This was one of the original towns, formed at the first organization of the county, in 1794, and number ten of the Military Townships. At that period it comprised the townships of Pompey, Fabius and Tully, with that part of the Onondaga Reservation, lying south of the Great Genesee Road, and east of Onondaga Creek. The boundaries and area of this town, have been materially diminished since the period of its first organization; so that at the present time, it contains but sixty-eight lots of the one hundred, as laid out in the original township. This township obtained great celebrity abroad, at a very early period, and was principally settled by people from New-England, many of whom took up their residence here, while the township was a part of the town of Mexico, Herkimer County. Mr. John WILCOX was the first white settler on the Township, who came out in the spring of 1789, with an Indian chief from Oneida, for the purpose of exploring the country. He made selection of the lot on which he settled, known as the HASKINS farm, two miles north of La Fayette village. Here was an extensive Indian orchard, and with a view to its improvement, Abel OLCUTT came out the same spring, and made arrangements for pruning it. He spent his nights at the Onondaga Castle, three miles distant, there being no white people nearer than DANFORTH's or MOREHOUSE's. He lodged in the cabin of CAWHIEDOTA. In the prosecution of his labors in pruning, he was surprised that in the center of each and every tree was a collection of small brush, about the size of a bushel basket. Wondering at the singularity of such a circumstance, he inquired of his Indian friend and host the cause, who explained after the following manner: He said, that after the war of the Revolution, the Indian settlement at that place was abandoned, in consequence of the destruction of the corn fields, and a part of the great orchard, by Col. Van SCHAICK, in 1779; that the Onondagas had become completely discouraged, in consequence of the severe losses they had sustained during the war; consequently the Indians, since the war, had not occupied or cultivated any of their lands in that quarter, and the brush he had found collected in the apple-trees, was the work of bears, who ascended the trees in autumn, gathering in the slender branches loaded with apples, with their paws leisurely devouring the fruit, at the same time depositing the branches under them, between the larger diverging limbs, for a more comfortable seat. Sometime after Mr. WILCOX had settled in his new place of abode, his harvests had been abundant, and his stacks of hay and wheat numerous; (for as yet, he had no barns,) every thing seemed to prosper in his hands, but lo, in a single night his cherished hopes were blasted, for some ruthless hand had lighted the torch, and applied it with complete fatality to the gathered treasures of the year. He awoke in the morning only to behold the desolation, and the smoking ruins of his labors, his sustenance and wealth. The Indians were suspected as guilty of the outrage, and complaint was at once made to the principal chief at Onondaga, who upon investigation, remarked to Mr. WILCOX with the most perfect non chalance without palliation or denial, “You dig up no more dead Indian, no more will your stacks be burned." The admonition was sufficient, for although it had been a common practice to rob Indian graves, for the brass kettles and trinkets buried with the bodies; it was from this time discontinued, and the harvests of the farmers were henceforth unmolested.
The first settlers in the present town of Pompey, were Ebenezer BUTLER, from Harrington, Connecticut, who located on lot number sixty-five, in 1792. His brother, Jesse BUTLER, and Jacob HOAR, came on in the spring of the same year. Sally HOAR was the first white child born in this town, and Orange, son of Jesse BUGLER, the first male child. Ebenezer BUTLER died in 1829; he has descendants still living in Ohio. Directly after these first, came James OLCOTT, True Worthy and Selah COOK, Noadiah and Epiphas OLCOTT, the HOLBROOKs, JEROMEs, HIBBARDs, HINSDALEs, MESSINGERs, WESTERNs, ALLENs, BURRs and others, so that neighborhoods began to be formed in many places, as early as 1793 and 1794. The first settlers obtained flour from Whitestown, many of whom went there on horseback to mill, and some on foot. True Worthy COOK took a bushel of wheat on his back, to Herkimer, and brought back the flour, and Jacob HOAR brought his seed potatoes, half a bushel, on his back from Whitestown to Pompey Hill. The corn made use of in families was pounded in stump mortars, and one good stump mill answered for a whole neighborhood. Marketing and trade was mostly done at Whitestown, old Fort Schuyler and Herkimer, and the transportation was mostly done by ox teams, in the winter season. The first town meeting for Pompey, was held at the house of Ebenezer BUTLER, April 1st, 1794, Moses DE WITT was chosen Supervisor, and Hezekiah OLCOTT, Town Clerk; Allen LEACH, Wm. HASKINS, George CATLIN and Ebenezer BUTLER, Jr., Assessors; Thomas OLCOTT, Jeremiah GOULD and John LAMB, Commissioners of Highways. A special town meeting was held, 20th September, 1794, at the house of Ebenezer BUTLER, at which Wm. HASKINS was chosen Supervisor, in place of Moses DE WITT, deceased. The second annual town meeting was held at Ebenezer BUTLER's tavern, 7th of April, 1796. The first resolution passed by this meeting is in the following words, “Voted that the mode of choosing Supervisor and Clerk be, to speak and mark against his name, and the remainder by nomination.” Ebenezer BUTLER was chosen Supervisor, and Hezekiah OLCOTT, Town Clerk. At this meeting it was voted that "hogs be free commoners,”and "that a bounty of five dollars be paid for the scalp of any full grown wolf." At the third annual town meeting held at BUTLER's, 1796, Ebenezer BUTLER was chosen Supervisor, and Hezekiah OLCOTT, Town Clerk. For several years, town meetings were held at Manoah PRATT'S, and John LAMB was chosen Supervisor. Afterwards, town meetings were again held on the Hill, until lately, they have been held at Pompey Center.
The first religious society organized in the town of Pompey, and in the county of Onondaga, when it comprised the whole Military Tract, was under the title of the “First Presbyterian society of the town of Pompey," 16th June, 1794. Ebenezer BUTLER, Jr., and Allen BEACH, presided at the meeting, which was held at Mr. BUTLER's tavern. Moses DE WITT, Ozias BURR and Ebenezer BUTLER, were chosen Trustees. The same year, 29th December, 1794, the first Presbyterian society was formed at Scipio, Silas HOLBROOK, Zeeb TAYLOR, John RICHARDSON, Daniel MARK, Benjamin TRACY and Abram FRENCH Trustees. Next year, September 22d, 1795, the Baptist Church in Scipio, was formed, David IRISH, Thomas LAPUM, Asa HARRIS, Jeremiah BISHOP, Jr., Alexander WEEKS and Timothy HOW, Trustees. Others were organized in different parts of the county soon after. The first house of worship in town, was built at “BUTLER's (Pompey) Hill,” of logs, about the year 1798. The Rev. Mr. ROBINS, a missionary from Connecticut, first preached at Pompey Hill, 1793, and assisted to organize the Church, 1794. Rev. Hugh WALLACE was the first settled preacher—a Congregationalist. Mr. WALLACE organized "The First Religious Congregational Society," of the town of Pompey 8th April, 1800. Ebenezer BUTLER, Jr., Manoah PRATT, John JEROME, Timothy COSSIT, Daniel DUNHAM, and John KEDDER, Trustees. They used to meet in barns, houses, and at school houses. A Union Congregational Society, was formed near Capt. MOLTROPS, Pompey, May 18th, 1809. Trustees— Manoah PRATT, True W. COOK, Joseph WADSWORTH, Josiah HOLBROOK, Benjamin DAVIS and William DEAN. Rev. Joseph GILBERT, Rev. Hugh WALLACE and Rev. Mr. RAWSON, preached in this town during the years from 1793 to 1808. Afterwards, the Rev. Joshua LEONARD, who had charge of the Academy, and Rev. Mr. CHADWICK and Rev. Mr. BARROWS. In 1817, the present house of worship was erected, on Pompey Hill, and consecrated first Sunday in January, 1818. Soon after, a Baptist house of worship was put up, and a Methodist, and more recently, a society of Campbellites have been organized. “The First Methodist Episcopal Society in the town of Pompey," organized 1810. Rev. James KELSEY presided, Aaron CHAPIN acted as Clerk. Reuben CLARK, Thomas GRIMES, Enoch WILCOX, Joel CANFIELD, Chester TRUESDALE and William O'FARRELL, Trustees. Methodist Episcopal Church, Pompey, organized at the house of Phineas BARNS, James SCOVILLE, Phineas BARNS, Shubal SAFFORD, Simeon SUTHERLAND and Luther BUEL, Trustees. Zion Methodist society organized at Delphi, January 22d, 1822, and Central Congregational society, Green's Corners, 5th Feb., 1822—Eli HUBBARD, Gilbert JACKSON, Roswell SUTTON, Daniel CANDEE, Jr., and Seth WHITE, Trustees. A Protestant Episcopal Church was organized in 1823. The Rev. Mr. ROLF, a Roman Catholic minister, officiated in this town in 1836, and James O'DONNEL, an Augustinian afterwards. Mr. David DODGE and family, are the principal, if not the only persons of this denomination in town. He has a private chapel in his house, in which the daily worship of his household is conducted, and mass and other offices of devotion are performed on the first Tuesday of every month, by a Roman Catholic priest.
