Chapter 02 - North American Indians



WHEN the American Continent was first discovered, the voyagers everywhere, north, south, and east, on the coast, and in the interior, found the country occupied by a people they called Indians.

These Indians were generally roving tribes, changing their places of residence as wars or hunting made the change necessary. A few of the tribes were permanently located, had villages, cleared fields and orchards, and some of the villages were enclosed with palisades as a protection against any attacking enemy.

The State of New York, except what is now Erie and Chautauqua counties and the southeast corner of the State was claimed and occupied by five tribes, viz: Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas; known the world over as the Iroquois or Five Nations.

The Mohawks had their principal villages on the Mohawk River; their territory embracing the northern and eastern part of the State.

The Oneidas lived on and near Oneida Lake. The Onondagas occupied the territory around Onondaga Lake. The Cayugas had their villages around Cayuga Lake. The Senecas before 1780 had their chief village, Kan-a-de-sa-ga, just west of the present site of Geneva, at the foot of Seneca Lake. They were the most numerous, powerful and warlike of the Five Nations.

The question has often been asked: "When did these five tribes obtain possession of so much territory?"


History tells us that when Champlain, the French explorer, came from Montreal into Lake Ontario and up the Oswego River in July, 1609, he found the Onondagas in full possession of all that country, and when the French first came to the Niagara River they found the Senecas there; but when they reached Lake Erie they found a small tribe at the foot of the Lake to which they gave the name of Neuters; and on the south shore of the Lake were the Erie or Cat Indians.

The Neuters and Eries were overpowered by the Senecas in a war between them about 1645, and the result was that the Senecas came into possession of all the land and villages of the defeated tribes.

Some nations which have had no written language by which to keep a record of important events, have used pictures or characters as emblems carved on stone or metals. Other nations have made characters or figures of some sort on blocks of soft clay which when baked, become indestructible. These are now being found in excavations and ruins of long lost and buried cities in the east.

Other nations not so far advanced in civilization [the American Indians belonging to this class] have kept in remembrance some of their most important events by tradition; parents telling the story to their children and friends, and so on through many generations.

It is not at all strange that these stories from being told and retold many times may, in some respects, become changed and so tradition, as a rule, must be taken as rather uncertain and unsatisfactory evidence; but the main or leading thought can always be found.


The Onondagas and the Senecas were the only tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy that had any tradition of anything prior to the settlements made by the whites.

The traditions of the Iroquois nation since Champlain came into their country in 1609, accord exactly with the history that we have of them; and as there is this agreement between our history and their traditions so long as we have known them, it is fair to infer that their early traditions are nearly correct; and as they furnish the only, and therefore the best evidence we can obtain, we are obliged to accept these traditions as approximately correct.

The Onondaga tradition is that they were the oldest if not the mother tribe of the Five Nations.

That several hundred years before they ever saw a white man, they lived in Canada; and being defeated in wars with a superior tribe, they fled in boats across Lake Ontario and up the Oswego River to Onondaga Lake where they stopped. Here they lived and as they increased in numbers and extended their settlements, they found fortified villages of inhabitants who were acquainted with agriculture and had cultivated fields and orchards whom they overpowered and took possession of their lands.

They called them Mound Builders. The Onondagas have no tradition as to the time they overpowered this people, or as to the time when they organized their system of clans, or when they formed their confederacy of the Five Nations, all of which may have been 600 or 1000 years ago. We learn by this tradition that these Mound Builders were here before the Onondagas came from Canada. It is not necessary to follow their tradition since 1609, as we have a written history since that time. The Onondagas being the central tribe and probably the original stock of the Iroquois, to them was entrusted the care of the sacred council fires, and upon their territory were held the great councils of the Nation to decide all questions of great importance, wars, peace and all matters of general policy and interest.

The Seneca traditions make no mention of their coming from another country but that they broke out of the earth from a large mountain at the head of Canandaigua Lake. Thence they derive their name, "Ge-nun-de-wah," or Great Hill, and are called the Great Hill People.

