The history of any region properly begins with its original inhabitants †. In western New York inquiry relative to this subject is beset with difficulty and admits of no certain solution. This difficulty arises from the discovery of relics indicative of a race inhabiting the country prior to the period of Indian occupation. In the silent depths of the unbroken wilderness the explorer was often startled at the discovery of traces of ancient fortifications, generally circular in form and upon whose embankments trees were standing, the concentric circles of which denoted the growth of centuries. Strange revelations were also implied by such vestiges as rude implements, specimens of pottery, and not infrequently the crumbling remains of ancient burial places. Careful investigation has demonstrated that these relics are of so great antiquity that even tradition fails to throw its feeble light upon them. The Iroquois had traditions relative to them, but so various and contradictory that no real knowledge is derived from that source. The elaborate character of these relics indicates that the constructors were a race of greater industry and resource than the Indians. Traces of ancient occupancy were discovered in several places upon the territory now embraced in Chautauqua county. Near the crossing of the Erie Railway and the Frederica and Forestville road, in the town of Sheridan, an ancient fortification, circular in form and inclosing many acres, was visible at an early day. It was evident that the land there had once been cleared, though it was then covered with a growth of timber undisputably three hundred years old. Various useful implements were found and pits were observed at regular intervals. Many human bones have been discovered there from time to time. A large grave was opened in the summer of 1870, from which many human skeletons were taken. Fort Hill, near Fredonia, received its name from an ancient intrenchment, in front of which were discovered traces of a large pit. The most extensive remains in the county were at the extremity of the cape which extends from the southwestern side into the lower of the Cassadaga lakes. Here several acres were enclosed by earthworks and the shores of the lake. It has been claimed that this apparent fortification was of natural formation; it seems, however, to have been anciently occupied, for relics of prehistoric civilization were found there in abundance. There was a large mound near the northern shore of the lake, which frequent plowing has reduced to four or five feet in height and only three or four rods in diameter. When settlement began it is said to have been twelve feet high and to have been surmounted by forest trees which had been growing for centuries. A large number of human skeletons were exhumed here about 1822. Near by are still to be seen the remains of what was evidently once a graded roadway. At various other places in the vicinity traces of ancient occupancy were formerly visible. At Sinclairville and in its vicinity extensive remains have been found. In the town of Gerry, about a mile south of the village mentioned, was a circular intrenchment, enclosing several acres. About a hundred and thirty rods northeast of this was an ancient cemetery, by some called "the Indian burying ground." Many skeletons, some of them of almost superhuman proportions, have been disinterred here, and within the intrenchment were found others and numerous stone implements. Two miles southeast of Sinclairville, in Gerry, a circular fortification is visible in the woods with large trees growing from its ditch and wall. Upon the high bluff which rises from Mill creek, just west of Sinclairville, was formerly an elevated earthwork, circular in form, with a deep excavation in the center. Enclosing six or seven acres of what is now the central portion of the village was an extensive circular earthwork, having a trench without and a gateway opening to a small stream passing along is southern side. At other points in Gerry and in Stockton; in Ellington, along the hills bordering Clear creek, and at other localities in the county, were early visible vestiges of similar circular enclosures, near which many stone implements and other relics have been plentifully discovered. Two of these old tumuli and the traces of an old roadway are still visible near the eastern shore of Chautauqua lake, at Griffith’s Point, in Ellery. The relics described and other similar ones in other parts if the county prove this region to have been, at a recent period, a favorite abiding place of an unknown race. There can be little doubt that here were once rudely cultivated fields and ancient and perhaps populous villages, inhabited by a strange and primitive people. Whence they came, how long they remained and what fortunes attended their sojourn here, is unknown, and it would be useless to pursue the subject, aided only by speculative theories.
Advancing from that remote age, the first glimmering of historic light respecting the region about Lake Erie appeared in the early part of the seventeenth century, when it was in possession of a tribe of Indians called by the French the Neutral nation, and by the neighboring tribes Kah-Khwas. Their territory lay along the northern shore of Lake Erie and the Niagara river, and eastward to the western limits of the Iroquois. It is believed that one of their villages was located on Eighteen-mile creek, near White’s Corners, Erie county. Their domains extended west over Chautauqua county, and, it is believed, along the southern shore of Lake Erie, some distance into Ohio.
A letter dated May 19th, 1641, from the Jesuit Father L’Allemant to the Provincial Jesuits in France gives many facts concerning this tribe, and is interesting as showing approximately the date when the shores of Lake Erie were first visited by Europeans. He speaks of Jean de Breboeuf and Joseph Marie Chaumonot as having charge of the mission to the Neutral nation, and says they set out to visit that people in November, 1640. "Although," he continues, "many of our French in that quarter have visited this people to profit by their furs and other commodities, we have no knowledge of any who have been there to preach the gospel, except Father De la Roche Daillon, a Recollect who passed the winter there in 1626." The same authority makes the Neutral nation a powerful one (their number being estimated at 12,000 souls), having forty villages. They were so named by these early visitors for the reason that they occupied the ordinary passage by land separating the Iroquois from the Hurons, between which tribes a bitter hostility existed, while they were at peace with both. "There is every reason for believing," says Father L’Allemant, "that not long since the Hurons, Iroquois and Neutral nation formed one people, and originally came from the same family, but have in the lapse of time become separated from each other, more or less, in distance, interest and affection, so that some are now enemies, others neutral and others still live in intimate friendship and intercourse." They were represented as having corn, beans and gourds in abundance, and being much employed in hunting deer, buffalo, wild-cats, wild-boars, beaver and other animals.
Important as this nation appears to have been it was not long permitted to remain in a pacific attitude. In 1650 the Iroquois commenced a savage warfare against the Neutral nation, assaulting and capturing one of their towns, in which were 1600 of their people. In 1651 another one of their towns fell and large numbers of them were butchered or made captives, and the remainder driven from their homes to perish. So complete was their overthrow that as a nation they became extinct. It is believed that the scene of their final defeat was near the city of Buffalo. The Eries or Cat nation, whose dominions extended along the northern shore of Lake Erie, fell victims to the prowess of the Iroquois about 1655, and their conquerors by that event extended their dominion to Lake Erie. These were the Senecas, the westernmost and the most powerful of the Iroquois tribes, and the immediate predecessors of the white inhabitants of Chautauqua county.
The Iroquois consisted of five distinct tribes leagued together for common defense, known as the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas, and called by the English the Five Nations. Their government was in many respects republican, and the wisdom displayed in the management of their affairs distinguished them above all the other aborigines of the continent. In the general council of the confederacy the Senecas, being more numerous than the other nations, were represented by two delegates, and each of the others by one. Each tribe was governed by its own chief, who might declare war or conclude peace on their own account, and was independent of control by other members of the league, except when confederated action required the concurrence of all the tribes. Each tribe was divided into clans or families, distinguished by different emblems, bearing the names of Turtle, Bear, Wolf, Deer, Beaver, Snipe, Heron and Hawk. A sachem of one of these clans, when he signed an instrument of conveyance or public paper, put the emblem representing his clan upon it. The Iroquois went forward to new fields of conquest and succeeded in extending their authority westward to the Mississippi and south to the Savannah. The Senecas shared with their allies in territorial domination acquired by conquest; but the territory of their immediate jurisdiction was confined within comparatively narrow limits. An allusion to them from a Jesuitical source in 1644 represents them as being located "toward the termination of the great lake called Ontario." At this place they are spoken of as having two or three villages and numbering 1,200 men. In 1677 Wentworth Greenhalgh visited all the Iroquois tribes and reported that the Senecas had four towns and numbered about 1,000 warriors.
Robert Cavelier De La Salle, an adventurous and talented young Frenchman, having resolved to explore the Ohio and Mississippi, of which he had been informed by the Indians, set out on the expedition in July 1669. Accompanied by two priests, Dollier and Gallinee, he ascended the St. Lawrence and coasted along the southern shore of Lake Ontario in a canoe to Irondequoit Bay, and from there penetrated the wilderness to the Seneca villages in the Genesee valley. After remaining there a while he abandoned the project of reaching the head waters of the Ohio in that direction, and turning westward reached Niagara.
The winter if 1669-70 was spent by him and his clerical companions on Grand river, near to the shore of lake Erie; and in the spring he coasted along the northern shore of the lake to Long Point and returned by a circuitous route to Montreal, having taken possession of the explored region for France and the Church, and planted the royal arms in token thereof. He had failed in carrying out his original project, but his adventurous spirit was still hopeful, and he conceived the design of uniting the French possessions in Canada with the Mississippi valley by a chain of military posts in order to secure its commerce to his country. He repaired to the French court, bearing endorsements from the governor of Canada as "the most capable of all the enterprises of discovery," and obtained the sanction of Louis XIV to his project.