The first lawyer who settled in this town was Samuel Miles HOPKINS, who made but a short stay, and boarded at the house of Oliver SWEET. He afterwards moved to Geneseo and became quite a distinguished man. Daniel WOOD, Esq., next settled as a lawyer on Pompey Hill, about the year 1800. Victory BIRDSEYE, Esq., settled as a lawyer in 1807. Daniel GOTT, Esq., afterwards.
Dr. Samuel BEACH, first physician in town, 1798. Dr. Josiah COLTON settled two miles east of Pompey Hill, 1801. Dr. Deodatus CLARK practiced medicine a short time in this town. He died not long since, at Oswego, aged ninety years. Dr. TIBBALLS came in soon after and settled on the Hill, and passed all the prime of his life there. The first school teacher was Mr. J. GOULD. The first person who taught any thing beyond the rudiments of an English education, was Mr. James ROBINSON, who taught the classics and higher English, at the Hill, in 1805, 1806, 1807. Schools in this town have taken an elevated stand, owing mainly to the importance attached to instruction, by the New England settlers, who, at an early day, procured the erection and endowment of an excellent Academy at Pompey Hill, 1811. In 1813, the commissioners of the Land Office were directed by the Legislature to grant letters patent to the Trustees of Pompey Academy, and their successors in office, the fee simple of lot number fifteen in the township of Camillus, Onondaga County, with the privilege to sell and invest the proceeds in landed security, and appropriate the interest, arising from such investment, to the support and maintenance of instruction in said Academy, from which a fund of about four thousand dollars was created, which with the annual appropriations from the Regents of the University, enables the Trustees of this institution to afford ample means of instruction, to all who may desire it, at a reasonable rate. This Academy has had the happy effect of disseminating intellectual improvement, much more generally in its vicinity, than it possibly could have been without the aid of this, or a similar institution. The first mills erected in this town were at PRATT's Falls, by Messrs. PRATT and SMITH; a grist mill in 1798, and a saw mill a year or two earlier.
On the west branch of the Limestone Creek, near the mills of the Messrs. PRATT, about two and a half miles north-east of Pompey Hill, is a remarkable waterfall, of about one hundred and sixty feet, which at high water, presents a very grand and imposing appearance. This fall is almost perpendicular, yet enough broken to add beauty to its general character. The chasm below the fall is narrow, deep, abrupt, and the sides much worn. The rock is brown shale. Several years ago a young woman in search of raspberries, then abundant on the brink of the precipice, near where the water takes its final leap, fell off a distance of about sixty feet, before encountering any object to obstruct her fall. At this distance, she struck upon a projecting rock, and rolled in every variety of attitude, over one hundred feet further; the whole distance from the place from which she fell, to the place at which she finally landed, and from which she was taken up, was ascertained by actual measure, to be over one hundred and seventy feet. She was taken up senseless, but after awhile was restored to consciousness; and although severely bruised, no bones were broken, and she finally recovered. Another young woman, of rather romantic turn of mind, descended a perpendicular part of the precipice of some twenty-five feet, and when discovered by her companions, who formed a large pleasure party, she was very composedly walking on a narrow shelf, but a few inches broad, with a yawning abyss, of over one hundred feet below, and a projecting cliff twenty feet above her. After considerable exertion, by means of a rope, she was recovered in safety, much to the joy of her companions, although for herself she manifested no surprise or regret.
Henry SEYMOUR, Esq., built a wind mill on Pompey Hill in 1810; it proved a failure, and another was erected soon after, which did business several years. It was built mainly for his own convenience in the preparation of grain for distilling. Daniel WOOD, Esq., was the first Post Master at Pompey Hill, 1811; previously the place went by the name of BUTLER's Hill.
There are several stone quarries in this town, used for building purposes, mostly dark shale, which are not considered of the most durable or desirable kind. Among these are found petrifactions of oyster, clam and scollup shells, and specimens of trilobite, and other extinct species of crustacea, found in the earliest fossiliferous strata.
There is one Revolutionary soldier, Mr. Conrad BUSH, who resides on the lot for which he served, number thirty-seven. He came upon his lot in 1800, and had to eject settlers, who had already appropriated it to themselves. He still holds the same six hundred and forty acres entire, and although ninety-four years old, (1848) his mind is clear, and his natural force unabated. He and Thomas DIXON, of La Fayette, and Levi BISHOP, of Manlius, and Jeptha LEE, of Ithaca, are supposed to be the last and only survivors of Colonel LAMB'S regiment of artillery, formed for the defense of the New-York frontier, in 1781. Mr. BUSH was at the battle of Long Island, with a company of Pennsylvania militia. He was also at the battles of Trenton and Princeton, and the taking of CORNWALLIS; the stirring scenes of which he delights to relate, entering into all the minutiae with the fervor and zeal of youth. He states, that at the time his regiment was discharged, so much and often had they been disappointed by the promises of Congress, that when their certificates were made out, for their individual shares of land, a large majority had no confidence in the allotment of these bounties, and many cried out, who will give a pint of rum for mine ? Who will give a blanket for mine? A great many sold their shares for the merest trifle. But, says he, with unmingled satisfaction, “I held on to mine, and I am well off." Mr. BUSH is a German by birth, and was well known to General LA FAYETTE, who recognized him on his visit to this country in 1825. He held a sort of impromptu secretaryship to Timothy PICKERING, in cases of emergency. This gentleman always sought opportunities to acknowledge his regard for him.
It may not be uninteresting to the rising generation to be informed, that less than fifty-five years ago, such a vehicle as a horse wagon, was not in existence in this town or county, and the visiting was done mostly in winter on ox sleds; and happy and rich indeed was he who could yoke a pair of oxen of his own, make his way through the woods with his wife and a child or two on the sled, on an evening's visit to a neighbor's, several miles distant. In fact, such a man was considered in rather opulent circumstances; and too, it was no disparagement for the belles and beaux of that day to attend the singing school or the spinning bee on the ox sled. After a few years a change came over this scene, the woods in a measure disappeared, the sun's rays began to kiss the naked ground, and more comfortable dwellings were introduced in place of the houses and barns of logs. At length a beautiful village appears, and is called BUTLER's Hill, afterwards, Pompey Hill; and there was a time within the memory of many still living, when this same village of Pompey Hill, was as prominent a place as any in the county. It gave more tone to the surrounding settlements, on account of its refinement and wealth, its intelligence and learning, than any place in its vicinity. People came here for legal advice, they came here for medical advice, to do their trading, and they came here for fashions, they came here for military parades, for political discussion, and for general consultations of a public nature; they came here to engage in all the amusements and duties incident to men of a public character.
Mr. COBB, Esquire BEEBE, Mr. JONES and the NEWMANs, occupied NEWMAN’s Hill, east from Pompey Hill; and upon Pompey Hill were settled, Judge BUTLER, Captain BUTLER, LILLEY the blacksmith, Esquire BOWERS, Colonel OLCOTT, two or three families of the name of HOAR; and around about here were settled the JEROMEs, the DURHAMs, the PIXLEYs, the WILCOXEs, the JUDDs, the COEs, the BISHOPs, the CONKLINs, the MCEVERs, the FOSTERs. Afterwards came the doctors, lawyers, merchants, ministers, tavern keepers, who altogether, formed the village. There was Parson WALLACE, Col. HOPKINS, Mr. CATLIN, Esq. WOOD, Dr. TIBBALLS, Dr. COLTON, Russell CLARK, Mr. EMMONS, SEYMOUR & STONE, Messrs. BAKERS, Esq. BIRDSEYE, afterwards the WHEATONs and MARSHEs, and a host of others, whose names are equally entitled to respect.