They have a tradition that before and for some time after their origin at Ge-nun-de-wah, the country about the lakes and far away was thickly inhabited by a race of civil, enterprising and industrious people who had cultivated fields and large villages, and that they were totally destroyed by a great serpent, which also destroyed nearly all of the Senecas, only enough of whom were spared to replenish their tribe.

Mary Jemison, also called the White Woman, of whom we shall have more to say later on, thus gives the Seneca tradition of a people who were here before they came and, no doubt, they were the same people referred to in the Onondaga tradition, and the same race that have left mounds and forts all through the country from the Mississippi River to central New York. The tradition that they, the Senecas, broke out of the earth from a large mountain, probably refers to the fact that they settled there and built a fort on the top of the mountain, thus making it their home village.

We can hardly imagine what the serpent was that, they say, destroyed all the people who were there before they came, and which came so near destroying them also; producing such widespread desolation, unless it might have been some plague or contagious disease.


These Mound Builders left nothing whereby their history can be learned, and only by the traditions of these two tribes of the Iroquois, have we any intimation so as to enable us to even guess when they lived there - whether six hundred or two thousand years ago.

Two of these mounds or forts are on the tops of two hills near the northeast corner of the town of Aurora, and two were on Lot 2 in this town of Elma on land now owned by Mr. William V. Lougee, where several years ago in leveling the banks which comprised the fort, parts of several skeletons were found, the bones being of more than ordinary size, showing that they belonged to a race of people of large statue. These forts were east of the Big Buffalo Creek and about a fourth of a mile west from the east line of Elma.

One other fort was on the west side of the Big Buffalo Creek on lots 29 and 30, land formerly owned by Lewis M. Bullis. This fort like all the others was circular in form and enclosed about eight or ten acres of land; crossing the Bullis Road and extending to the south side of a dense thicket and swamp, taking in a large spring at the edge of the swamp. The embankment in 1852, before the land was cleared, was three to four feet high and eight to twelve feet wide at the base; large pine and other trees two to three and one-half feet in diameter were at that time growing on the top and sides of the embankment and in the ditch, of the same size and age as the surrounding forest. The only account the Indians could give of these forts or mounds is what is mentioned in the traditions of the Onondaga and Seneca tribes of the Iroquois.


The Tuscarora Indians, having been badly beaten in North Carolina in 1711, came north and the next year joined the Five Nations of the Iroquois, which was after that time known as the *'Six Nations."

All through the Revolutionary War, the Six Nations were with the English, except about one hundred and fifty of the Oneidas and about two hundred of the Tuscaroras, who remained neutral. The English and their Indian allies wrought great havoc and destruction among the frontier settlements. To check these invasions. Gen Sullivan, in the summer of 1779, invaded the country of the Onondagas, Oneidas and Senecas, as far west as into Livingston County, burned their villages, laid waste and destroyed their cornfields and orchards and made such destruction that they never completely recovered.

In the spring of 1780, a considerable body of the Senecas with three of their principal chiefs. Farmer Brother, Cornplanter, and Red Jacket, with a few of the Cayugas and Onondagas made their first permanent settlement in Erie County. The principal village of the Senecas was on the Big Buffalo Creek about three miles above its mouth, with smaller villages at several places along the Creek; one at Jack Berry Town, now Garden ville; another, a small settlement about half a mile above Blossom; another at Big Flats, now Elma village; another on the flats on Lots 14 and 15, for many years owned by Frank Metcalf, and on Lots 4, 11 and 12, south and east of East Elma, and a small settlement about one and one-half miles southwest from Marilla village. The Onondagas had their village on the Cazenove Creek, south and west of Ebenezer village, with scattering residents for six to ten miles further up on that creek.

The Cayugas were located on the Cayuga Creek, about five miles north from the Onondaga village.

At the close of the Revolutionary war, the United States government confiscated the lands previously claimed and occupied by the Iroquois nation, to punish them for the part they had taken during the war. Many of the Indians went to Canada with their English friends where they were given lands and bounties by the British Government, while the United States Government gave small reservations to those who chose to remain here. In September, 1794, at Canandaigua, the United States by treaty with the Senecas, secured to them all the lands west of the Phelps and Gorham purchase; being nearly all the lands in the State of New York west of the Genesee River, except the New York State Reservation of one mile in width from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie, along the east side of the Niagara River.