He returned to Canada to prosecute this new and grand scheme, and in the fall of 1678 arrived with a party of his countrymen at the mouth of the Niagara river, where he established a trading post, enclosing it with palisades. This was the first evidence of actual occupation in western New York by Europeans. LaSalle, on setting out upon the expedition, took materials for constructing a vessel above Niagara falls, but the boat used for their transportation was wrecked in the southern shore of Lake Ontario when within two leagues of Niagara. This misfortune, however, did not long delay him, for in January, 1679, La Salle went two leagues above the falls and constructed a rude dock, and commenced building a vessel with which to navigate the upper lakes. An account of the expedition is given by Father Hennepin. The Senecas, who, it appears, had a few habitations in the vicinity, were dissatisfied with this mark of civilization and contemplated setting fire to it. The party were advised of their design by a squaw, and a close watch, which was kept upon the partially completed vessel thereafter, prevented the Indians from carrying it into execution. The "Griffin," as the vessel was named, was finished the following summer. It was a bark of sixty tons burden, armed with five small cannon and two or three arquebuses, and fully equipped with sails, masts and everything necessary for navigation.
Several attempts to ascend the rapid current above Black Rock proved unsuccessful, but at length, on the 7th of August, 1679, a strong wind sprung up from the northeast, the sails of the "Griffin" were spread; the party consisting of thirty-four men, essayed to gain entrance to Lake Erie, and aided by towlines from the shore succeeded. A crowd of Iroquois had assembled on the shore, bending their jealous though admiring gaze upon the proceedings. As the vessel floated out on the bosom of Lake Erie the Te Deum was chanted, all the cannon fired, and steering south-southwest the "Griffin" sailed away. On that day the "Griffin" sailed many leagues, passing Chautauqua county. In his narrative Hennepin states that he saw, on this voyage, the two distant shores of the lakes, fifteen or sixteen leagues apart. Those who made that memorable cruise in the "Griffin" were, so far as any record exists, the first Europeans who beheld the rugged and forest covered hills of Chautauqua. The outward voyage ended at Green Bay, Wisconsin, where the vessel was freighted with furs. Manned by a crew of six men it set out on the return voyage, but was never heard of more. La Salle was cruelly disappointed at the unfortunate result, but undismayed he turned his face westward and erected a fort on the Illinois, which he named Creve Couer, in token of his sorrow. In the spring of 1680, in company with three of his companions, he returned to Canada, traveling the whole distance of nearly a thousand miles on foot, to obtain supplies for the further prosecution of his scheme.
Thus it will be seen that the French were foremost in establishing themselves upon the upper lakes and in obtaining friendly relations with the Indian tribes of the west. The fur trade carried on between the colonists and the Indians at that time was the most important interest in America, and the French supposed they were opening up the vast regions in the west solely for their own commerce and occupation. Their post on the Niagara guarded transportation along that stream, and the prospect was cheering for a brilliant career of prosperity. The English were extending their settlements up the Hudson and had built up a flourishing trade with the Five Nations. The French by their alliance with the Algonquins had incurred the hatred of the Five Nations, and although they labored unceasingly to gain their friendship the Iroquois generally regarded them as their enemies. The Five Nations were now in the height of their power, and, stimulated by the prospect of gain as well as conquests, made war against the Indian tribes in the west that were in friendly relations with the French. The success of their arms on this direction would be damaging to the French, as it was likely to divert the trade on the upper lakes to the English. De La Barre, governor of Canada, saw the danger and resolved to invade the territory of the Iroquois and bring them to submission. In the summer of 1684 he collected a force for this purpose, but before he could encounter the foe his ranks became sadly depleted by sickness, and he only succeeded in holding a parley with their chiefs and effecting a disgraceful truce. The Iroquois still continued to be a disturbing element to the French traders, and Denonville, who had succeeded De La Barre as governor of Canada, determined to chastise the leading Senecas severely. In 1687 he collected an army of nearly three thousand Frenchmen and Indians and, landing upon the southern shore of Lake Ontario, moved against the Seneca villages. He was attacked on the march by the Indians in ambuscade, and a lively engagement took place, but the Senecas, being greatly inferior in point of number, were finally beaten off and forced to take refuge in the forest. Finding themselves unable to defend their villages, they set fire to them and fled to the Cayugas. Denonville took possession of their country, and retired to Niagara and erected a fort of considerable magnitude.
The Indians who had come the length of the lakes to assist in the destruction of the Five Nations were disappointed in not seeing them annihilated. Denonville strove to please them and to protect them from a possible attack by the enraged Iroquois, and sent Baron La Hontan with a small detachment of French troops to escort them on their homeward march. The precaution was found to be necessary, for the Senecas were rallying to intercept them on their way up the Niagara. The French gained nothing by the invasion, for the Iroquois in turn invaded Canada and waged a devastating war upon the inhabitants. Fort Niagara was abandoned, the entire overthrow of the French colony was threatened. Its waning fortunes were somewhat improved by Count Frontenac, but he was unable to gain the friendship of the Iroquois, who were friendly to the English and often engaged in active hostilities against the French. Always fickle, their adherence to the English, however, could not be maintained without a liberal subsidy, and the intrigues of the French to gain their favor at length began to have the desired effect.
In one of their forays into Canada, the Senecas captured a young Frenchman named Chabert Joncaire. They intended to put him to death by torture, but pleased with his courageous bearing they spared his life and he was adopted as a member of the tribe. He readily affiliated with them and, marrying a Seneca squaw, became a favorite and was made a sachem. Having entire freedom, he returned to Canada and became useful to the French in bringing the Senecas over to their interests. Pleading his claim as an adopted child of the tribe, his influence was so great among them that in 1720 he was allowed to establish a trading post on the site of Lewiston. The English had always claimed all the territory south of the great lakes, but all their efforts to dislodge the French from their foothold at Lewiston now failed, and, emboldened by their success, they in 1725 rebuilt Fort Niagara on a much larger scale than that erected by Denonville nearly forty years earlier.
The French continued to gain favor with the Senecas and also with other tribes of the Iroquois league, and it is probable that the whole confederacy would have become their active partisans had not the English been fortunate in getting, in the person of Sir William Johnson, a skillful manager of the Indian affairs. Johnson had settled among the Mohawks, and by his intimate affiliation with them gained an unparalleled influence over that nation, and was enabled to exert more or less authority throughout the whole confederacy. The rivalry continued with great activity. Supremacy over the Iroquois was not the only thing at stake. Both English and French were making strenuous efforts to extend the dominions beyond the frontier settlements, the former claiming all the territory westward of their colonies to the Pacific Ocean, and the latter all west of the Alleghany mountains. In this disputed territory Chautauqua county was included.
The French were more successful than their English rivals, and the scheme for the occupation of the great West originated by La Salle was progressing rapidly. In 1749 the English government granted an extensive tract of land on the Ohio to the Ohio Company, the object of which was settlement and trade with the Indians. The English traders were molested by the French force sent into this region to take formal possession, and some of them were seized and confined in the French fort at Presque Isle, on Lake Erie. The French (under the direction of Marquis Du Quesne, who, having been appointed governor-general of Canada, arrived there in 1852[sic]) established a chain of military posts from Presque Isle to the Alleghany river. The first act of Du Quesne was the opening of portage roads from Erie to La Boeuf, on French creek, and from the mouth of Chautauqua creek, near Barcelona, to the head of Chautauqua Lake, at Mayville. Thus communication was opened between Lake Erie and the headwaters of the Ohio, through a portion of Chautauqua county. In the fall of 1752 Du Quesne rendered an account of the arrangements he had made to the French minister of the marine and colonies, in Paris, in which he stated that he would begin his posts at the mouth of Chautauqua creek. During the winter the governor-general completed his preparations. Alarmed by false reports that English settlements had been begun on the site of Warren, Pa., and at the mouth of French creek, he dispatched, early in the spring of 1753, an advance force of 250 men from Montreal, under command of Monsieur Barbeer, to Chautauqua, with orders to fell timber and prepare to erect a fort there. Arriving at the mouth of Chautauqua creek in April, it is supposed, the work was begun; but Sieur Marin, chief in command of all the forces of the French operating in the country of the Ohio, arrived a little later with 500 soldiers and 20 Indians, and not liking the situation chosen for the fort, on account of the shallowness of the outlet of Chautauqua lake, ordered the work abandoned, and upon the demand of Barbeer gave him a writing to justify him in the eyes of Du Quesne for not having obeyed his instructions. An exploration of the lake shore for a more suitable location was made and the fort at Presque Isle was erected. About eight days before the departure of the French from Presque Isle Chevalier Le Crake arrived from Canada with orders from Du Quesne to prepare to build a fort at the mouth of Chautauqua creek and another at the end of the carrying place on Chautauqua lake the following spring. October 28th about 440 French, under Captain Deneman, set out in bateaux from Presque Isle to Canada, followed by 760 men (all that remained of the French forces after the forts in Pennsylvania had been garrisoned), who arrived near the mouth of Chautauqua creek October 30th. They encamped there four days, during which time 200 of their number, under Monsieur Pean, cut out the wagon road over the portage from Lake Erie to Chautauqua lake. This (unless some slight preparations had been made for building the fort at the mouth of the creek before the arrival of Sieur Marin) was the first work preformed by civilized hands within the limits of Chautauqua county. It was known to the early settlers as the "old portage" or "French" road. Beginning on the west bank of Chautauqua creek, a little above its mouth, it passed along the west side of the creek, crossing the line of the Erie road at the old McHenry tavern, to a point about a mile from Westfield, and continued on the east side of the present road most of the remaining distance to its termination at the foot of Main street in Mayville. "The original track and remains of the old log bridges," says Obed Edson, "were plainly to be seen as late as 1817. Judge William Peacock, of Mayville, passed over the Portage road as early as July, 1800. He followed it from the mouth of Chautauqua creek three miles up its west bank, and thence over the hills to Chautauqua lake. The road then had the appearance of having been used in former times. The underbrush had been cut out, and where this road crossed Chautauqua creek, about three miles from its mouth, the banks upon each side had been dug away to admit a passage across the stream. Toward Mayville, and near the summit of the hills, at a low, wet place, a causeway had been constructed of logs. Over this point the present highway from Mayville to Westfield passes. At the foot of Main street, in Mayville, where the Portage terminated, was a circular piece of mason work of stone, laid in sand and mortar, three of four feet high and three or four feet in diameter. It was constructed, as Judge Peacock conjectured, for the purpose of cooking food. A piece of mason work, precisely like this in every respect, he saw standing at the other end of the Portage, at the mouth of Chautauqua creek, opposite Barcelona. This mason work was seen as late as 1802 by William Bell, who, for over seventy years, resided in Westfield." It is evident from the correspondence of Du Quesne that he fully believed from the information he had received, that this was the shortest and most practicable portage that could be found between the lakes and the waters of the Ohio, and that subsequent discoveries operated to prevent the building of the two forts at the limits of the road, as originally contemplated. At a later period the "old French road" was one if the first highways of Chautauqua county, over which, early in its history, much merchandise, including large amounts of salt from Onondaga county, were annually carried to Pittsburgh and places on the river below. After the completion and investment of this admirable chain of military posts by the French, detachments of their troops might often be seen marching from Fort Niagara up the river to Lake Erie, and proceeding thence along its southern shore, either on foot or in bateaux. All these movements were regarded as aggressions by the English, and the arrogance of the French in maintaining their claims soon brought the two nations to open hostilities.