As the country increased in population, and the forests were prostrated by the woodman's ax, the beasts of prey yielding the right of possession, retreated into the more unbroken regions, where the dwellings of men were not as frequent. In the town of Fabius, the next town south, an old bear lingered, apparently disputing the right of occupancy, with more tenacity and boldness, than some of his more timorous associates. And not unfrequently did he sally forth in the night, and make forcible entry into the pig pens and carry off some of the younger branches of the swine family, much to the annoyance of the settlers. These depredations finally became so frequent that the neighbors held a consultation upon the means of ridding community of so obnoxious a visitor, and it was resolved that the next time he should commit another of his unlawful visits, it should be considered a just cause of exterminating war. Soon after this, there was a heavy fall of snow, and Bruin, probably considering this a serious admonition, that it would soon be time for him to burrow up for winter, he sallied forth one night and entered the stye of a poor man, and took therefrom a porker, which the owner had intended to butcher in a few days to supply the necessities of his own family. This was no sooner known, than male portion of the community, rallied to a man, and arming them selves with guns, axes and pitchforks, calling to their aid the dogs of the neighborhood, set out upon the track, which in the snow was visible and plain. They soon started his bearship, who posted off, with all possible speed, towards Pompey Hill. The chase was a hot one, and attended on the way with frequent skirmishes, and more especially so between the bear and the dogs. In most of these the bear had the best of the battle, and had it not been for fresh dogs, that constantly supplied the places of the wounded and delinquent, the pursuit would have been hopeless, for not a dog could be induced to renew the attack that had received one single salutation from this lord of the forest. The chase waxed warm, and Bruin at last became so pressed, and so fatigued with running in the snow, that as a last resort he threw himself into the public highway, and took the beaten track towards Pompey Hill. Among the citizens of Pompey Hill, who were engaged in this affair, was a deputy sheriff or constable. He carried in his breast pocket an enormous pocket-book, containing a large package of papers. This officer, at the head of his posse commitatus, stood ready to arrest the old bear as he entered the village, but Bruin, either doubting his jurisdiction, or disregarding the law against resisting the service of process, rose upon his hind feet the instant said officer tapped him on the nose with his stick, and seizing him with his fore paws brought him forthwith to the ground, then opening his huge mouth, grabbed the officer in the side, and would no doubt have killed him on the spot, had it not happened that when the bear closed his ponderous jaws, he grasped this enormous pocket-book, which completely filled his mouth. In the struggle, however, the bear inflicted quite a severe wound, held on to the pocket-book, and held the man fast, till another man approached with a sharp ax, who with a single stroke settled the edge deep into the brain of the enraged bear. Thus was the ferocious beast slain, and a valuable civil officer rescued from an unpleasant if not perilous situation. This occurrence took place in 1802 or '3, and is still a story of interest to the descendants of the participators in the scenes of that day.
Major CASE, while at
work on the highway, in this town, in the month of June, 1800, was attacked
by a large bear. Having an ax in his hands, he made a pass with it at the
enraged animal, who dexterously knocked the weapon to one side with his
paw, and seizing the man by the breast brought him to the ground inflicting
several severe wounds on different parts of his body. While thus engaged,
another man came up and dispatched the bear with an ax. Major CASE lingered
for near a year; his wounds would not heal, and he at length died from
This highly fertile and interesting valley, which borders on the east line of the county, is ten miles in length by about two in width, and contains near twelve thousand acres of land. It was eagerly sought, at an early period of the settlement of the town of Pompey, as a locality suitable for the most extensive and profitable operations of the agriculturist. The uniform prosperity which has attended the proprietors of the soil of this favored spot, is sufficient evidence, that the judgment of those who first located here, was not misplaced; and the wealth, affluence and comfort, which is now every where apparent, is a sure indicate tion that industry, frugality and thrift, still hold a high place among the present occupants of this beautiful valley. It is watered its entire length by the east branch of the Limestone Creek, which takes its rise in the towns of Cazenovia, De Ruyter and Fabius. Upon this stream are numerous saw mills, two grist mills, an extensive woolen factory, and clothing works of smaller magnitude. The first settlers who came here were Samuel DRAPER and James MCCLURE, in 1792. They were followed almost immediately by Ozias BURR, Messrs. WRIGHT, COOK, ATWELL, ALLEN, Elihu BARBER, John LAMB, Capt. PECK, Daniel THOMAS and others, most of whom were from the New England States. The land of this valley, like much of that in other parts of the town of Pompey, had to be cleared of heavy timber, consisting of elm, oak, ash, maple, basswood, &c., interspersed with pine, cedar and hemlock. Like the pioneers of all new settlements, the first years of their sojourn were spent under exceedingly great discouragements. They relied, for the first year or two, entirely on provisions brought along with them from the east. Among the first things accomplished, was the opening of a school the following season (1793) in a log school house, erected on the line between the farm of Esquire COOK and Esquire BURR, and Mr. Charles MERRIMAN was engaged as a teacher. He continued his useful vocation here for several successive years, with deserved success and well-merited approbation. At a subsequent period, a log school house was erected near where the Baptist house of worship now stands, in the village of Delphi, and Shubal MARSH was engaged in teaching it. Hon. Joshua A. SPENCER, President Jesse PECK, of Dickinson College, Dr. Amos WESTCOTT, Professor of Dental Surgery, Baltimore College, Rev. Albert PECK, the celebrated Methodist Preacher, and Le Roy MORGAN, Esq., District Attorney for Onondaga, have severally, at different periods, taught this school.
The village of Delphi, at the south end of this valley, be gan to be settled quite early, say 1797 and 1798, by Mr. SAVAGE, Daniel HUBBARD, William SHANKLAND, David SWEET and others. Dr. ELY kept a tavern here in 1804, succeeded by Mr. HUBBARD, who was the first merchant in the place. Schuyler VAN RENSSELAER, Esq., was the first lawyer, who located here in 1805. Post Office established 1809; Mr. VAN RENSSELAER, Post Master; afterwards succeeded by Col. Elisha LITCHFIELD. The first Baptist Church in Pompey, was organized here in 1803, Elder BAKER first pastor. Their present house of worship was completed in 1819, and the Methodist house of worship the same year.
James SCOVILLE, Joseph BARTHOLOMEW, ROSWELL and Asael BARNES, were among the first settlers at Oran before 1798. Mr. BARTHOLOMEW built the first log house, a part of which was formed by a large hemlock tree. He also erected the first frame house in 1799, and in it kept the first tavern. A school was soon established in a log school house, and missionaries from Connecticut ministered to their spiritual wants. The first was the Rev. Mr. PERRY, who preached in James SCOVILLE'S barn, and in other barns in the neighborhood. Mr. WALLACE, Mr. STODDARD and Mr. RAWSON, all Congregationalists, preached here
Rev. Hugh WALLACE organized the society in Oran, 27th January, 1806. The society was reorganized under the title Of the "Second Congregational Society of the town of Pompey”, 6th October, 1806, when Punderson AVERY, Jedediah CLEVELAND and Joseph BARTHOLOMEW, were elected Trustees, Lemuel HALL and Jedediah CLEVELAND, presiding at the meeting.
The first frame house of worship in the town of Pompey, was erected by this society in 1807 and ‘8, being the third house of worship erected in the county. The following Rev. gentlemen have occasionally or statedly officiated here. Rev. Messers. Rawson, DAVENPORT and BALDWIN, were settled here; Rev. Messers. LEONARD and CHADWICK, and several Baptist and Methodist Clergymen, have occasionally officiated. The Universalist Society now hold and occasionally occupy the house, and furnish a large part of the congregation. The building is apparently fast going to decay.
Dr. Daniel DENNISON first commenced the practice of medicine at this place, in 1814, and is still at his post healing the sick and comforting the dying. Previously, Drs. WARD, WEED. and FISK, of Eagle Village, had officiated as physicians at this place. No lawyer has ever resided at Oran. Messrs. DELAMATER opened the first store of note here about the year 1810, and did a flourishing business.
In 1798, this valley was visited by myriads of caterpillars, which totally stript the forests of their foliage, and attacked the smaller vegetables with great voracity, doing considerable damage to the tender corn. They however disappeared in the month of June, vegetation revived, and the crops were plenteous. These insects were so numerous, that they congregated in heaps, on the eaves and chimnies of the houses at evening, and when fires were kindled in the morning were very troublesome, often spinning down the low stick chimnies into the cookery, and when their day was over, in such quantities had they accumulated that the atmosphere was completely tainted with their decaying remains.