Three years later, in September, 1797, Robert Morris bought the Indian title to all the lands in western New York except eleven reservations, containing in all, three hundred and thirty-eight square miles. The Buffalo Creek Reservation, containing one hundred and thirty square miles lying on both sides of the Big Buffalo Creek, was one of the eleven, and was about seven and one-half miles, north and south, and about eighteen miles east and west, taking in all of the towns of West Seneca, Elma and Marilla, the south part of Cheektowaga, Lancaster and Alden, and the north part of East Hamburg, Hamburg, Aurora and Wales. This Buffalo Creek Reservation was to be the home of the Seneca Indians, and it did so remain for more than sixty years after they first came here for a permanent home and until they sold their Reservation to the Ogden Company in 1842. That is how and why the Seneca Indians were here so long after the country north and south of this Reservation had been settled by the whites.

Since the Indians settled here in 1780 to the commencement of the year 1812 they had remained quiet and peaceable. Rumors of trouble between the United States and Great Britain caused much apprehension as to what the Seneca Indians would do in case war should actually break out, and the remembrance of the Indian massacres during the Revolutionary war was anything but pleasant.


The British had given lands to the Mohawks, and to some of the other tribes of the Six Nations who had gone to Canada after the Revolutionary war, and it was feared that those Indians would be ready to go on the war path as English allies.

The United States government had given lands to those Indians who chose to remain here and every effort was made by the government to have these Indians remain neutral.

WAR IN 1812.

On May 26th, 1812, just before the war broke out, Supt. Granger held a council with the chiefs of the Six Nations who were in the United States, to induce them to remain neutral during the war. They partly agreed and said they would send a delegation to consult with their brethren in Canada.

The Canadian Indians at the same time sent a delegation to the Senecas to induce them to join the British during the war.

On July 6th, 1812, Supt. Granger called another council of the Indian Chiefs to be held in their council-house on the Buffalo Creek Reservation. He explained to them the cause of the war and urged them to take no part in the quarrel between the whites. He knew that many of the young braves were being influenced by the delegates from Canada and that they were desirous to engage in the war. He said to them, if they were really determined to fight, perhaps the United States government would accept the services of one hundred or one hundred and fifty of the warriors. Red Jacket did not want any of the Indians here to enlist as that would array brother against brother; and he hoped no warrior would enlist without permission from the great council. He asked of Supt. Granger leave to make another effort to persuade the Mohawks to abandon the warpath. The request was granted and a deputation of five chiefs left for Canada. Nothing favorable resulted from this visit as the Mohawks were pledged and determined to help the British. Under Red Jacket's advice, none of the Senecas joined the American army during 1812.

WAR OF 1813.

Early in July, 1813, the General in command of the American forces at Buffalo enrolled between four hundred and five hundred Senecas under Farmer Brother who lived on the Buffalo Creek Reservation and was recognized, both by the whites and the Indians, as the greatest of the war chiefs. Red Jacket was as strongly opposed as ever to any of the Indians entering the American army.

On July 10th, 1813, General Porter having heard that the British were preparing to capture Black Rock, speedily sent word to all the inhabitants, and Farmer Brother gathered his warriors telling them that now they must fight, that their country was invaded; and that they must show their friendship to the Americans by actual help and work.

The British regulars, without Indians, landed early in the morning of July nth below Black Rock, but were repulsed by the Americans and their Indian allies, and many prisoners were taken. The Expedition was a failure, so far as the British were concerned, but was a brilliant success for the Americans, as the Senecas entered heartily into the whole affair.

The British attack upon Buffalo, December 30, 1813, with 1,000 regulars and 200 Canadian Indians, resulted in the capture and burning of Buffalo. The American volunteers, being raw militia and poorly officered, fled in every direction. The Senecas took up the cry of defeat and sent runners to the Cattaraugus and Allegany Reservations carrying the news that Buffalo was burned and that the British and Indians were coming.