Several bloody conflicts occurred between the French and English colonists, in which the former were the victors. In 1756 war was declared between the two rival countries to settle the question of territorial possession in America, which had been a subject of bitter dispute for more than half a century. For two years the French were victorious on every side. The tide of war was then turned against them. In the summer of 1759 stirring scenes were enacted along the Niagara frontier for the possession of Fort Niagara. The French commandant at the fort, perceiving his inability to hold out against a protracted siege, made beseeching appeals for help from the western forts. The call was responded to with all possible dispatch, and soon a long line of bateaux came down Lake Erie, bearing a large force of Frenchmen and their Indian allies to the relief of their besieged comrades. But the effort was unavailing, for Johnson sent as adequate force to meet them and put them to utter rout. All hope of sustaining the siege now vanished, and Niagara passed into the hands of the English. The reduction of Canada was completed the following year, and the French power in this region was forever extinguished. While this struggle for supremacy was going on, the Senecas were more inclined to favor the French than the English, but they were unwilling to take up the hatchet against the other nations of the league, which had flocked to the English standard under Johnson. They had no scruples about butchering the English, however, when separated from their brethren of the league, and heartily co-operated with Pontiac in his scheme to cut off all of the British posts at a blow. In September, 1763, occurred the memorable affair of the Devil’s Hole, where a train of English army wagons was destroyed, and the teamsters and the guard of soldiers employed for their protection were butchered in the most heartless manner. Another hostile but less disastrous onset took place October 19th, 1763. A detachment of English soldiers had set out, under Major Wilkins, to reinforce the garrison at Detroit, and when near the entrance to Lake Erie were attacked by the Senecas in ambush on the shore, and about thirty of their number were either killed or wounded before they were beaten off.
No summary punishment was inflicted upon the Senecas for these outrages, but they feared that the day of reckoning would come, and upon the collapse of Pontiac’a bold scheme to redeem the country from the white man, they were anxious to make terms of peace. Accordingly in April, 1764, four hundred of them waited on Sir William Johnson, at Johnson Hall, where eight chiefs signed the preliminary articles of peace drawn up by Johnson, and the deputation went home and considered with the rest of their tribe the practicability of carrying them out. In this treaty they agreed to deliver up all their captives and never more make war upon the English, and formally ceded to the King of England a tract of land on both sides of the Niagara river, from its mouth to Fort Schlosser, for a carrying place around the falls. They were expected to ratify these preliminary articles and enter into a permanent treaty at a council to be held at Fort Niagara the ensuing summer. The tribes in the West had been summoned to meet there to readjust their relations with the English government, growing out of Pontiac’s league. The Senecas were sullen and it was found difficult to procure their attendance, but when they finally arrived the preliminary articles were promptly ratified. The tract of land previously mentioned they extended to the head of the river. The policy of reserving a strip of land along the river was in after years adopted by the United States and the State of New York.
The Senecas were at peace with the whites after this treaty for a season, though they frequently made complaints against their encroachments. They had learned to place confidence in Sir William Johnson, and through him obtained redress for their grievances.
When the Revolutionary struggle commenced the colonists strove to secure the neutrality of the Iroquois, while the British sought to engage their services in the conflict. The neutrality of the Oneidas was obtained by the Americans, but most of the others went upon the war-path, unchecked in their savage propensities by their tory allies, scarcely less brutal than themselves. The horrible barbarities enacted at Wyoming and Cherry Valley seemed to call for a severe chastisement, and in 1799 Washington planned two expeditions against the Senecas and other offending tribes of the confederacy for the destruction of their settlements. One was to march under command of General Sullivan, by the north branch of the Susquehanna, against the Indian villages of the Six Nations in New York; the other, under command of Colonel Broadhead, was to proceed up the Allegany to destroy the villages of the Senecas and Monsey Indians along Flat river and its tributaries, and afterward to unite with the army of General Sullivan in an attack on Fort Niagara. On account of the difficulty of providing Colonel Broadhead with supplies in time and a lack of satisfactory information concerning the country along the Allegany, the idea of the co-operation of the two armies was abandoned by General Washington; however, Sullivan with his forces having defeated the Indians and their white comrades in battle near the site of Elmira, reached Kanadeseagea, the Seneca capital, on the 7th of September of the same year. This they destroyed, as well as all the smaller villages on their way to the Genesee river. The Genesee castle was doomed to a like fate, and the whole surrounding country, together with the town, which comprised one hundred and twenty houses, was swept as with the besom of destruction. It was a matter of more import than when Denonville destroyed their habitations for they not only had cornfields but gardens and orchards, all of which were destroyed to deprive them of the means of subsistence. Colonel Broadhead’s expedition set out from Pittsburgh August 11th and returned September 14th, having burned the Indian villages, containing 165 houses, destroyed more than 500 acres of Indian corn and taken $3,000 worth of furs, without having lost either man or beast, according to his report to Timothy Pickering. The Senecas fled in dismay to Fort Niagara, which remained, as before, a resort for the vilest types of humanity, where the most inhuman enterprises were projected, discussed and planned. The British authorities found the Senecas destitute of sustenance and depending on them for support during the ensuing winter, when they suffered greatly by the extraordinary severity of the season. Their losses were severe, and they much depressed, but not crushed; and, their numerical force being but slightly reduced, they retaliated upon the frontier settlements with savage vengeance whenever a favorable opportunity offered. But the league which held the Iroquois together substantially lost its binding power.
In the spring of 1780 a considerable number of the Senecas made a settlement on Buffalo creek. About the same time another band established themselves on the Cattaraugus creek near its mouth. They were encouraged to make these settlements by the British, who now had them on their hands to care for.
At the close of the Revolution the hostile Iroquois were left unprovided for in the treaty of peace by their British employers. They had waged a bloody and devastating war against the patriots without provocation, and thereby had forfeited their territory and were at the mercy of the United States. The government, however, thought it wise to deal generously with them, and their claim to continued ownership of their dominions was recognized. The encroachment of the whites upon the territory of the Iroquois gave the latter great uneasiness before they became involved in the conflict, to allay which a very numerously attended council was held at Fort Stanwix, in 1768, to agree on a line beyond which settlements should not be permitted. The boundary line then established ascended the Ohio and Allegany rivers to Kittanning, thence eastward to the Susquehanna, thence northerly, passing in the State of New York along the eastern border of Broome and Chenango counties and northwestward to Lake Ontario. In 1784 another council was called to be held at Fort Stanwix to adjust affairs between the Iroquois and the United States. The line agreed upon sixteen years before was retained, and one adopted beginning on Lake Ontario four miles east of the Niagara river and running southward, parallel with the river, to Buffalo creek, thence still southward to the Pennsylvania line and following that to the Ohio river. The object of the United States in establishing this as a western boundary for the Iroquois was to extinguish any claim they might have to the western territory, but all of New York west of this line, except the mile strip along the Niagara, seems to have been subsequently conceded to them. At this treaty Cornplanter spoke on behalf of the Senecas.