A little cast of the village of Delphi, are two very beautiful waterfalls, on the Limestone Creek. They are separated by a deep rocky gorge, of some twenty rods in extent, about thirty yards broad at the top, and not more than eight or ten at bottom, through which the water rushes with great force. The upper fall may be about forty feet in height, and nearly perpendicular, very little broken, and situated as it is among this wild mountain scenery, conveys to the mind an idea of sublimity and grandeur, exciting both wonder and astonishment. The lower full is about fifty feet, and the water leaps over the abrupt and rocky precipice, with a charming mixture of the picturesque and sublime. The high banks of bare dark brown shale, with occasionally an evergreen shrub growing out of the perpendicular precipice, serves to vary the effect, and give life to the boldness and imagery of the scene.
Statistics of Pompey from census of 1845:—
Number of inhabitants,
4,112; subject to military duty, 257; voters, 977; aliens, 36; paupers,
6; children attending Common Schools, 1,029; acres of improved land, 30,951;
grist mills, 3; saw mills, 11; oil mills, 2; fulling mills, 1; carding
machines, 1; woolen factory, 1; trip hammer, 1; asheries. 1; tanneries,
5; Churches—Baptist, 3; Presbyterian, 3; Episcopal, 1; Methodist, 4; l
Universalist, 1; Roman Catholic, private, 1; Academy, 1; Common Schools,
26; Select Schools, 1; taverns, 8; retail stores, 5; merchants, 9; manufacturers,
26; farmers, 775; mechanics, 88; clergymen, 9; physicians, 6; lawyers,
The antiquitics of the township of Pompey, consist mainly of earthern forts and defenses—mural remains, traces of villages, trading establishments, burying places and sundry articles found scattered among them. These things, it is our intention briefly to notice.
One of the most noted localities of this kind, is the one on the farm of Isaac P. JOBS, usually called “Indian Hill." Upon this spot have been found, perhaps a greater variety of articles, positively indicating the residence, at some early period, of Europeans, than on any other in the vicinity. It is in the town of Pompey, two miles south of Manlius Village, situated on one of the most beautiful elevations, imaginable. As you approach it on the road from the south, the ascent is gradual, backed by an extensive level. On the west, is a deep gulf, made by the west branch of the Limestone Creek. On the east, is a deep ravine, through which flows a small stream, whose banks are very bold. The whole length of this elevation, bearing the strongest evidence of having been inhabited, may be nearly a mile and it is from one hundred to one hundred and fifty rods wide. To the north, is a beautiful slope, extending some thirty or forty rods, when it takes a rapid fall of fifty or more feet. Then a plain of some thirty or forty acres, spreads itself out in full view from the hill. Upon this level were several acres literally covered with graves.
A brass medal was found near this place, in 1821, by John WATSON. It was without date, on one side of it was a figure of Louis XIV, king of France and Navarre. On the reverse aide, was represented a field, with three flowers de luce, supporting a royal crown, surrounded by the name of Nale LANFAR & Co. It was about the size of a Spanish pistareen, had been compressed between dies—characters and letters distinct. It was given to the Hon. Samuel L. MITCHELL, to grace his collection of curious relics and coins.
When the first settlers came here in 1791, '92 '93, this ground was covered with thorns, wild plumtrees and other shrubs, indicating that it had been cleared and cultivated at some previous time. When it was first cultivated in these latter times, gun barrels, sword blades, hatchets, knives, axes, clay pipes, copper kettles, brass chains, beads of glass, pewter plates, rings for the fingers, ear and nose jewels, lead balls, iron gate hangings, copper coins, tools for working wood and iron, and other articles used by civilized men and unknown to savages, together with human bones, were frequently found on or near the earth's surface. Many of our early settlers, now living, distinctly recollect the appearance of the enclosure entitled “the fort," upon and about which, trees had grown to a considerable size. Its earthern walls were then some four or five feet high, having evidently been considerably lessened by the ravages of time. It was circular, and from three hundred to three hundred and fifty feet in diameter. There was but one gateway, and that quite narrow. In 1801, Mr. John HATCH ploughed up three muskets and a blunderbuss. They were found near together, the stocks decayed, the barrels flattened as if with the head of an ax, plainly bearing the indentations of that instrument. There are traditionary notions prevailing with some of the inhabitants in this vicinity, that the mutilation of these arms in this manner was by the Indians who did it that the sound of the guns might not kill them. It is supposed that they were ignorant of the true cause of the weapon's power of destructiveness. This conclusion is probably erroneous, as nearly all the gun barrels have been found flattened at their muzzles, and the more reasonable inference is, that it was the work of victorious parties who were unable to secure them by removal, and did it to prevent their again becoming useful in the hands of their enemies.
The guns usually found, are of a heavy make, with large bell-shaped muzzles; those seen by the author were evidently of English manufacture. The copper coins were French, though so much corroded, that the marks and dates could not be deciphered. Several pits where corn had been stored were visible. In one of these pits a large quantity of charred corn was found. Probably on the breaking up of the establishment, the lodge which contained it was burned over it, and thus prepared the mass for the state of preservation in which it was found. At every plowing something new is brought to light. Not long since a curiously wrought brass chain, two and a half feet long and one inch and a half wide, was found. Its appearance was as if it had recently been subjected to fire, the most prominent parts newly polished. A curious brass image was recently found there, probably a part of some Romish priest's collection. Many of these relics were found by Mr. JOBS or his workmen, and several are now in his possession. The soil upon this ridge, where undoubtedly once flourished an extensive Indian village, and European trading establishments, has the appearance of rich garden mold recently manured. Large spots of very dark mold may still be seen at regular intervals, a few yards apart, in which are mingled ashes and charcoal, and these, probably, mark the site of the cabins or houses once standing over them. De Witt CLINTON visited this place and others of a similar nature in 1815 or 1816, made many inquiries, and gathered a variety of relics, some of which were presented to the New-York Historical Society. Among them were a small bell without a clapper, piece of a large bell, a gold finger ring, sword blade, bayonet, &c.
There is an extensive burying place contiguous, where several acres were once covered with graves of men, women and children. The skeletons were universally found buried in sitting posture, facing the east, with some domestic utensil or weapon of war between the thigh bones. They are usually found two or three feet below the surface. The skull and bones of the body are uniformly sunk to a level with the legs. From appearances, the bodies, after being placed in their graves, were covered with brush previous to casting the earth upon them. Trees of two hundred years growth, once stood over some of these graves.
This and all the other burying places have been resorted to by antiquaries and others, more curious than considerate, for the purpose of obtaining Indian skeletons. To so great an extent has this rude practice been carried, that perhaps at this time it would be difficult to find one by seeking—as if it could be no harm to rob an Indian's grave. These noble men have gone; their generations sleep in our cultivated fields; our harvests wave upon their hills; we have robbed them of all else, and we should at least spare their places of sepulcher. Many years ago, when the settlements were first made, a man, whose name deserves not to be remembered, made a regular business of disinterring the bones contained in the Indian graves, to taking whatever was found in them to himself. Hundreds of skeletons have been removed for anatomical purposes, and to enlarge the cabinets of the curious. In this unhallowed business he amassed several hundred dollars' worth of property. The Indians, who are remarkable for their regard for the dead who, though Pagan in their worship, are shining examples for Christians to follow, in respect to the violation of these sacred deposit, mere at one time on the point of unceremoniously chastising him in a most summary manner. He eluded their vengeance and never dared visit the country afterwards.