WAR IN 1814.

Stone's life of Red Jacket gives the account of a battle which was fought July 5th, 1814, on the Canadian side of Niagara River just above Chippewa, between the American army composed of one thousand three hundred militia and five hundred Senecas on one side, and the British army and their Indians on the other side.

Red Jacket had from the first, done and said all he could to hold the Senecas from entering the American Army, and he had of late deen charged with cowardice, but now that it was certain that there was to be actual fighting, he joined the other Chiefs and the five hundred Senecas and took an active part in the battle. The Americans claimed the victory, taking many prisoners and drove the British and Indians from the field.

This was the first time since the Iroquois Confederacy was formed several hundred years ago, that the Senecas and Mohawks appeared as enemies, or that one tribe was in battle arrayed against another tribe, or that clan against clan fought a fierce hand-to-hand battle.

After the battle, Red Jacket arranged to have messengers go to the Mohawks to get their consent to a withdrawal of the Indians on both sides. No agreement was reached by this conference, but the Mohawks had suffered so much in the Chippewa battle that they did not again take the field. Red Jacket obtained permission for the Senecas to go home, promising that they would return if the British Indians should again join the British army. This virtually ended the Indian part of the war. The Confederation was again weakened, but not destroyed.


Many have been the guesses, surmises and speculations as to what was the strong bond that caused the tribes that composed the Iroquois Nation to be always at peace among themselves, and that united them so firmly, that in war or in peace they were one nation.

Was it the league, offensive and defensive, that bound them so closely as confederates, or was it the system of clans, the principles of which were adopted, accepted and lived up to with most religious exactness, that was the binding force?

It is not now known, and probably never will be, whether the clan system or the articles of the Confederacy were first adopted or whether they were both accepted at the same time; nor is it known when the whole system was made complete and put into practice.

Judging, with the lights of history and experience to help us, we may say that it is almost a certainty that either one, the clan system or the confederate league by itself would have proved a failure; and that it required both - the clan part undoubtedly the stronger - to make the most perfect and successful confederation that had ever been formed, and a government that has existed for hundreds of years; the clan part continuing to this day and the confederation, although by force of other governing powers having been partly broken up, has not been entirely destroyed.

Their tradition names Ta-do-dah-oh, an Onondaga Chief, as the founder of the league; but they have no tradition of their Clan system. Whoever was the originator of the scheme showed such great skill and statesmanship that no nation on earth need be ashamed to follow example.

The Confederation was in many respects very similar to our Union of States. A congress or Grand Council of Chiefs and Sachems decided all questions of National importance, as of war and peace and gave direction to the affairs of the Confederacy.

Each tribe was independent by itself in its own tribal affairs, acts and privileges; had its own council and could call on the other tribes to join them in wars of defense or of conquest.


Each tribe of the Iroquois Nation was divided into eight clans or families, viz: Wolf, Bear, Beaver, Turtle, Deer, Snipe, Heron, and Hawk.

By Indian law, all members of a clan were brothers and sisters whether of their own tribe or of any other, and anyone of any clan was always welcome in any family of the same clan, in his own or in any other tribe. As a brother could not marry a sister, so a member of a wolf clan could not marry a wolf of his own or of another tribe, but a wolf could marry a member of any other clan, of his own or of any other tribe. This law of clan relation and marriage has been lived up to and enforced for several hundred years and is still strictly observed.

As this clan relationship extended through all the tribes, they were bound together by the strongest of family ties. No tribe of the Iroquois confederacy would go to war against any other of their tribes; as by that act, brother would be taking brother's blood, which by their law would be murder, even in war.

This explains why, during the French and Indian war, it was so impossible for the French to secure help from the Senecas after the English had enlisted the Mohawks; and also why all the tribes of the confederacy, if they took any part in the Revolutionary War, were on the side of the English, as the English at first, through the influence of Sir John Johnson had secured the Mohawks, and also why the Indians who resided in this state would not agree to enlist on the side of the United States in the 1812 war until they had heard from some of the tribes which had moved to Canada.