La Bell Riviere was the name given by the French to the Allegany and Ohio rivers, which they regarded as one stream. After the destruction of the Neuter nation, or Kah Khwas, the territory lying west of the Alleghany mountains and traversed by this river from the southern boundary of New York to the eastern limits of Ohio, fell into the possession of the Iroquois, and the Senecas planted many colonies there. As early as 1724 the Monsey or Wolf tribe of the Delawares, who had previously dwelt at a village called Capouse, within the present limits of the city of Scranton, Pa. were allowed by the Iroquois to settle along the Allegany. Within the next four years the Shawnees were permitted to locate along the lower Allegany and upper Ohio. Upon the arrival of the white man in these wild regions numerous Indian villages were found scattered along the Allegany and its tributaries. At Kittanning was the old Delaware town of Cattanyan. At the mouth of the Mahoning was another Indian village. The Indian town of Venango stood on the site of Franklin, at the mouth of French creek. There were three Monsey villages called Gosh-gosh-unk near the mouth of the Tionesta. The Indian village of Buckaloons was at the mouth of the Broken Straw, near Iwinton, in Warren county, Pa. About five miles above Kinfua ("the place of many fishes") extending several miles along the Allegany, was the large Seneca town of Yah-roon-wago. Near where once was the center of this town Cornplanter lived after the Revolution, controlling that numerous branch of the Seneca nation residing along the Allegany and its tributaries, whose dominion included Chautauqua county. At the mouth of Cold Spring creek, in Cattaraugus county, was the village of Che-na-shin-ga-tan, and eighteen miles further up the river, in Carrolton, Cattaraugus county, was Tune-un-gwan. When Colonel James McMahon passed through Chautauqua county, in 1795, upon the Judge Prendergast tract, on Connewango creek, in Kiantone, there was an Indian camping ground. In November, 1805, when William Bemus first came to Ellery, at Bemus Point, there were unmistakable evidences of the former existence of an Indian settlement. On the site of the cemetery were decayed remains of Indian dwellings, and indications that a considerable tract of land in the vicinity had once been improved. A quarter of a mile apart, on Bemus creek, were two clearings of about ten acres each. Wild plum trees grew on these openings, corn-hills were visible and "lady finger" potatoes had been perpetuated from year to year and were still growing. The remains of brush enclosures were there, which Bemus repaired, enabling him to secure a crop of grass the year of his settlement. There were similar signs of Indian occupation at Griffith’s Point, and near the mouth of the Kiantone were to be seen, when settlement begun there the forms of corn-hills on lands which had apparently once been cleared, but which were overgrown with small shrubbery of thorns and red plum. Between the Indian villages, and leading from them to favorite fishing and hunting grounds, were well trodden paths, several of which passed through Chautauqua county. One led from Cattaraugus creek, through the lake towns to the Pennsylvania line; another from near the mouth of that creek crossed the ridge in Arkright and Charlotte, at its lowest point, and passed through Charlotte Center and Sinclairville, and southerly in the direction of the Indian towns on the Allegany, and had the appearance of having been much used; another began at the Indian settlement, near the mouth of Cattaraugus creek, and passed down the Connewango valley, through the eastern parts of Hanover, Villenova, Cherry creek and Ellington, and was used by the whites in the settlement of those towns, and by Indians after the settlement begun.
All who are familiar with English colonial history know how carelessly grants of American territory were made by the crown to individuals and companies, the same tract being in some instances given at different times to different parties, thus laying the foundation of conflicting claims. The charter granted to the Plymouth Company, in 1620, embraced a tract of territory extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. The province of New York of granted to the Duke of York and Albany in 1664, extending north to the Canada line and westward indefinitely, thus covering a part of Massachusetts as defined by her charter. Under these conflicting grants dispute arose as to the extent of their respective territorial rights and jurisdiction. Several of the States ceded their western lands to the general government as a fund to aid in the payment of the debt incurred by the war for independence. New York ceded hers March 1st, 1785 and April 19th 1785, Massachusetts did likewise, both adopting the same meridian line as the western boundary – the western line of New York at the present time. Massachusetts, though relinquishing her claim beyond this line, still claimed that portion of New York west of the meridian line now forming the eastern boundary of Ontario and Steuben counties and containing nearly twenty thousand square miles. The controversy was settled by commissioners from the two States, who met in convention at Hartford, December 16th, 1786. It was agreed that the sovereignty of the disputed region should remain with New York, but the pre-emption right with Massachusetts and her grantees, subject to the Indian title. New York, however, retained ownership as well as sovereignty of the mile strip on the Niagara. The State of Massachusetts in April 1788 contracted to sell to Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham the pre-emption right to this tract of land for $1,000,000, to be paid in three annual installments in a kind of scrip or stock issued by the State, and which then could be obtained at from 70 to 80 cents below par. The purchase was subject to the Indian right of occupation, and the next thing to be done was to complete the title by buying the Indian interest. For this purpose Phelps held a council with the Indians at Buffalo, in July of the same year, and bought the Indian title to about 2,600,000 acres of the eastern part of their purchase from Massachusetts for $5,000 down and a perpetual annuity of $500. The western boundary of these lands was a line running from the Pennsylvania line to the junction of Canaseraga creek with the Genesee river, thence northerly, following the river to a point two miles north of Cannawangus village, thence due west twelve miles, and thence northerly, so as to be twelve miles distant from the most westward bend of the Genesee river, to Lake Ontario. This tract constituted what has been designated as the "Phelps and Gorham purchase." In securing the estate Phelps and Gorham encountered the opposition of another set of land sharks who also had a covetous eye upon the magnificent domain. These were capitalists forming the New York and Genesee Land Company, engineered by John Livingston, and its branch, the Niagara-Genesee Company, composed almost entirely of Canadians and headed by Colonel John Butler, an infamous tory in the Revolution, who had taken refuge in Canada. The Indians could hold their lands so long as they pleased, but by the terms of agreement between New York and Massachusetts they could sell only to Massachusetts or her assigns. Butler and his associates, however, proposed to get possession by means of a long lease, and chiefly through the influence of Butler one was obtained from part of the Iroquois sachems of the most of their territory for a period of nine hundred and ninety-nine years; but the Legislatures of New York and Massachusetts promptly declared that a lease of that length was equivalent to a purchase, and as such null and void. Although this scheme failed, Butler, nevertheless, profited by the purchase of Phelps and Gorham. He was one of three to whom the Indians referred the question of the price these purchasers should pay, and is said to have had 25,000 acres placed at his disposal by them in consideration of the advice he gave.
The survey of this tract was immediately commenced, laying it out into townships and subdividing it into lots, and sales of the same were made to companies and individuals. But before Phelps and Gorham had half paid for the entire pre-emption right they had bought of Massachusetts, the securities of that State rose nearly to par. As it was stipulated to pay in that kind of scrip, which at the time of purchase could be obtained at about one-fifth of its nominal value, they were unable to fulfill their contract. Of the tract released by the Indians to them about fifty townships had been disposed of when, reserving two townships for themselves, they sold the residue November 18th, 1790, to Robert Morris, the illustrious financier of the Revolution. Several proposals were made by Phelps and Gorham to the Legislature relative to the contract, and after considerable negotiation it was agreed that the State of Massachusetts should resume its right to that portion which they had not yet bought of the Indians, thus releasing them as to that part.
In March 1781, Massachusetts agreed to sell to Robert Morris the remaining portion of the original tract, excepting one equal undivided sixtieth part. This reservation was caused by the contract made by Phelps and Gorham prior to the surrender of their claim, for the sale of one-sixtieth of the territory to John Butler, who subsequently assigned this right to Morris, thus enabling the latter to acquire a title from Massachusetts. In pursuance of this contract, May 11th, 1791, Massachusetts conveyed to Robert Morris the whole tract in five deeds. The first conveyed the land between Phelps and Gorham’s purchase and a line beginning twelve miles west of the same on the Pennsylvania border and running due north to Lake Ontario. The next three embraced as many sixteen-mile strips, crossing the State north and south, and the fifth what remained west of these. The tract covered by the first mentioned deed contained about 500,000 acres, and was what has been called the "Morris Reserve," from the fact that he retained the disposition of it in his own hands, when he subsequently sold all west of it. The tracts conveyed by the other four deeds were supposed to contain 800,000 acres each; the consideration for the first three was 15,000 pounds each, and for the fourth 10,000 pounds. It was only after much difficulty and delay that Mr. Morris completed his title to these lands, the pre-emption right of which he purchased from Massachusetts. It was necessary to buy out the interest of the Indians, and this was accomplished by a council at Geneseo, in September, 1797, when he was enabled to purchase for $10,000 all of the five tracts except eleven reservations, amounting in all to about three hundred and thirty-eight square miles. Of these reservations that upon Buffalo creek was the most extensive, and was to contain one hundred and thirty square miles, all of which was in the present county of Erie. The Cattaraugus reservation at the mouth of Cattaraugus creek, is mostly in Erie county. Of the Tonawanda reservation, as originally defined, about fifteen square miles lay in Erie county, but only a small fraction of it remains now in the county yet in the possession of the Indians. December 24th, 1792, Robert Morris deeded to Herman Leroy and John Linklaen 1,500,000 acres. February 27th, 1793, he gave a deed for 1,000,000 acres to the same parties and Gerrit Boon, and July 25th, 800,000 acres. The same day he also conveyed 300,000 acres to Herman Leroy, William Bayard and Matthew Clarkson.