There is another place of considerable importance, called "the castle," near David WILLIAMS', Pompey, one mile from “Indian Hill." In former years it was owned by Michael BOURSE, who collected a great variety of trinkets, consisting of beads, precious “stone ornaments," &c. In 1815, a brass medal was found, on one side of which was an equestrian image with a drawn sword, and on the other, William, Prince of Orange, with a crest or coat of arms; the date was obliterated. William, Prince of Orange, flourished in 1689, and was quite conspicuous in the affairs of New-York for several years previous. This medal may have been a present by him to some distinguished chief. In that neighborhood, a bass wood tree was felled, and an ineffectual attempt made to split the first twelve feet into rails. It was found impossible to open it at all, when, upon farther examination, a large chain was found encircling it, over which one hundred and seventy-eight concentric circles had formed, representing as many years. A large hemlock tree was discovered with three distinct cuts of an ax, over which one hundred and seventy-nine of these granular circles had formed. Now subtract one hundred and seventy-eight from 1815, the time when these examinations were made, and we have the date 1637, as the time when these marks were supposed to have been made, at which time, it is reasonable to suppose, the neighborhood was inhabited by Europeans. A mortar dug out of solid rock may be seen at the brook near by, holding nearly a peck. In the steep banks of this brook are numerous evidences of its having been the scene of a hard fought battle. Articles of war, such as gunbarrels and bullets, have been found, and also knives, axes, &c., upon this particular spot. The regular appearance of four laid out streets for a considerable extent, was once very discernable, and small hillocks where corn had evidently been cultivated could be traced for a long distance. Weapons and implements anciently used by the Indians were frequently found by farmers in plowing their fields, consisting of arrowheads, axes, hatchets, gouges, pestles, &c., made of flint, granite and hornblend, nicely cut and finely polished. David WILLIAMS at one time plowed up the skeleton of a man, and found with it a small brass kettle filled with corn and beans, in a tolerable state of preservation. The kettle was used in his family for domestic purposes several years. A gun barrel was found leaning against a tree, with two-thirds of its top imbedded therein. Wood had made over it about twelve inches. Fragments of the lock were found with it. A box was discovered below the surface of the earth, supposed to have been buried in a hurried manner. It was so far preserved as to show plainly that it had been made of riven planks of ash, partially smoothed with an ax. It contained cloths of red and blue colors; the folds could plainly be seen, and parts were so sound as to admit of being raised without falling asunder. Lead clasps, bearing French marks upon them, were contained in the box.
Samuel HIBBARD and David HINSDALE at one time found a gun barrel on lot number six. They were then boys, and thought to have a little sport. For this purpose they placed the butt end of the gun barrel in the fire, for the purpose of burning off the rust; after a while the barrel exploded and forced a ball against the stone jambs, which completely flattened it. How long this weapon had been charged is unknown, but allowing it to be at the date of other evidences of French occupancy, it must have been near one hundred and forty years. The barrel when found was standing upright in a clump of basswood bushes, as if it had been leaned against a stump which had decayed, and the clump of shrubbery grown up in its stead. Over thirty ivory combs were found near the same place, many of them in a tolerable state of preservation. Wagon loads of old iron have been taken from these grounds.
Mr. HINSDALE of Pompey, at one time had in his possession three vises, one of which was very large, and the jaws alone weighed forty one pounds. It was beautifully engraved all over, with representations of dogs, bears, deer, squirrels, fishes, birds, and was altogether a beautiful specimen of workmanship. Another, a hand vise of excellent quality, was sold to Mr. BOYLSTON, a silversmith of Manlius Village, who used it while he continued in the business. Mr. David HINSDALE found a nest of brass kettles, the largest of which would hold two pails full, and the smallest about three pints. They were all bailed, ready for use, and some of the smaller ones were used in Dr. WESTERN's family, and Mr. HINSDALE's family, for several years. The larger ones, being on the outside, were considerably corroded by time and exposure, and were unfit for use. When found, they were nearly buried under the roots of a large tree.
The bones of a man were found on the surface, partially covered, and with them part of a case of surgical instruments, much corroded by rust. On the late Dr. WESTERN'S farm, could be distinctly traced the remains of a small fortification, with a burying place. One grave was opened, in which were the remains of thirteen men. One of the skulls taken from it had been perforated by a bullet, which was found within it. Another skull found in this grave was very much larger than its fellows; the under jaw would fit completely outside of a common man's, and it is said that the other bones were of corresponding gigantic dimensions A vise and other blacksmith's tools were found here, as well as gate hinges and many trinkets like those already enumerated. Not far from this last, on the farm of the late John CLAPP, at an early day were plainly traceable, the lines of an earthen fortification. Sundry articles, such as musket balls, gun barrels, axes, &c., have been found upon this ground. The axes were usually made from a straight bar of iron, the eye formed by bending it over, welding it down and hammering out an edge; not at all resembling any tool now in common use. Near this place were plowed up, several years since, six large, very deep, heavy, and broad rimmed pewter platters. They were found several inches below the surface, one within another; they are in a very good state of preservation now and plainly bear the impression of the British coat of arms; probably were once the property of a party of English traders and may have been buried there as a place of safety.
In felling a large pine tree for shingles on Mr. HIBBARD'S farm, in 1820, after cutting in about a foot, the mark of an ax was found, and also a burned spot, the size of a man's hand or larger. The probability is, that the tree had been “boxed" to obtain turpentine, and when the ancient settlement was broken up, the turpentine had been burned out. From appearances, about one hundred and seventy years must have passed away since the ax and fire had set their mark upon this tree. All had grown up solid, and there was no outward appearance of former work upon the tree. On Mr. David HINSDALE's farm, under a large pine stump, was a heap of ashes and cinders, from which the boys in the neighborhood used to extricate almost every variety of Indian relic.
Near Mr. HINSDALE's house, when the land was first occupied, and before the plow began its work, there were numerous circular elevations made of stones, some twelve or fourteen feet in diameter, and about eighteen inches high. They were arranged in regular rows, some two or three rods apart, and were probably the foundations of cabins, which had been once erected on this ground, which must from their numbers and extent formed a considerable village. Among the curious relics preserved by Mr. HINSDALE, is a pad-lock of triangular shape, about three inches on a side. It is almost destroyed by rust, but it is a singular piece of mechanism, and must in its day have been quite a formidable opponent to the progress of thieves. He has a knife which has withstood the rust and ravages of exposure and time better than any thing yet found. The steel must be of the finest quality, and high tempered, and might now be used as well as ever if it was provided with a handle. He has numerous beads, specimens of wampum, ornaments of red pipe-stone, medals, rings, crosses, &c. &c., which are well worth the attention of the curious. Several brass crescents have been found bearing the inscription, “Roi de France et Dieu." These were probably used for nose and ear jewels. Corn hills were abundant near all the places bearing the marks of occupancy before the plow leveled them, and even now in the forests they are to be found, but not so frequently as in former times. The art of making maple sugar was undoubtedly known to the Indians, for the early settlers all agree that the maple trees in this region bore evident marks of having been tapped. Ax marks were often found six or eight inches from the bark, many of the trees being hollow, caused by frequent incisions. Even the marks made by the rude gouges of the natives were sometimes made visible in the operation of clearing off forests.
These places of defense and burial were very numerous in the township of Pompey. There are not less than fifteen which have been pointed out to us, and which we have visited. they are scattered through several of the neighboring towns. We might multiply accounts of these relics without end, but enough has already been said, we hope, to attract the attention of searchers after antiquarian truth, and to show that this interesting section was once partially peopled by Europeans, (probably French, long since the discovery of America by Columbus,) whose history is obscure, and can only be imperfectly unraveled by judicious comparisons and plausible conjecture.
Most of the grounds before noted, undoubtedly have been the scenes of hard fought battles, after which the country was probably deserted by the remnant (if any) of whites who once kept their trading establishments here. Villages to a considerable extent once covered these hills, and the fate of their inhabitants is, and probably for ever will be wrapped in mystery. When, or by what civilized men these fortifications were built, it were vain for us to inquire; obscurity draws her doubtful veil over the whole, and we dimly see in the faded traditions and chronicles of the past, that these were the works of architects not barbarian, at a period not exceedingly remote. Indian tradition still keeps alive the fact that these grounds have been the theatre of blood; and such is their abhorrence of scenes once enacted here, that except in a few very rare instances, they do not visit the regions near the ancient forts and burying grounds. “Ote queh-sa-he-eh" is their exclamation—“'Tis the field of blood."
By comparing facts and circumstances as they have fallen under our observation with other historical data, and considering the importance the early French colonists of Canada always attached to the Indian trade, the readiness with which they adapted themselves to Indian manners and habits, and the earnest desire of the Jesuits to establish the Romish religion among them, it may not be unreasonable to suppose, that designing men pushed their way here, and made themselves familiar with the country and its resources, long before colonies were established, and individual enterprise may have erected defenses for security, long before they were considered of sufficient importance to claim protection from their govcrnment. It should also be borne in mind, that the French had always cherished the design of absolutely monopolizing and controling all the trade of the Iroquois. Colonies and military posts were established at Quebec and Montreal, during the first twelve years of the seventeenth century, and these were considerably increased during the twenty-five years immediately succeeding.
