for labor. A rich soil, a large farm, a belief in the growth of the future, the desire of a comfortable home with children tilling their own fields around them, and a love of novelty,'urged on by the example of others, all conspired to scatter a population in this region of a varied character. It is on record that Seneca's pioneers who changed her hunting-grounds to cleared and productive farmns were in general a hardy, energetic race.
They were influenced by like motives and circumstances, and acknowledged a common dependenee, a deep sympathy, and a necessity of cooperation. In cutting roads, building bridges, erecting public dwellings, and defending themselves from mutual danger, they cheerfully shared labor and promoted sociality. The southern part of Seneca was first settled, and George Faussett, of Pennsylvania, was the enterprising man; while the first recorded resident in northern Seneca was James Bennett, likewise a native of the Keystone State.
The narrative of these and of those who soon followed them is material for a future chapter, but this much here is given, that the early settlers of every town in the County were not only industrious and full of energy, but were men of rectitude, who knew and practiced moral duties, and instinctively perceived and practiced right.
Her reduced area is the natural result of a growing population and a republican form of gov eminent. On November 1; , Albany was organized as one of ten original counties of the New York province, and was by legal enactment bounded north and west by the provincial limits.
At Albany, on June 19, , the first Congress of the colonies met for purposes of union and defense, and the plan as drawn by Dr. Franklin was rejected as too advantageous to the other by both the colonies and the British king. Montgomery County was formed from Albany on the 12th of Marc'h, , and at that time bore the name of Tryon County. The name Montgomery was given during April of , at the close of the war, in honor of Richard Montgomery, a gallant officer in the Continental army.
The cramped settlements and over-crowded Eastern towns and villages began to send out families and colonies northward and westward, and speedily required a further division of counties for convenience of jurisdiction and fair representation of interests. Accordingly we find Montgomery reduced in by the formation of Ontario, and her territory yet further diminished in by the erection of Tioga, Otsego, and Herkimer.
It is not our purpose to dwell upon the continued changes of counties, by which their present number and area was obtained, further than they apply in the exhibit of a line of organization by which Seneca can be readily traced. There came in the year , from Middletown, Connecticut, the first lone settler in the forests of western Montgomery. Resolute and decisive, this man, Hugh White, planted himself in a log habitation at what is now the village of Whitesborough, and, mingling with the Indians to win their approval, found relief from his labors of improvement in the society of his wife and children.
One afternoon, White being absent, his wife saw a party of Indians coming along the trail towards her habitation. Following a natural impulse, she gave them cordial greeting and proffered food.
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Presently one of their number, whose bearing showed the chief, asked permission to take her daughter with them on a visit to the red man's home. To trust her darling child to the ruthless savages was a hard requirement, yet to refuse might bring some far worse fate. While the heart of the mother was troubled by conflicting emotions, and the stoical foresters looked on and awaited a reply, a step was heard, and White came in' He saluted his visitors with frank and open countenance, and, learning the object of their call, consented instantly, I and directed his child to go with them.
The Indians disappeared in the forest, and the hours were made long by anxiety. Evening drew near, and with it the time for the return of the child. In the distance were seen the waving plumes of the chief, and by his side tripped the proud girl, arrayed in the ornaments of Indian life. The test of confidence had been made and withstood, and henceforth White knew no friends more faithful than his red brethren.
During the year , a trading-house was opened near Waterloo of to-day, by a man whose history is all the more of interest here since he was recognized as the first white settler west of the Genesee River. His father was a blacksmith and frequently repaired rifles. The son was daily in the habit of seeing and trying them, and hence while quite I young he became an expert marksman. Energetic, bold, and skillful, he seemed born with a disposition for adventure, which was stimulated to activity by the frequent passage of troops. Fourteen years of age, he was a man in spirit, and joined the soldiers as a fifer in the regiment commanded by Colonel Piper, with whom he remained during the entire winter.
During the month of June, , his desire for more active service induced him to enlist in a company of riflemen called the Bedford Rangers, recruited by Captain Boyd, of the United States army. After a scout of a few days, one morning about sunrise, while a fog hung heavy over the ground, the rangers, thirty-two strong, encountered a body of Indians, numbering about eighty, upon the Ragstown branch of the Juniata River.
They soon found themselves ambuscaded, and a destructive fire from unseen rifles speedily laid nine rangers low in death; eight more were captured, and the whites were completely defeated. The battle being ended Jones retreated rapidly, and, ascending a hill, discovered but a few feet in front two Indians armed with rifles aimed at his person. Having no reason to regard their intentions as friendly, he diverged from his course and ran for dear life.
He would undoubtedly have distanced his pursuers, but unluckily his moccasin-string became untied and caught around a twig, which threw him to the ground. The Indians at full speed ran by him before they could stop, the one nearest him raising a claim to him as his prisoner. Distrusting their ability to retake their captive if their fleetness should again be. The wet grass saturated the blankets and thereby frusi trated any attempt at escape. He was brought back to the battle-ground whegi the prisoners were arranged, and immediately marched into the woods.
The savage struck his hatchet deep into the disabled soldier's head, drew him over backwards, and, scalping him, left the poor fellow to die with his face turned upward. Two days they marched on and had no food; then a bear was killed, and to Jones fell the entrails for his portion. With scanty dressing, these were emptied, hastily cooked, and, without other seasoning than the promptings of hunger, hastily eaten.
The captives were tied by night, and the journey continued under close guard by day, until they arrived at what is now Nunda, Livingston County, New York. During the ascent of Foot Hill, Jack Berry informed Jones that he must run the gauntlet to a house in the distance, and, if he was successful in reaching it, his safety would be secured. Indians and squaws, swarming fiom their huts, formed themselves into two parallel lines, between which Jones began his perilous race. Numerous blows were struck at him, with clubs, tomahawks, and stones, as he dashed along.
A noted chief, named Sharpshins, struck at him desperately with his hatchet; and then, as Jones passed unharmed, he threw the deadly weapon after him: William McDonald came next. The rest escaped with little injury. The smallpox broke out during the following winter, and Jones, suffering in the hospital from the loathsome disorder, saw men borne away for burial while yet living.