This embraced all west of the east transit line, and was purchased by these parties as trustees for a number of rich merchants in Amsterdam, Holland, who have been commonly spoken of as the Holland Land Company, though there was no corporation with either of those titles.
The purchasers bought through these citizens of New York because they as aliens were legally incompetent to hold and convey real estate within the State. Under the general alien act passed by the Legislature April 2nd, 1798, this regulation was changed, and the trustees thereupon turned over the property to the actual owners, all except 300,000 acres being transferred to Wilhelm Willink, Nicholas Van Staphorst, Peter Van Eeghen, Hendrick Vallenhoven and Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck. The residue went to Wilhelm Willink, Jan Willink and Wilhelm WIllink, Jr. Two years after Jan Gabriel Van Staphorst, Roelif Van Staphorst, Jr., Cornelius Vallenhoven and Hendrick Saye also acquired an interest in the property. The four deeds given by Robert Morris to the trustees of the Hollanders conveyed what is known as the Holland purchase.
When the Indian title had been extinguished by Mr. Morris in 1797 measures were immediately taken for the survey of the domain, so that it could be sold in parcels and settled. Joseph Ellicott was appointed chief surveyor, and in the autumn of the same year he and Augustus Porter, the surveyor employed by Mr. Morris, as a step toward ascertaining the actual area of the tract, made a tour of its lake and river front. In the Spring of 1798 the surveying of this broad domain into townships and lots was commenced and vigorously pursued. For the base operations a transit line, so called because run with a transit instrument in connection with astronomical observations, was established at the eastern limit of the purchase, and another between the sixth and seventh ranges; to distinguish it from the former, called the west transit. The laying down of these lines was a slow and laborious operation, involving nothing less than the felling of a strip of timber three or four rods wide most of the way across the State to give unobstructed range to the instrument.
The price first charged for land by the Holland Company was between two and three dollars per acre, varying more or less according to the location and quantity sold, one-tenth to be paid down. It was extremely desirable to procure settlers, for every pioneer who located made the country more attractive to others who might be contemplating a similar movement. Lands could be had very cheap in parts of the State nearer the centers of population, and also in Ohio, and competition was thus so strong that the Holland Company, generally finding it very difficult to obtain the ten per cent advance payment, often waived the same to actual settlers. Even then their lands went off rather slowly, and to encourage immigration further articles were given to settlers, in some instances, on the payment of a sum barely sufficient to pay for drawing the contract. Early settlers were generally poor, and many were doubtless attracted hither by this easy mode of obtaining possession of land. It is a doubtful question, however, whether such accommodating terms were advantageous in the end, for many found it quite impossible to meet their obligations, and the opinion has been advanced that the company would have done better had they insisted on the plan first adopted; for, while settlement might have advanced more slowly, a more industrious and enterprising class of inhabitants would have located on the purchase.
The earliest roadway through any part of the county other than Indian paths already referred to, was the "French," or "Portage" road from the mouth of Chautauqua creek to the head of Chautauqua lake, described in another connection. The road from Pennsylvania to Chautauqua lake, at a point known later as Mile’s Landing, was opened about 1805. In 1813 the Holland Land Company made a survey of a road [from] Mayville easterly to Ischua, Cattaraugus county, a distance of sixty miles, and cleared, bridged, and otherwise improved it to a point a mile south of Sinclairville. The remaining portion of the road was constructed in 1814, by Captain Alanson Leet (superintendent of the job), Henry Walker Bela Todd, Dexter Barnes, Henry Barnhart, Oliver and Nathan Cleland and others, most of them residents of the territory now embraced in the town of Stockton, under contract with the company. These were the earlier of the principal roads in the county, and over them most of the pioneers passed in coming to their wilderness homes. The progress of settlement is indicated by the lists of land purchases and settlers in the various town histories.
Having at length reached the end of the journey with his scanty effects, the labor of the pioneer commenced with opening a place in the woods for the erection of a house. It was but a cabin of logs, a rude hut, perhaps twelve by fifteen feet square, with a hole in the roof to let the smoke out. In one side a hole was cut through the logs for a doorway, and a blanket used to close it until boards could be obtained to make a door. For a window a hole was also cut large enough to admit a sash of four or six panes of glass. Of course no sash and glass were at hand, and the hole was closed with a piece of paper saturated with grease, and stretched across it so as to let the light in. The dwelling was now ready for its occupants; and, without a trip to a furniture store, it was soon furnished as well as any other, perhaps, within a circuit of twenty miles. Each settler did his own cabinet work, and the furniture was as primitive as the house. Some knives and forks, some tinned-iron spoons, some cups and saucers and a few plates, all of the "blue edged" variety, comprised the table furniture. Here, amid such surroundings, and with the most primitive appliances and the most meager facilities, the pioneer began to extract from nature the fruits of honest toil. The first thing to be done was to clear a piece of land. The "logging" required the associated labor of a number of men, who in turn assisted each other in the operation of rolling the logs into piles for burning. Most of this work was done by "bees," to which the neighbors far around were invited, and came with their teams, cant-hooks and handspikes, and, thus equipped, they would "log" a tract of several acres in an afternoon. When the logs were burned the ground was ready for cultivation. The agricultural implements were of the most primitive order, the principal instrument being a "home-made" triangular harrow of drag. Sometimes it was made of a crotched tree and needed no framing. The plow was a clumsy wrought-iron instrument, effective only to stir up the surface of the ground., having in some cases a wooden mould-board, the point only being imported. The grain was cut with a sickle, and the hay with a sycythe as heavy as it was unhandy. Flails were the only threshers, and hand-fans and "riddles" or sieves the only separators. To get the grain floured the settler labored under a great disadvantage, sometimes being obliged to carry it by the single bagful across the back of a horse to a distant mill, consuming considerable time in the trip, and having to go often on account of the impossibility of taking much at a time. Many kept the often described mortar of "hominy block" in which to pound corn. It took less time to raise a crop of grain than it did to get a meadow in condition to afford a crop of hay, and until this was done the cattle in the winter time subsisted chiefly on "browse. Among the few business advantages offered to the pioneer was that afforded by a market for "black salts," which was for many years the most important article of trade, and almost the only one that could be readily turned into cash. It brought a little money, which was greatly needed, into the country and thereby enabled the settler to pay his taxes and buy a few of the necessaries of life, where otherwise there would have been destitution. New settlers put up rough leaches and generally made black salts, and, when kettles were available, potash. It was an expedient of the new settler to go into the forest, cut down trees, roll them in heaps and burn them, having in mind no thought of clearing, but to supply a want of store trade or money. The timber, which was looked upon as a hindrance to agricultural progress, was thus removed and made a source of profit, making way for cultivation, which could not have been prosecuted until its removal. Though saw-mills were built in a comparatively early day, they were small (usually containing but one saw) and inadequate to the need in utilizing the timber by converting it into lumber. But with the increase of the number of these mills and the gradual growth of the lumber trade the fortunes of the settlers improved, and they were enabled to dispose of their timber profitably, and at the same time clear their lands and have lumber to improve their buildings.
Notwithstanding the poverty and consequent privations of the early settlers, they made early provision for the education of their children. The school-houses were as primitive in construction as the dwellings and were generally built by "bees" or gatherings of such settlers as had children to educate. There was no blackboard and the entire stock of apparatus consisted of a few well-seasoned switches and a substantial ruler. There was no law compelling persons to pay for the erection of school-buildings, nor the teacher for his services. The latter was paid by subscription, the price of tuition being a stipulated sum per scholar.
Great as were the privations of the pioneers, their lives were not so wretched as the contemplation of their cheerless surroundings would indicate. They found pleasure in the hopeful anticipation that in the coming years they would have a comfortable home for themselves and their children, and each new field added to the "clearing" gave fresh promise of its consummation. They found happiness in fraternal feelings toward each other. All were friends and all ready to help each other along and to contribute to the general prosperity and happiness. The amusements of the old and young were enjoyed with a keen relish. There were quilting, husking, apple-paring, raising, chopping, logging, and other "bees," and every gathering of the kind was a joyous occasion, giving a double enjoyment from the consciousness of profitable employment and social intercourse. By such means the pioneers assisted each other, and to the friendly spirit which prompted them the citizens of the county are largely indebted for the prosperity of today.
The memory of the pioneer days in old Chautauqua has been perpetuated by old settlers, festivals and reunions from time to time, which have been both enjoyable and profitable to all concerned.