The rights of heirship was in the female line. A man's heirs were his mother's son, and his sister's son; never his own son. The child followed in the clan and tribe of the mother.


By the treaty of August 31st, 1826, the Seneca Nation of Indians sold to Robert Troup, Thomas L. Ogden and Benjamin W. Rogers, known as the Ogden Co., eighty thousand nine hundred and sixty acres of land for $48,216; [about sixty cents per acre], being the whole of some of the reservations and a part of the others. The part of the Buffalo Creek Reservation so sold conveyed thirty three thousand six hundred and thirty seven acres, being a strip from the north side of the Reservation one and one half miles in width, one mile wide on the south side, and about three miles in width across the east end, being all of the Reservation, excepting and reserving seventy-eight square miles or forty nine thousand nine hundred and twenty acres. By this treaty, what is known as the Mile Strip in the south part of the town of Elma passed out of the control of the Indians, and on this strip the first permanent settlement by the whites in this town was made.

By treaty of January 15th, 1838, the Seneca Nations of Indians sold to Thomas L. Ogden and Joseph Fellows for the Ogden Company, all the balance of their Reservations in this state, being one hundred and fourteen thousand eight hundred and seventy acres which the Indians had excepted in the treaty and sale of August 31st, 1826.

By the terms of this treaty, the United States government was to donate to the Seneca Nation of Indians a reservation of 1,820,000 acres of land in the Indian territory, now Kansas, and build mills, shops, churches, schools, etc., on the lands; and the Indians were to cede to the Ogden Company all their reserved lands and improvements for $202,000, being $100,000 for the land, and $102,000 for the improvements. The treaty was signed by forty-four chiefs, either actual or pretended, and head men and was certified by Mr. Gillett, Commissioner of the United States and by Gen, Dearborn, Superintendent for Massachusetts, and was sent to the United States Senate where it was declared to be defective. After the Senate had amended it by striking out the building of mills, shops, schools, etc., and in place thereof inserting a sum of $400,000, it was sent back to be signed again and ratified by the Indians in Council. Mr. Gillett, the United States Commissioner, called the chiefs together on the Buffalo Creek Reservation on August 7th, 1838, to have them sign the amended treaty. By this time, an intense feeling of opposition to the treaty and to the deed had grown up among the Indians as they objected to being sent west. The treaty received the names of but sixteen chiefs, and at the same time sixty-three had signed a remonstrance. After much work and persuasion, twenty-six additional names were placed on the treaty, being forty-two out of the ninety seven claimed by all parties to be chiefs; but as some of the chiefs kept away, the commissioners decided that a majority of those present had signed, and the treaty thus signed was ratified by the United States Senate.

A majority of the Indians said neither they nor their chiefs had agreed to the terms of the treaty, and they refused to allow the Ogden Company to take possession. The Company knew that if they commenced an action in the courts, it would be a long and bitter contest, and there were doubts whether the courts would not decide in favor of the Indians. Each party seemed afraid of the other, and the company did not attempt to take possession, but they had the Reservation east of the Transit Line surveyed in July and August, 1840.


On May 20th, 1842, a treaty confirmatory and amendatory of the treaty of January 15 and August 7, 1838, was signed by fifty three chiefs and head men of the Seneca Nation. By this treaty the Indians sold to the Ogden Company all the balance of the Buffalo Creek Reservation, viz.: forty-nine thousand nine hundred and twenty acres, with the whole of some of their reservations and parts of others, they retaining the Tuscarora and most of the Tonawanda, Cattaraugus and Allegany Reservations.

The Indians of the Buffalo Creek Reservation received their money and the title to the balance of that Reservation was passed to the Ogden Company after the Indians had lived here sixty-five years. In 1844 most of them left; a few remained until 1848 when they joined their friends, most of them going to the Cattaraugus Reservation and a few to the Allegany Reservation. The following will explain as to the treaty of January 15th and August 7th, 1838, and the Kansas lands.

[By Associated Press.]