The Dutch also had opened a channel of trade with the "Maquas," during the period that they held possession of New-Netherlands; but it does not appear that during their ascendancy, their traders or people formed any permanent residences among the Indian nations west of the Mohawks' country, although the trade was considered lucrative. And the New-England people it is presumed, had troubles enough to engage all of their attention at home, in the protracted and exhausting wars which occurred during the infancy of their settlements. So that it is but reasonable to infer, that the early French adventurers succeeded in so far winning the favor and affections of the Iroquois, as to be allowed to intrench themselves strongly within their territory, as early as 1640 or 1650, and that these ruins now so famous as antiquarian relics in our county, were the works of their hands.
The most interesting
and important relic of by-gone days, and the one which has attracted the
most attention, and elicited the most speculative opinions in this region,
undoubtedly is the celebrated stone found by Mr. Philo CLEVELAND on his
farm, since occupied by the late Mr. Anson SPRAGUE. It is about fourteen
inches long by twelve inches broad and eight inches thick; a very heavy,
hard, oval shaped stone, evidently a boulder, much worn, and from outward
appearances, granitic, but perhaps approaching nearer to gneiss than granite;
on it in the centre, is rather rudely engraved the figure of a tree with
a serpent climbing it. (See the annexed out.)
Of course the interpretation would be materially different. It was probably designed as a sepulchral monument, and may have been executed on or near the place where it was found.
The following brief history of this singular relic may not be wholly uninteresting. Mr. CLEVELAND was picking stones in his field, preparatory to making a meadow, in the summer of 1820 or 1821. It was on a moist piece of ground and toward evening, at the close of his day's labors, he raised the stone with his iron bar and turned it on its edge. Mr. C. being weary, leaned against a stump near by, with his hands resting on the top of the bar. While musing in that position, with his eyes fixed upon the stone, he observed something remarkable about it; and upon taking a nearer view, discovered some of the characters and letters above described. He removed it to a pile of stones not far distant, and at the time thought but little of it. Several days afterward he made another visit to the stone, when he found that the rain had washed the dirt clean from it, and the rude engraving was much more distinctly to be seen. This induced him to invite some of his neighbors to examine it, whereupon it was decided to remove it to a blacksmith’s shop at Watervale, a small settlement near by. It remained there six months or more, and became the subject of much talk and speculation at the time.
Every person who came to the shop, would of course examine the stone, take a horse nail or old file and scrape all the cracks, seams and carvings, giving it somewhat the appearance of new work. The stone was found with the inscription downward, about one-third buried. It is not at all probable that Mr. CLEVELAND or any of the persons who first saw the stone in the field or at the shop, could have designed or executed the carvings; besides, there are many persons now living who would bear testimony to its authenticity. It was subsequently removed to Manlius Village, and was visited by several distinguished gentlemen of science, most of whom were disposed to admit that it was genuine. It remained in this village nearly a year, and was finally deposited in the Museum of the Albany Institute, now under the care of Dr. T. Romeyn BECK, where it still remains an object both of speculation and curiosity; and so far as the writer of this is informed, it is admitted to be an authentic memorial of antiquity. The stone and inscription are subjects highly interesting to the lovers of antiquarian lore, and to the curious student.
An attempt to account
for, decipher and satisfactorily explain so singular a relic, might seem
arrogant in the extreme. A few words will suffice, when we reflect that
Mexico had been fully explored and settled by Spaniards previous to 1521,
and that those people always manifested an insatiable thirst for gold.
Gaspar COTEREAL, a Portuguese, had explored nearly the whole coast of North
America, in 1501. The fishing grounds of Newfoundland were well known and
occupied by the French, as early as 1505. The French navigator, VERRAZZINI,
faithfully examined the shores of the United States, in 1525. DE SOTO'S
memorable campaign commenced in 1539 and ended in 1542. He penetrated as
far north as the 36th degree of north latitude, and explored both sides
of the Mississippi for several leagues. During his travels, it is said
he fell in with a party of northern Indians, who had with them a Spaniard
taken from the party of NARVAEZ, who had proceeded over much of Florida,
ten years before. When these facts are taken into consideration, and the
extreme interest then felt by all classes of men, in the development of
the resources of the new world, the avidity with which daring adventurers
sought the most distant and imaginary sources of wealth; and the avarice,
cupidity and desperation of these men, it may not appear incredible, that
a party of Spaniards, either stimulated by the spirit of adventure, or
allured by the love of gold, or driven by some rude blast of misfortune,
may have visited this region, lost one of their number by death, and erected
this rude stone with its simple inscription as a tribute to his memory,
as early as the year 1520.
There is another site of an ancient fortification on a farm owned by a Mr. SHELDON, lately owned by Mr. Elihu BARBER, about one mile north of Delphi, on the west side of the Hollow. The position, appurtenances, &c., of this locality, so nearly resemble the one just before mentioned, that a particular description of it is deemed unnecessary. It is said, how ever, that when the ground was first plowed a cart or carriage wheel was turned up nearly entire, a circumstance which has not occurred we believe in any other locality. Hills of corn were once distinctly traceable at intervals from one of these forts to the other, nearly the whole distance, which proves this neighborhood to have been cleared up at an early day, as the trees now occupying this ground are supposed to be at least two hundred years old, large and uniform in size, so close together as not to admit at all of cultivation between them.
Under a very large pine tree, which had been upturned by the wind, on the farm occupied by Mr. James SCOVILLE, was discovered a large bed of charcoal, which must have been deposited there, judging from the size of the tree, at least two hundred years before. On his farm, also, was an extensive burying ground, where human bones of extraordinary dimensions, have been exhumed.
Mr. William HASKINS, who was the fifth inhabitant in the township of Pompey, on lot number thirteen, in 1792, says that in first plowing the lands, almost every variety of implement used in agriculture and the common arts, was found in that neighborhood. They consisted of knives, supposed to be of French manufacture, axes, with the English stamp, gun barrels, some of them with a portion of the stock remaining, abundance of ship-spikes, pump-hooks, a spy-glass, trammel and chains, &c. In one instance a large quantity of musket balls were plowed up by the side of a rock. The remains of a wheel barrow, with the irons entire, also anvils and vises, unfinished gun-barrels and gun-locks, hand-saws and files fragments of church bells, &c. On this ground the graves were arranged with great regularity, side by side, in rows of ten or fifteen rods in extent; in the vicinity were other groups of graves, but not in regular order. Upon examination the body appears to have been enclosed in a wooden or bark box. In one grave was found two glass bottles. In plowing, fragmeets of glass bottles, earthen and china ware were found, and a stone, cut in imitation of a watch.
There is a locality in the town of Cazenovia, Madison County, near the line of Onondaga, on lot thirty-three, township of Pompey, called the “Indian Fort." It is about four miles south-easterly from Manlius Village, situated on a slight eminence, which is nearly surrounded by a deep ravine, the banks of which are quite steep and rocky. The ravine is in shape like an ox-bow, made by two streams, which pass nearly around it and unite. Across this bow, at the opening, was an earthen wall running south-east and north-west, and when first noticed by the early settlers, was four or five feet high, straight, with something of a ditch in front, from two to three feet deep. Within the enclosure may be ten or twelve acres of land. A part of this ground, when first occupied in these latter times, was called “the Prairie," and is noted now among the old men as the place where the first battalion training was held in the county of Onondaga. But that portion near the wall, and in front of it, has recently (some six years ago) been cleared of a heavy growth of black oak timber. Many of the trees were large, and were probably one hundred and fifty or two hundred years old. Some were standing in the ditch, and others on the top of the embankment. There is a burying place within the enclosure. The plow has already done much towards leveling the wall and ditch; still they can be easily traced the whole extent. A few more plowings and harrowings, and no vestige of it will remain. There are numerous specimens of dark brown pottery found upon this ground now, and almost every variety of Indian relic has been found about here, some of which are held in very high estimation by the owners. One fact will apply to this locality, that does not we believe to any other of a similar kind. Two cannon balls, of about three pounds weight, were found in this vicinity, showing that light cannon were used, either for defense, or in the reduction of this fortification.