It is probable the name Tchadakoin, was applied by the French to the Connewango, Chautauqua lake and outlet and perhaps that portion of the Allegany river between the mouth of the Connewango and Franklin. The word has been variously spelled Tjadakoin, Chataconit, Chadakoin, Shatacoin, Jadaxque, Jadaqua, Chataughque, Chautauque and Chautauqua, the latter form of orthography having been adopted by the board of supervisors of Chautauqua county, October 11th, 1859 [sic], at the suggestion of Hon. Elial T. Foote. The name is of Indian origin and was undoubtedly first applied to Chautauqua lake, which was called Ga-ja-dah-gwah, the word being compounded of two Seneca words Ga-jah (fish) and GA-dah-gwah (taken out). In time the prefix Ga was dropped and the work was contracted to Jah-dah-gwah. The word Shatacoin properly pronounced in French is identical with the Indian name. Chautauqua, for obvious reasons, has been said to signify "foggy place," "high up," "pack tied in the middle" and "two moccasins fastened together," but the explanation above given has been accepted as correct by those learned in the French and Seneca tongues. Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Niagara counties were formed from Genesee county by an act of Assembly passed March 11th, 1808, which provided that Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties should act in conjunction with Niagara until they should respectively contain 500 inhabitants. It having been ascertained from the assessment rolls of 1810, at the meeting of the board of supervisors, that Chautauqua county contained 500 voters for members of the Assembly, the county was fully organized by the appointment of county officers February 9th, 1811, by a council of appointment consisting of the governor and a State senator from each of the four districts into which the State was then divided. Three commissioners appointed by the governor, under the act of 1808, having fixed upon Mayville as the county seat for Chautauqua county, and $1,500, the sum required by the act, having been raised by the supervisors for the erection of county buildings, a contract was let to Winsor Brigham to build a court-house and jail of wood, and the house of John Scott, in Mayville, was designated as the place for holding courts until the court-house should be completed. The war of 1812-14 having retarded the progress of civilization in western New York, the work went on slowly from 1811 to 1815, when a building was finished which combined the accommodations of court-house and jail. The present jail and court-house were erected between 1832 and 1840.
Settlement and organization had gone on without serious interruption until the opening of the year 1812, but war was now on hand, and had cast its appalling shadow before. On the 7th of the preceding November Harrison had defeated the Indians at the Battle of Tippecanoe, and though reparation had been made by the British for the attack on the Chesapeake, the causes which led later to a declaration of war by the Unites States government were growing more and more prominent. Some preparation and considerable excitement were manifest on all sides for several weeks before the proclamation of war was received. Early in 1812 an additional force of 35,000 men and a detachment of militia not exceeding 100,000 men were authorized by government. The Chautauqua county militia was organized into one regiment, under command of Colonel John McMahan, who early in June received orders to detach a company of "minute men." The regiment was called together for a draft, but all volunteered and no conscription was made. About the middle of the month war was declared, and the company, under command of Captain Jehiel Moore, was ordered to march to rendezvous at Lewiston, where, early in July, it joined the 18th regiment of New York detached militia, Colonel Hugh W. Dobbin, commanding. The company was organized with Samuel D. Wells as lieutenant, Charles Burrett as ensign, Alpheus McIntyre, Asa Johnson, Isaac Badgley and John Dull as sergeants, Hezekiah G. Canfield, Jonathan S. Pattison and Josiah Gibbs as corporals, John Bartoo as drummer and Horatio Hopkins as fifer.
As soon as the British authorities in Canada were informed of the war, they took measures to secure the alliance of the Six Nations and the western Indian tribes. The United States sought to neutralize the intrigues of the British, and July 6th opened a council at Buffalo with the Senecas. Erastus Granger, the Indian agent, urged them to preserve neutrality, but offered to take a small force of their young warriors into the army if they insisted upon fighting. Red Jacket was the Seneca spokesman, and cast his influence in favor of the United States. The Senecas promised not to take up the hatchet unless in alliance with the States, and sent a deputation to persuade the Mohawks to neutrality. Their efforts, however, were fruitless, for the Mohawks promptly sided with the British, and were their active partisans throughout the war. Red Jacket was desirous of maintaining the neutrality of the Indians, but it was found almost impossible for the young Seneca braves to allow a war to go on in their neighborhood without participating in it, and their elders did not try to restrain them after the British at an early stage of hostilities attempted to take possession of Grand Island, which the Senecas then claimed as part of their territory. The United States government was reluctant to employ savage allies addicted to barbarities not countenanced in civilized warfare, and it was not until the spring of 1813 that Major Lewis, commanding at Fort Niagara, invited the Seneca warriors to the fort to avail himself of their cooperation. Even then it was hoped the employment of them in actual conflict would hardly be necessary, but that on the appearance of the Senecas in the field the Mohawks would withdraw from the war rather than be involved in a bloody struggle with their kindred nation. To this end they were requested to send a deputation to the Mohawks to induce them to withdraw from actual service, when they would do likewise. The Senecas had no such notion, however, and had repaired to the fort to the number of three or four hundred, under Farmer’s Brother, in full panoply of war; and, on learning that they were expected to exert their influence for peace rather than war, were somewhat disappointed. The Mohawks, however, were fully determined to fight, and on condition that the Senecas would abstain from killing or torturing such of the enemy as fell into their hands, their services were accepted. Thus they rendered some aid in the field during the war, while their friendly attitude was of great value to the frontier settlers.
It was the design of the United States, when the war was entered upon, to make a conquest of Canada. The force assembled along the Niagara river for this purpose, however, at the end of the summer consisted of only a few small detachments under General Amos Hall, commander of the militia of western New York. These were poorly supplied with clothing and munitions of war, being without heavy artillery or competent gunners for such field pieces as they had.
July 17th General Hull invaded Canada, and August 15th he surrendered with 2,500 men to General Brock. The "Alert," a British ship-of-war, was captured by the "Essex" August 13th, and the "Guerriere" by the "Constitution" August 19th. General Harrison assumed command of the army on the northwestern frontier in September. About the first of this month Sir Isaac Brock, the British commander-in-chief in Canada, arrived on the Niagara frontier with a small but well disciplined army. General Van Rensselaer had been appointed to the command in this quarter, and reinforcements were hurried on to meet an invasion which seemed to be intended by the enemy.
The battle of Queenston Heights was fought October 13th. This was the first event worthy of notice in which the Chautauqua county militia participated. The troops at Lewiston were aroused at 3 A.M. and marched to the river, and before daybreak as many had crossed over as the boats would carry. It was not yet daylight when the Chautauqua company crossed. With inadequate means of transportation about 1,000 men had been transferred to the Canadian side of the Niagara. The movement was discovered by the British, and the cannon began to roar on both sides of the river. As it was not yet light no enemy was to be seen, but a scattering fire was kept up from the bushes on the steep hillside and from the road leading to Queenston. A part of the Chautauqua company was ordered to scour the hillside, but no enemy was met, though the firing from that quarter soon ceased. On returning they found that the balance of the force had retreated to the river side, and were lying on the ground, protected from the fire of the enemy above by the bank. Colonel Van Rensselaer was wounded, and, unable to stand, reclined on the ground, holding a council of war with his officers, none of whom above the rank of captain were uninjured. He counseled remaining inactive for a time, expressing confidence that reinforcements would soon arrive from across the river under an officer able to take command of the forces in his stead. But though a short time previously the militia had been so eager for battle that they were ready to mutiny or desert unanimously if they could not be led against the enemy, they were now as eager to keep out of danger. Seeing some of the wounded brought over they became panic stricken, and taking advantage of the plea that they could not be ordered beyond the territory of the United States, refused to embark. At last, having no hope of a reinforcement, Colonel Van Rensselaer, still prostrate, gave the order: "Parade your men and go up and take that battery!" The battery was about two-thirds of the distance from the base of the hill to the summit. When the front of the American column had gained a position on a level spot considerably more than half way up, it halted to afford an opportunity to the center and rear to close up. The greater portion of the Chautauqua company was near the center of the line when it was formed and were enabled to go forward rapidly along a path towards the top of the hill, leading the van in the advance toward the enemy’s battery; and the first Americans who set foot on Queenston Heights that day were from Chautauqua county. When about 100 of the militia had reached the brow of the hill they were discovered by the British, and the troops supporting the battery sallied out and attacked them. But at the second fire the British retreated to Queenston and left the Americans in charge of the battery. General Brock rallied his forces and attempted to recapture the position, but was mortally wounded and his followers repulsed. The Americans, however, were unable to hold their ground unaided against the British reinforcements which were brought up and were overwhelmed and forced to surrender after having about 60 killed and 100 wounded. Those taken prisoners were parolled the following day. Of the Chautauqua company, Nathaniel Bowen, of Villenova, was killed. A Mr. Winser was mortally and David Eaton, Alpheus McIntyre, Erastus Taylor and Alexander Kelley less seriously wounded. Colonel Van Rensselaer resigned the command, which was assigned to General Alexander Smyth. After the battle of Queenston an armistice of a week was declared, which, however, was interrupted by a bloodless attack on American forces by the garrison of Fort Erie for its alleged violation.
October 17th, the "Frolic," a British ship, was captured by the "Wasp," but both vessels were afterwards taken by the "Poictiers," a British man-of-war. The British frigate "Macedonian" was captured by the "United States," October 25th. December 29th, the "Java," a British frigate, was captured by the "Constitution." The sanguinary massacre of the river Raisin occurred January 13th, 1813. The "Peacock," a British ship, was captured by the "Hornet," February 23rd. York, in Upper Canada, was taken by the Americans and General Pike was killed April 27th. The frigate "Chesapeake" was taken by the British frigate "Shannon," June 1st, and the brig "Argus" by the British ship "Pelican," August 14th. September 4th, the British brig "Boxer" was captured by the "Enterprise" and six days later the British fleet on Lake Erie surrendered to Commodore Perry.