Washington, Nov. 18, 1898 - "The court of claims rendered a judgment of $1,961,400 in favor of the New York Indians who entered suit against the United States to recover the value of certain lands donated to them in Kansas and subsequently disposed of by the United States. The award is in pursuance of a mandate from the United States Supreme Court. The case has been pending in the courts about five years. These lands had been set apart as a reservation for them by the treaty of 1838, but the lands were never occupied by them, and were sold by the government and the proceeds placed in the United States treasury.

The court of claims originally decided against the Indians, but the supreme court reversed that judgment and directed the award in their favor of the net amount actually received by the government for the Kansas lands, less the amount to which the Tonawandas and Senecas would have been entitled and less other just deductions."


At this time, 1842, there were three Indian villages or settlements in the town of Elma; also many scattering residents.

One village was about half a mile east of Blossom on the north side of the Creek where they had a church or small council house.

At Elma Village there were 12 or 15 families who had their residences on the flats and on the high banks on both sides of the Creek. The Indians called this "The Big Flats." Here they had a burying ground, located a little west of Mr. Joseph B. Brigg's house.

Another village was at the bend of the Creek on Lots 14 and 15 which were for many years owned by Mr. Frank Metcalf, and there were scattering residences east into the town of Marilla and south on both sides of the Creek for a mile or more. Here resided Chiefs Big Kettle, Sundown, and Jack Johnny John. East of this village and near the line between Elma and Marilla was the home of a son of Mary Jemison [so reported by the early settlers], and it was here he died, and he was probably buried in the Indian Cemetery about one-third of a mile southeast from East Elma on the north bank of the creek, just west of a clump of pine trees on a high bank. Names of other Indian families will be given later.

In 1846, just before leaving the town for the Cattaraugus Reservation, the Indians of the '^Big Flats" held a war dance in Mr. Clark W. Hurd 's barn, Messrs. Hurd & Briggs furnishing the provisions for the feast. Some sixteen to twenty warriors took part in the dance, dressed and painted in strict war style, viz: entirely naked, except moccasins and breech-cloth, the chiefs with feathers to form a head gear. This was late in the fall and the next spring they left for their new homes. This was the last gathering the Senecas held in the town of Elma.


In the Seneca tribe of the Iroquois Nation were four persons who by the position they occupied and their influence in the Nation deserve especial notice here. They were Farmer Brother, Cornplanter, Red Jacket and Mary Jemison. ?

FARMER BROTHER, the oldest of the four, a chief loved, honored and respected by all who knew him, had his home on the Buffalo Creek Reservation. Notwithstanding the force and power of Iroquois law and the opposition of Red Jacket, he succeeded in having five hundred or six hundred of the Senecas enlist in the American army in 1813. This had the effect of uniting all the Seneca tribe, including Red Jacket, on the American side, and was the means of driving the Mohawk and other Canadian Indians from the British army in Canada after the battle at Chippewa. The old Chief was at that time over eighty years old and he was over ninety years old at the time of his death.

CORNPLANTER, a Seneca Chief residing on the Allegany Reservation, was with the British during the Revolutionary War. He was one of the great leaders of the Senecas and became very friendly with the Americans after General Sullivan had invaded their territory, and he took an active part with Farmer Brother in the 1813 war. He was strongly opposed to the use of liquor and was one of the most eloquent temperance lecturers of the Country.

He died in 1836, aged one hundred years.

We have all heard and read about RED JACKET and his history has been written in full.

By his oratorical powers he was able to exert a great influence in his tribe. Always true to Confederate and Clan law, he opposed to the last, any of the Senecas joining the American army in the 1812 war after the Mohawks had joined the British; but not being able to overcome the influence of Farmer Brother and Cornplanter and the general sentiment and determination of the other Seneca chiefs and warriors, he finally entered the army and did good and faithful service at the battle of Chippewa and was influential in causing the Mohawks to withdraw from the British army. He died near the Mission Church on the Buffalo Creek Reservation January 20th, 1830, at the age of seventy-five years. His remains now rest in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo.