There is a large rock, in the ravine on the south, on which are inscribed the following characters, thus, IIIIIX, cut three quarters of an inch broad, nine inches long, three-fourths of an inch deep, perfectly regular, and the lines straight. When it was a work of fancy or had significance, we have not been able to determine. On the site of the village of Cazenovia, we have been informed, there was a fort or embankment. Some persons say it was “roundish," others that it was “angular with sides at right angles." Recollections respecting it are very imperfect. Many relics have been found here, indicating an earlier occupancy than those usually found in this country. This was on the Oneidas' territory. There is a singular coincidence in the location of the fortifications enumerated, which we have never observed until a recent visit. They are nearly all, if not quite all, situated on land rather elevated above that which is immediately contiguous, and surrounded or nearly so, by deep ravines, so that these form a part of the fortifications themselves. At one of these, (on the farm of David WILLIAMS, in Pompey,) the banks on either side are found to contain bullets of lead, as if shot across at opposing forces. The space between, may be about three or four rods, and the natural cutting twenty or twenty-five feet deep. This goes far to prove the care these architects had in selecting the most favorable situations for defense, and the fear and expectation they were in of attacks. We are of opinion that the fortifications in this neighborhood are not more ancient than the period of the French settlement of missionaries among the Onondagas, during the early part of the seventeenth century. But the more we investigate this subject, the more we are convinced that there were many more of the French established here among the Indians by far, than has been generally supposed, and their continuance with them longer, for it was a leading feature in the policy of the early French Governors of Canada, and of the French nation, not only to christianized the natives by the introduction of missionaries among them, but also to colonize their country. The nature of the articles found, utensils of farmers and mechanics, hoes, axes, horse-shoes, hammers, blacksmiths' tools, &c., go to prove that agriculture and the mechanic arts, were practiced some that extensively during their sojourn. The Indian name by which the country in and about Pompey was anciently known, we think goes to substantiate this fact, Ote-ge-ga-ja-ke—an open place, with much grass, an opening, or prairie The timber in many places here, has a vigorous growth; and although large, there is a uniformity in the size and age, which shows that it has all grown up since the occupancy, because under the trees are not only found relics, but among them, in many instances, corn-hills can be traced at considerable distances. That the appearance of corn-hills in a wilderness, after a lapse of so many years may appear less strange, it may be well to remark, that the Indian mode of planting, formerly, varied materially from that of the whites. Their manner was to plant three hills near each other and raise quite a mound around them, and plant the same mound for a series of years, and these mounds are the corn-hills noticed at the present day.
The presentation of medals to the Indians was undoubtedly a very common practice with the missionaries and traders. A valuable cross of gold was several years ago found in the west part of Pompey, and was sold for thirty dollars. The significant "I. H. S." ( “Hominum Salvator, or Jesus, the savior of men”) was upon it. Numbers of crucifixes and crosses have been found. Brass crosses are frequently found, with those letters, and the initials of the latin title put upon the cross at the crucifixion, “I. N. R. I.," (“Jesuus Nazarenus, Rex Julesorum, or Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”) and so are medals of the same metal. One was recently found, on the farm of David HINSDALE, about the size of a shilling piece. The figure of a Roman Pontiff, in a standing position, in his hand a crosier, surrounded with this inscription: “B. virg. sin. P. origi. con." which we have ventured to write out, "Beata virgo sine Peccato originali concepts," or as we might say in English, “The blessed virgin conceived without original sin." On the other side was a representation of a serpent, and two nearly naked figures, looking intently upon it. This one is very perfect in all its parts, and the letters as plain as if struck but yesterday. It was undoubtedly compressed between dies. It is oval in shape, and bored that it might be suspended from the neck.
A silver medal was found, near Eagle Village, about the size of a dollar, but a little thinner, with a ring or loop at one edge, to admit a cord by which it might be suspended. On one side appears in relief, a somewhat rude representation of a fortified town, with several tall steeples rising above its buildings, and a citadel from which the British flag is flying; a river broken by an island or two, occupies the foreground, and above, along the upper edge of the medal, is the name Montreal. The initials D. C. F., probably of the manufacturer, are stamped below. On the opposite side, which was originally made blank, are engraved the words CANECYA, Onondagoes, which are doubtless the name and nation of the red ruler on whose dusky breast this ornament was displayed, as a valuable token of friendship of some British Governor of. New York or Canada, to an influential ally among the Five Nations. There is no date on this or any other of the medals. But this must be at least older than the Revolution, and probably more than a hundred and fifty snows have whitened the field, where the plow disinterred it, since the chief, whose name it has preserved, was laid to rest with his fathers.
In July, 1840, was found, on the farm of Mr. William CAMPBELL, by his son, on lot number three, La Fayette, a silver medal, about the size of a dollar, and nearly as thick. On one aide is a device, surmounted by an angel on the wing, stretching forward with its left hand, looking down upon those below with a resolute, determined and commanding countenance. Far in the background, is a lofty ridge of mountains. Just beneath and away in the distance, is seen an Indian village or town, towards which the angel is steadily and earnestly pointing. Above this overhangs a slight curtain of cloud or smoke. Between the village and the mountain are scattering trees, as if an opening had just been made in the forest; nearer are seen various wild animals sporting gaily. In bolder relief are seen Europeans, in the costume of priests and pilgrims, with staves, exhibiting by their gestures and countenances, hilarity, gladness and joy, winding their way up the gentle ascent towards the mountain, decreasing in size from the place of departure, till lost from view. Among them are wheel carriages and domestic animals, intermixed. On the right is a fair representation of a cottage, and a spacious commercial ware-house, against which are leaning sheaves of grain. The whole is surrounded by the following inscription in Dutch: GEHE AUS DEINEM VATTER LAND, 1 b. M., XII., V. 1, and at the bottom across, LASST HIER DIEGVTER. On the opposite side there is a figure of the sun shining in meridian splendor, casting its noon-tide rays over a civilized town, represented by churches, stores, dwellings, &c., with various domestic animals, and numerous persons engaged in husbandry and other pursuits. In bolder relief stand Europeans in the costume of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, engaged as if in animated and joyful conversation and greetings, and by various attitudes, manifesting happiness and joy. On the right is represented a section of a church, at the door of which stands a venerable man, with head uncovered, with his hands extended, as if welcoming these persons to a new and happy habitation. This side is surrounded by the following inscription: VND DV SOLLT EIN SEEGEN SEYN, 1 b. Mos., XII., V. 2, and across the bottom as follows: GOTT GIBT SIEWIEDER.
The interpretation of the first side is—Get thee out from thy country and friends, thou shalt be truly a blessing. On the reverse side, which should be read in connection—Leaving thy goods behind thee, God will restore them to thee again.
The small letters and figures on the right, refer to the 1st Book of Genesis, XII chap., verses 1st and 2d, which inscription on the medal was taken from those verses in the Dutch Bibles. Our translation is very excellent, though perhaps not strictly literal, (which see.) It is in this chapter that God calleth Abram, and blesseth him with a promise of Christ; promiseth him the land of Canaan in a vision, to which he departed with his kindred and friends and servants, and there builded an altar unto the Lord. Abram's first step was obedience. He left all and took possession, with his household, of the land of Canaan; and it is remarkable that the first instance of God’s favor towards him was to renew his promise to give him the whole land of Canaan, in place of the possessions he left behind him, and to make his posterity a mighty nation.
This medal must have been none other than one given by his countrymen in Father-land, to a devoted Missionary, with a party of followers intending to spend their days in America, the land of promise, the fruitful Canaan of modern times, who in the goodness of his heart, bent on doing the work of his divine master, at some early day wandered into the wilds of the Onondagas, set up the cross, (the Bethel of Abram,) and left this memento of his mission in the hand of some Neophyte, which by some unaccountable circumstance has been buried, we know not how long, but now comes to light to prove to us, that the aborigines of our country were a people whose spiritual welfare was regarded as sincerely by the Dutch as by their more ambitious and ostentatious neighbors, the French. It is much to be regretted, that on this and all the other medals, there is no date whereby to establish their particular period of antiquity. This is by far the most singular and interesting relic of the kind which has come under our notice, and goes positively to establish a hitherto doubtful point, to wit, the early establishment of missionaries by the Dutch among the Onondagas.*
* Quere. May not this medal be a relic of the Zeisberger mission of 1750.
The fragments of a
bell have lately come under our notice found on the farm of Isaac JOBS,
which when whole, would have weighed probably one hundred and fifty or
two hundred pounds. The metal is very fine, and from appearance, this article
must have been of considerable value. Time and exposure have not changed
it in the least. When found, some twenty years since, it was broken up,
and the pieces found are enough to make it nearly entire.