October 5th, General Harrison, after having crossed into Canada dispersed the British army under General Proctor near the river Thames. In the meantime events of importance in the war at large and of great moment to the inhabitants of western New York had been transpiring. In the spring of 1813 the British found themselves unable to hold their positions along the Niagara and the fortresses on the Canadian side fell into the hands of the Americans, but all advances inland proved futile if not disastrous, and were followed by an invasion upon the part of the British. The public stores at Buffalo and Black Rock were left with slender protection by the withdrawal of the troops to other points. At Black Rock were stationed only about 150 militia, under Major Adams, and the block-house at that point was feebly garrisoned. At Buffalo was a force of about 100 under Captain Cummings. All were under the command of General Porter. The British on this expedition were led by Colonel Bishop, who embarked at Chippewa on the night of July 10th, landed about daylight a short distance below the mouth of the Scajaquada, and marched stealthily forward to Major Adam’s encampment, passing the block-house unobserved by its sleeping occupants. On nearing the camp they were discovered by the militia, who fled precipitately without an effort to resist the invaders. A squad of the enemy proceeded to the residence of General Porter, but he discovered their approach in time to make his escape, and on perceiving that the encampment was in their possession started for Buffalo. The alarm had reached that village before his arrival, and Captain Cummings was already on the move to oppose their progress. His force was too feeble for an attack, and General Porter ordered him to halt and await reinforcements. The news that the enemy were at Black Rock had thrown the people of Buffalo into a state of confusion, and although the men had caught up their arms and rushed into the street, they were undecided whether to defend their homes or seek safety in flight. General Porter succeeded in getting about fifty to form in line of march and join Captain Cummings. Mr. Granger, who had charge of the Senecas, was fearful of a raid, and had Farmer’s Brother and about forty warriors on guard about his house. As soon as the fact that the enemy were at Black Rock was made known to them they sprang forward to assist in repelling the invaders. Although many of the militia who had so ingloriously fled at the first appearance of the enemy had escaped beyond reach, about 100 had been kept together and brought up for action. The force was still further augmented by volunteers who had come forward from the surrounding country, making an aggregate of about 300, with which force General Porter proposed to make an attack. The enemy, meanwhile, were busy in destroying the military works and transporting their spoils to the Canadian side of the river, believing themselves in no danger of being molested. They were, however, soon made sensible of their mistake, for General Porter had formed his men in three divisions to give them battle from all assailable points at the same time. The attack was commenced with spirit and determination, and in a short time Colonel Bishop fell from his horse severely wounded. This event had a disheartening effect upon his men, who, finding themselves assailed on all sides, and terrified by the warwhoop of the Indians, hastily retreated toward their boats. They rallied to resist their pursuers at the landing; but the Americans pressed forward and they embarked as quickly as possible, but were still exposed to a shower of bullets. In the rear boat were about 60 men and most of the officers, all of whom suffered severely, several of the latter (including Colonel Bishop) being killed. So destructive was the fire that they made signals to surrender and were ordered to come ashore. Though apparently willing to comply, they hesitated and made excuses until, having floated some distance, they suddenly seized the oars and rowed away as rapidly as possible, but not without receiving another volley of bullets, with damaging effect. In this action the loss of the Americans was 3 killed and 7 wounded, two of the latter being Indians. The loss of the British was much greater, they having left 30 behind them, killed, wounded or prisoners, besides carrying many killed and wounded with them.
After this affair everything was comparatively quiet in western New York until just at the close of the year, when the inhabitants all along the Niagara frontier were most calamitously afflicted by the ravages of the enemy. General McClure, finding his force inadequate to defend Fort George, abandoned it, but before taking his departure reduced the village of Newark to ashes, unnecessarily inflicting great distress upon its inhabitants. Retaliation speedily followed, as might have been expected, and to the criminal blundering of McClure treachery seems to have been added to secure the enemy’s success. Though anticipating an attack on Fort Niagara, to which he had removed, he came to Buffalo and satisfied himself with a proclamation announcing its danger and calling for its defense. In less the twenty-four hours afterward it was in the hands of the enemy. Then against the protest of citizens of Buffalo, he retreated to Batavia with his regulars, leaving General Hall of the militia in command. The capture of Fort Niagara was followed by the destruction of all the villages and dwellings on the American side of the river, and by the infliction of barbarous cruelties upon the defenseless inhabitants. Having devastated all north of the Tonawanda, Black Rock and Buffalo were menaced. The country was excitedly aroused, and the militia came flocking to Buffalo in such numbers as to give hopes that any invasion at this point would be repelled. The Chautauqua militia, constituting a portion of the 162nd regiment, was present under command of Colonel McMahan and Majors Prendergast and Barnes. There were four companies, commanded by Captains John Silsby and Jehiel Moore and Lieutenants William Forbes and Hale, and a company of "Silver Greys" under Captain Hart. About midnight on the 29th of December the American camp was aroused by the receipt of intelligence that the enemy were crossing the river below Black Rock. Colonels Warren and Churchill moved forward with their regiments from Black Rock to oppose the enemy at Scajaquada creek, but too late, for the bridge was already in their possession, as they believed. That being the case an attempt to dislodge them in the dark seemed impracticable, and they decided to take a position to prevent the further advance of the British. Colonel Chapin soon came up with a body of cavalry, with orders from General Hall to attack the enemy, and they moved forward, the mounted men taking the lead. Their progress was not disputed until they had nearly reached the creek, when suddenly a terrific fire was opened upon them. Panic stricken, they wheeled about and fled in confusion through the infantry in their rear, which also broke and scattered in every direction. On learning the result, General Hall sent forward another detachment, but with no better success, and that was followed by still another. The remaining force was then marched forward to Black Rock. Nothing save a little skirmishing had been done by any of these detachments through the night. When the last division had advanced as far as Black Rock the day was beginning to dawn, and the main force of the enemy were discovered putting off from the Canadian shore in boats, evidently with the intention of effecting a landing near the village.
The detachment which had preceded the reserve force was ordered to the bank of the river to dispute the landing, and the reserve took a position in the rear of the battery. A fire was opened on the approaching foe from the battery, and one of their boats received a cannon shot which sank it. The cannonade was returned from the battery on the Canadian side while the boats were advancing, and some resistance was offered to the hostile crews at the landing. The undisciplined militia, however, was soon dispersed by the British regulars. General Hall ordered a retreat, hoping to be able to concentrate his forces and take a position for the defense of Buffalo; but it was utterly impossible. A large share of the militia had taken to the woods and gone home, and those of the decimated ranks yet remaining were no less anxious to get to some place of safety. The retreat was soon an utter rout, the fugitives fleeing in every direction. General Hall in his report of January 6th, 1814, says: "The Chautauqua militia under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel McMahan *** swelled my forces to 2,011, which was reduced by alarm and desertion, on the morning of the alarm, to less than 1,200 men. And so deficient were my supplies of ammunition, that a great part of the cartridges of Lieutenant-Colonel McMahan’s regiment were made and distributed after they were paraded on the morning of the battle. *** Colonel McMahan’s regiment had been a reserve in battle; but when ordered into action terror seized them-they flew in disgrace, though some stood by and behaved well and endeavored to rally men. To the defection of the reserve he imputed his defeat on great measure. "It is not easy to determine," says Judge Warren, "What measures of blame attaches to the Chautauqua militia. It should be remembered that they were raw soldiers, without adequate drill and without experience, hurried into action almost at the moment of their arrival, against the well-drilled and experienced British soldiers. There may have been other difficulties which could not have been overcome by the best disciplined troops." The British force detailed for the attack on Buffalo consisted of about 1,500 regulars and 400 Indians under General Riall. "The loss to Chautauqua county was severe in proportion to the number engaged," continued Judge Warren. "James Brockett, a lawyer from Mayville, was killed and scalped by the Indians, *** Joseph Frank, from Busti, William Smiley, from Ellery, Ephraim Pease and John Lewis, from Pomfret, Aaron Nash, Bovee and Hubbard, from Hanover, and several others were killed. Major Prendergast had a number of ball shots through his hat and clothes. Captain Silsby was severely wounded and lieutenant Forbes had one man killed and five wounded out of the twenty-one under his command." Those who had taken part in the action from Buffalo hastened home to take care of their families and such of their effects as they could save. All was in a state of wild confusion, and the terror was increased by the fact that part of the invaders were Indians. Everything that could be made available as a team was speedily brought into requisition for the removal of the inhabitants’ families and such of their effects as they could gather together from the village, whose doom was certain. There was little time for the carrying out of such plans, for the savages were soon on hand to pillage and enact their barbarous deeds. The torch was applied indiscriminately and the work of desolation went on until there was nothing more to destroy, when the enemy leisurely returned to the Canada side. The settlements for several miles back from the river were broken up and deserted, the inhabitants fleeing eastward for safety, in terror and confusion. So great was the distress and destitution that sympathy was painfully awakened, and measures for relief were immediately taken both by public authorities and private citizens.