MARY JEMISON, called also ''THE WHITE WOMAN. "By reason of many extraordinary circumstances and strange experiences, Mary Jemison, by marriage and by choice a member of the Seneca tribe, and that one of her sons lived and died in this town, a brief sketch of her life is here given. She first saw the light of day in mid-ocean, her parents having left the land of their birth, Ireland, to better their fortunes in the new world. They settled in Pennsylvania where they lived until the breaking out of the French War in 1754. In 1755 the family, with neighbors, were taken prisoners by the Indians and all but Mary were killed. She was carried captive to the Ohio River and at 12 years of age was adopted by two Indian sisters who treated her with great kindness and gave to her the name, Deh-he-wa-mis. She married a brave of the Delawares, and after several years she decided to take her children and go on foot hundreds of miles from the Ohio River and take up her residence with the Senecas in this state, her husband agreeing to join her. He died before he met her,

She was twice married and had three sons and five daughters. Her crops and cabin were destroyed by Sullivan's army in 1779. She then had five children.

In 1797, when Robert Morris bought the Indian title to all the Indian lands in Western New York, except eleven reservations, she managed to have one of these, the Gardeau Reservation containing twenty-eight square miles, or seventeen thousand nine hundred and twenty-seven acres, lying on both sides of the Genesee River, set off to her. Upon this tract she and her descendants resided until 1816, when she sold all but two square miles on the west side of the river. In 1831, at the age of 88 years, she sold the two square miles and came to make her home on the Buffalo Creek Reservation near Buffalo, where she died September 19th, 1833, aged ninety years. She was buried with Christian rites in the Indian Cemetery, near the Seneca Mission Church or Council House, and over her grave was placed a marble slab with appropriate inscription. In March, 1874, her remains were disinterred by Hon, Wm. P. Letchworth, under the immediate supervision of her descendants, and with other articles found in her grave were placed in a black walnut coffin and deposited in a marble sarcophagus on Glen Iris, at Portage Falls, Livingston County, N. Y., six miles from her former home at Gardeau Reservation. Through all her Indian life and travels she retained her knowledge of the English language. She was greatly beloved by the Indians, and highly respected by the whites who became acquainted with her.

Having been with the Indians all but 12 years of her life and for more than sixty years with the Seneca tribe, she had time and ' opportunity to learn all that could be learned of their traditions and early life. The traditions of the Senecas as herein given, are from her statements, so we take them as being as nearly correct as anything we will be likely to get from any source.


The character of the Indian has been given by different writers, as cruel, vindictive, jealous, full of bitter hatred, revengeful and murderous; bitter enemies, never forgetting any injury or insult: on the other hand as true friends, never forgetting a kindness or favor.

The men were lazy, never performing any labor if they could find any way to avoid it, but they would help to build the house, and were always ready to hunt and fish, and ready for a wrestle, foot race, game of ball in summer and drive the snake in winter.

The women cleared the land and raised corn, beans, and other crops for family food. All labor and drudgery was hers to perform and endure; in fact, she was little, if any better than a slave.


Mention of some of the events of the war of 1812 has been made because a part of the Buffalo Creek Reservation was in this town, and the Reservation was the home of the Seneca Nation and three of their villages were in the town; that probably some of the Elma Indians were in the Chippewa battle; and to show the strong hold Iroquois law had on all the Indians. - This unwritten law has held the members of the different tribes together through all the trying changes of probably more than eight hundred years; and was the strong bond from which they were so slow to break away. In fact, the Senecas would not enter into any treaty or transact any important business without calling a general council of the Great Chiefs of the Iroquois Confederacy. While the results of the Revolutionary war had the effect to scatter the tribes which have since been broken into pieces and the parts widely separated; yet the Confederacy is not destroyed, and the clan system exists in all the tribes to this day. In the summer of 1896, a Grand Council was called at Tuscarora Village to elect and install into office a new Tuscarora Chief.

As the Seneca Nation had possession here for nearly two hundred years and had three or four villages in this town for sixty-five years, and for more than fifty years were the actual owners of the soil, the history of the town of Elma should have this record of its early inhabitants.

SOURCE:  History of the Town of Elma Erie County, N. Y. 1620 To 1901; Warren Jackman; Buffalo; G. M. Hausauer & Son; 1902