On the farm of Mr. Isaac KEELER, were the remains of an ancient fort and burying ground. When Mr. KEELER first settled here, the site of the old fort was an extensive opening of about fifty acres, bearing grass, with clumps of wild plumb trees, and a few scattering forest trees. Mr. KEELER has left some of these plumb trees standing, and has cultivated them, and they yield fruit inferior to none. On this opening it is said, was paraded the first regiment of militia that was organized the county of Onondaga, commanded by Major Moses DE WITT. This ancient remnant of a fort is on lot number three, township of Pompey, and was formerly owned by Moses DE WITT. At that time the outlines of this fort were distinctly traceable. It had been enclosed with palisades of cedar and contained some ten acres of land. The plan was a plain parallelogram, divided across the shortest way through the middle, by two rows of palisades running east and west. The space between the rows was about twelve feet. At the north west corner was an isolated bastion and an embrasure. When first brought under cultivation by a Mr. William BENDS, he plowed up many of the stumps of palisades of cedar which had been burned off level with the ground. Within the southern division of the fort were several mounds, the principal one of which was about four feet high, rising on a base of about fifteen feet diameter, composed chiefly of ashes, in which were found many beads of the size of bullets, and many other trinkets of various sizes and patterns, made of red pipe-stone. Several hundred pounds of old iron have been gleaned from this spot, consisting of axes, hatchets, gun-barrels and locks, coarse files, horse-shoes, large spikes, hammers and blacksmiths tools. The smaller mounds principally contained charred corn, many bushels of which have been plowed up. At a distance of about forty rods north of the north-west corner of the fort was a ditch perhaps forty rods long, running north by west; some parts of it three feet deep, others less; about six feet in breadth; undoubtedly it originally was much deeper. From present appearances, it was entirely disconnected with the fort; but time has made such alterations with it and the grounds around, that at this late day, it is impossible to conjecture for what purpose it was originally intended. The situation of this ancient fort was on an elevation of land, gradually rising for nearly a mile in every direction; and at the time of its occupancy, several hundreds of acres of land in the vicinity must have been cleared, giving to the garrison an extensive prospect. The grounds occupied by the fort are about fifty rods east of Mr. KEELER's house, and are unsurpassed by any in the county for fertility and beauty of location. Here in ancient times, undoubtedly have been marshaled with nodding plume and rattling cuirass, the troops of the French side by side with the dusky Onondagas, singularly contrasting their polished European weapons with the hickory bows and flint arrows of their allies; and here too have they mingled the war-whoop of the savage, with the Vive le Roi de France; while the Black Robes with their trembling neophytes, chanted in ecstacy, Venite Exultemus and Jubilate Deo. Seasons of joy and festivities, of worship and praise to God, passed for years over this land; the trader gathered riches from the wild forester, and the warrior fresh laurels wherewith to entwine his brow. At length a storm arises, the priest, the warrior and the chausseur foresee its portentous gloom, too late to flee the tempest, and too feeble to withstand the shock. They fell victims to its fury, and these few relics are the only evidences of their fate. Fragments of broken pottery, apparently used for culinary purposes, are abundantly found on this location. Pipes, flint arrow-heads, stone hatchets, mortars and pestles, gouges &c., are also found. In 1813, Mr. Isaac KEELER felled an oak tree near the site of the fort, measuring three feet in diameter. In preparing the tree for the fire, a leaden bullet was found covered by one hundred and forty-three cortical layers. It was about four inches from the heart of the tree, which must have been small when the bullet was fired. From calculation, the time which has elapsed since the bullet assumed its position, must be over one hundred and forty-five years, making the date of its lodgment, A.D. 1667.
Mr. KEELER had in his
possession a portion of a brass dial plate, plowed up by him on the site
of this fort; on it are engraved in fair Roman characters, I. II. III.
IV. V. VI. VII VIII.; also a brass compass-box, from which the needle had
been removed, and its place supplied with vermilion, a pigment highly prized
by the Indians; and another more perfect one beautifully wrought, having
on one side a represen tation of our Saviour, and on the other, Mary the
mother of Jesus as represented in the following cuts:
Also, an octagonal brass medal nearly an inch in diameter, having a figure with the name "St. Agatha," and the Latin word “Ora," a part of the Gregorian chant. Also a silver medal half an inch long, with a figure inscribed “St. Lucia" and the same fragment of a chant. Mr. KELLER has also an old balance beam eighteen inches long, which perhaps has often tested the weight of the foot of a Frenchman against the red man's pound of beaver; for, like the ancient Dutch traders at Albany, it was said the French made a foot weigh a pound. Also a medal of lead, oval shaped, an inch and a half long, with the figure of a man suspended by outstretched hands, supposed to be a representation of our Savior on the cross, and a figure of a serpent. On the opposite side is a figure of a man in a sitting posture, resembling the characteristic position of the native prophets; or as some interpret it, the devil—an emblem that Christianity will destroy all evil. An iron horse shoe, steel corked, with three elongated nail holes on each side. The peculiar workmanship of this shoe, its clumsiness and spread, and the little skill which it evinces in the making, denotes it clearly to be the workmanship of a Canadian blacksmith, precisely like those witnessed at the present day in that country, and intended only for the unferriered hoofs of the Canadian horse. It is the roughest specimen of the craft that can be imagined. This is a specimen of several which have been exhumed in this country, all of which are of the rudest workmanship. Several years ago a curious brass plate probably used for a shield, was plowed up; it was oval shaped, and about eighteen inches in diameter the longest way. Here are also found sword guards, fragments of the blades, gun locks, surgeons' instruments, saws, bracelets for the wrists three inches broad, of brass highly wrought, and many other curious articles.
In many places within this fort and in its vicinity, were found numerous pits for hiding en cache, corn and other articles by the occupants from their enemies, or as a temporary place of deposit during their hunting excursions. Skeletons have been found in these places of deposit, some of them of extraordinary size. The jaws of some of them would fit easily over that of any common man. Mr. KEELER has a portion of a jaw in which are double teeth at least one-third larger than those of an ordinary man.
On Mr. Samuel A. KEENE's land, are mounds containing human bones; also burying grounds all along on the west side of the creek, on Mr. Jeremiah GOULD's land, upon which are found almost every variety of Indian relic. On the grounds of Mr. KEENE have been found several strings of very fine glass beads' of red, blue and white colors, and others striped and variegated; also numerous little bells, such as are sometimes used by the Romish priesthood. Fish hooks have also been picked up in the vicinity of the old fort, and steels for producing fire with tinder. Mr. Keene has a brass compass box, screw top, and a little brass kettle which holds about a pint, all plowed up on his land. Brass crosses have frequently been plowed up, and some of the most perfect and highest finished ones, have over the head of the Saviour, the letters I, N. R. I. Most of the crosses found in other places have the letters I. H. S.
But the most rare and singular relic which has come to our observation, is an iron bombshell, about the size of a six pound ball, weighing two and three-fourths pounds. This was plowed up on the land of Mr. KEENE, and is believed to be the only article of the kind which has been found. Cannon balls of small size have been found in the eastern part of Pompey.
These relics certainly
prove that light cannon were in use at these places of fortification. From
the great number of gun barrels, crosses, axes, &c., found about here,
it is certain that armed bodies of men in considerable numbers, have occupied
these grounds; and that from the mutilated condition of the-guns, the broken
axes, jammed kettles, and injured state of every thing contributing to
defense and-comfort, they must have been exterminated or forcibly driven
away. That these are the remains of the French Jesuits and traders of the
seventeenth century, there is not a doubt. Everything goes to substantiate
the fact. Enough of their history has been related in the foregoing pages,
to settle the question beyond dispute. The forts, relies, utensils, mounds,
caches, burying grounds, &c., are similar in every direction, and bear
marked evidence of former occupancy by man in a civilized state, and in
a former age. Like evidences occur also in De Witt, Camillus and Manlius.
Were all the records in Christendom totally destroyed, there still remains
the most unquestionable evidences of the presence of civilization in this
land, in the metallic arms, implements and utensils of the soldier, the
artisan, the mechanic and farmer, succeeding a more rude era, in which
arts, agriculture and war were carried on with implements of wood, stone,
clay and shells.
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2 October 1998