With the return of spring the fugitives began to come back, their safety being rendered comparatively secure by the concentration of regular troops along the frontier. An advance upon the enemy was commenced by the capture, July 3rd, 1814, of Fort Erie, which was surrendered to a superior force without any attempt on the part of the garrison to resist the attack. In this movement Chautauqua county volunteers are said to have participated. The main body of the enemy was at Chippewa, whither the American force moved, and in a general action gained a decisive victory over the British. On the 25th General Scott with his brigade, encountered the entire British army advantageously posted just below the falls, and the severe battle of Lundy’s Lane was fought. The British battery was finally captured, and after two unsuccessful attempts to retake it, the enemy gave up the field. The next day the Americans broke camp and returned unmolested to Fort Erie, which they proceeded to strengthen. The enemy having been reinforced, appeared and invested it. Before dawn on the 15th of August a furious assault was commenced. In their attack on the left of the American lines the enemy were repulsed four times with heavy loss, and on the right they met with no better success. In the center the conflict was desperate in the extreme, and the enemy finally succeeded in gaining possession of the bastion; but their advance was suddenly checked by its explosion, and shortly after ended in their defeat at every point with the loss of nearly 1,000 men. The enemy were still intent on prosecuting the siege and the American commander determined to attack and dislodge them. The British force consisted of three brigades, each of which in its turn was stationed at the batteries, while the others remained at their encampment about two miles distant. It was the object to defeat the British brigade on duty, before is could be reinforced. For this purpose a sortie was made September 17th, which resulted in the capture of the British batteries and the destruction of their fortifications. A few days after the siege was raised, and no other hostile encounter occurred on the Niagara frontier during the war, though stirring events were transpiring elsewhere. March 30th, 1814, the frigate "Essex" was captured by two British vessels. April 29th the British vessel "Empervier" was captured by the "Peacock." May 6th Oswego was taken by the British. June 28th the "Reindeer," a British craft, was captured by the "Wasp." August 24th General Winder was defeated at Bladensburg by Ross, who entered Washington and burned the public buildings. September 1st the "Avon," a British vessel, was captured by the "Wasp." On the 11th the British fleet on Lake Champlain, under Commodore Downey, surrendered to the American fleet under Commodore McDonough, and the British army was defeated at Plattsburg, by General Macomb. January 8th, 1815, after the treaty of peace had been negotiated in Europe, General Jackson defeated the British forces under Packenham (who was slain) at New Orleans. This decisive, though as was afterwards known, unnecessary action closed the war.
In 1828 a sale of unsold lands, aggregating 60,112 acres, in the southeast towns of the county, was made to an association of men known as the Cherry Valley Company. The long credit system of the Holland Land Company, while it no doubt induced a rapid settlement of the purchase, and was early hailed with favor by purchasers, operated to increase their obligations from year to year, and many felt the burden of their land debt bearing heavily upon them, although their prospects were bettered somewhat by an accessible market afforded by the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. The long credit given to many of the settlers frequently had the effect to make them feel aggrieved when pay day came. They vainly called the company’s title in question, and asked the interference of the Legislature in their behalf, claiming the company had grown rich under the laws of the State, which had removed their alien disabilities and exempted them from taxation. They thought the company should bear a share of the public expenditures. Nor was their appeal unheeded, for in 1833 the Legislature enacted to that effect. The company thereupon served notices on persons holding unexpired contracts on which payments were due, to pay or make satisfactory arrangements within two months or quit the premises. About this time the company began selling out their remaining interest in portions of the purchase to small companies or to individuals, Hessian Holden, of Batavia, who bought the company’s remaining interest in the town of Charlotte, being the first purchaser. In November, 1835, an agreement was made between the land company and Trumbull Cary and George W. Lay, of Batavia, by which the latter were to become the owners of all the real and personal estate of the company in Chautauqua county, the company to retain the legal title to the property as security for such a sum as might be due after the receipt of a payment of $50,000 in hand, to receive all moneys collected, and to take and retain all securities which should be given on land purchased and the liquidation of debts; the local agent of the Holland Company (William Peacock, at Mayville) to be governed by the direction of Messrs. Cary & Lay only so far as should be consistent with the security of the Holland Company. The new proprietors sought to enforce new contracts, by which an advance in the price of the lands already sold out, wholly or partially unpaid for, could be obtained. This policy created a commotion among the settlers, and meetings were held to consult on measures to be adopted; and in these agrarian meetings those who counseled moderation or advised compliance with the demands of the proprietors were denounced as "Judases." February 6th, 1836, a raid was made by a mob of about 250 men upon the land office in Mayville. The building was demolished, and most of the books, maps, records, contracts and mortgages were carried two miles away and burned. In the spring of 1836 a similar descent by about 700 men was made on the office of the Holland Company at Batavia, which a defense by soldiers rendered abortive. Hon. William H. Seward was employed as agent for the company, and with others purchased an interest in the same. In 1836 he opened an office in Westfield, where he conducted affairs until the business of the new company was closed to the general satisfaction of the settlers. In some cases purchasers managed to defer payment for their farms until they gained a title to them by continuance of "adverse possession;" but for the most part the company finally received payment for their land.
The New York & Erie Railway was completed to Dunkirk, its western terminus, May 14th, 1851; an event celebrated at Dunkirk in an appropriate manner with a procession and congratulatory speeches by Mr. Crittenden of Kentucky, Govenor Hunt, Senators Seward and Dickinson, Secretary Graham, Joseph Hoxie, Millard Fillmore, Daniel Webster and others. The Buffalo & Erie Railroad Company and a company for the construction of a railroad from Barcelona to Mayville were formed in 1832 and the Fredonia & Van Buren Railroad Company in 1836, but neither of them ever put their plans into operation. The Buffalo & State Line Railroad was opened from Dunkirk to the State line January 1st, 1852, and to Buffalo February 22nd following. Later the company purchased the Erie & North East Railroad and operated the two roads under the title of the Buffalo & Erie Railroad. In August, 1869, this road was consolidated with the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad. In 1860 the Atlantic & Great Western Railroad was constructed from its junction with the Erie Railway to Jamestown, where the first train arrived over the line August 25th, of that year. The Buffalo & Oil Creek Cross-cut Railroad, from Brocton to Corry, was chartered in 1865. The Dunkirk Allegany Valley & Pittsburgh Railroad was completed to a point a little south of Laona in 1870; to Sinclairville June 1st, 1871; the first train ran to Worksburg June 22nd, that year, and subsequently the road was completed to Warren and continued to Titusville. The Buffalo & Jamestown Railroad was chartered in 1872.
The first newspaper in the county was the Chautauqua Gazette first issued at Fredonia in January, 1817, by James Percival. Since that date about fifty publications, monthly, weekly and daily, have been launched upon the sea of public favor at nearly every village in the county. Their careers have been as changeful as that of newspapers generally, but they have borne their part in the civilization and general advancement of the county. Such as survive and are now published are for the most part, ably conducted and liberally sustained.
Chautauqua county has an area of 652,894 acres. The assessed valuation of its real estate in 1879 was $24,950,394; of its personal property, $3,114,731; its total tax was $213,235.01. The population of the county in 1835 was 44,869; in 1840, 47,975; in 1845, 46,548; in 1850, 50,493; in 1855, 53,380; in 1860, 58,422; in 1865, 58,528; in 1870, 59,327; in 1875, 64,781; in 1880, 65,324.
We now arrive at the consideration of events, which were of such a character as to entitle Chautauqua county to subsequent immunity from any reproach that may have fallen upon it for its part in the last war with Great Britain. On receipt of intelligence of the fall of Fort Sumter, in April, 1861, this county was among the foremost to take measures for marshalling troops to send to the field of strife. A public meeting was held at Fredonia, on the evening of April 20th. A series of patriotic resolutions was adopted, and a finance committee appointed to take charge of and disburse a fund raised for the relief of volunteer soldiers. Similar meetings, at which large numbers were present and much enthusiasm was manifested, were held at Westfield, April 20th; Jamestown, April 29th; and July 25th, 26th and 28th at other places in the county. In no section of the country was patriotism more clearly manifested than in Chautauqua county. Party lines seemed for a time to be obliterated, and all classes were filled with a determination to suppress the Rebellion at all hazards. Enlistments proceeded rapidly, and company after company was announced as ready to proceed to the front. The number of men furnished for the war by Chautauqua, as nearly as can be ascertained, was about 2,300. The enlistments from the several towns were nearly as follows:
Arkwright, 33; Busti, 81; Carroll, 42; Charlotte, 42; Chautauqua, 115; Cherry Creek, 62; Clymer, 61; Dunkirk, 233; Ellery, 31; Ellicott, 299; Ellington, 52; French Creek, 51; Gerry, 37; Hanover, 169; Harmony, 163; Kiantone, 17; Mina, 41; Poland, 71; Pomfret, 161; Portland, 66; Ripley, 42; Sheridan, 46; Sherman, 70; Stockton, 61; Villenova, 84; Westfield, 93. Total, 2,293.
† Transcriber's Note -- For additions or corrections with respect to the section on Native American history in Chautauqua County, consult the Seneca Nation Education Department (12861 Route 438, Irving, NY 14081) and the Archives and Special Collections of Reed Library (Fredonia State College, Fredonia, NY 14063).