Allegheny Outdoor Adventures Bradford, PA

The search for Cornplanters Cave

The beginning of the search

Agh, where do I begin?

My search for "Cornplanters Cave" has taken me through hundreds of miles of woods. I've spent hundreds of hours reading and researching. Talked to many people, in search of Cornplanters Cave, and yet, I can't tell you how I first got started on my quest.

I am probably, beyond any doubts, the person who spent more time, energy, and research on re-locating Cornplanters Cave, and yet I can not tell you exactly how, when or why I started the search.

Let's start at the beginning.

I moved to Bradford somewhere around 1990. I was always an outdoors person, and instantly became intrigued by the many large rock out cropping in the Bradford area. Some were very obvious, and easily found. A very popular, and often visited Rock Area is Rock City Park near Olean NY. Bradford's most popular rock area is Big Rocks, above High Street, near Rutherford Run.

As I began exploring some of the lesser known rock areas, I realized that there are some really spectacular, very scenic, rock areas that are not known about. I thought "what a shame these incredible attractions are out there, and nobody knows about them". Then I decided that I would "Map" these large rock outcroppings so others who may want to visit them could find them.

Shortly after I began to visit some of the more "wild" areas, I discovered that there were caves in and around them. With absolutely no knowledge of "caving" and with great apprehension I began exploring the caves. Soon, exploring the caves was more exciting than locating and mapping the large rock areas. Much to my surprise, just about every large rock outcropping had one, or several cave openings.

What started out as a mild interest, quickly became a full time hobby. And THAT somehow evolved into an obsession! The more areas I found, the more I wanted to find. I soon found myself going out four or five days a week looking for caves and large rock areas. It seemed that the more I did it the better I got at it, and that just feed into, making it my personal obsession.

One method of locating large rock areas is quite simple. I would spend the winters driving all the ridge roads I could, and combed the hills, with binoculars. When I would spot a rock area, I would mark it on the map, and then explore it in the spring. Another and one of the best, and sometimes the ONLY way, to get "Leads" was to talk to people. Often I would talk to hunters, farmers, and land owners. But I did not limit myself, and I would talk to anybody I came in contact with. Sure some (or many) people thought I was crazy: "do you know of any large rock areas, or caves?" , but I was persistent.

I remember being in a Doctors waiting room in Bradford, just me and this young kid, and ended up getting detailed directions from him, to a cave in Portville NY that I had heard rumors of, years before.

I was constantly "fishing" for any information, even "rumors". Sure I would, I'd hunt down rumors! Funny thing, I chased down several rumors that turned out to be true. I'd go so far as to say, that just about every single RUMOR of a cave, led me to finding a cave.

I can't say for sure, but the very first I heard mention of "Cornplanters Cave" was from an old man, I met out near Willow Bay. I never did get his name, but I was standing near the boat launch in the early spring. I was looking at all the hilltops with my binoculars, when this man wandered up to me. " I used to hunt, all them there hills, sonny, when I was younger and could walk." he said to me. I knew that this was a "bona-fide Old-Timer" when he called me, a forty year old man, "sonny"! So I asked him if he knew of any rock area or caves. He said : "you ain't lookin' for Cornplanters Cave, arrrrr ya?" . I answered " Who is Cornplanter?". He must have known I was serious, and just turned and walked away.

That was my first memory of hearing about "Cornplanters Cave".

I began now, to ask people if they ever heard of "Cornplanters Cave", and I did get some positive answers, some even had heard stories. I was even told that the cave was written about.

Then as I really "dug in", I began to research the history in local libraries. I read about the oil history, railroad history, narrow gage railroads, and of course the Indian history. I began to find mention of "Cornplanters Cave", but maybe this was just a rumor? I love tracking down rumors, THIS cave is for me!

One of the very first stories I read of Cornplanters Cave, was in a very old book I found in the Allegheny NY. Library. The story told of a cave with three rooms, and one room had an underground lake in it! That was very intriguing to me, and with an underground lake, that's just too cool! There wasn't much more about it, other than that.

Before I had read about the existence of Cornplanters Cave in that library book, in Allegheny NY, I thought the brief mentions I had previously heard, were just stories or rumors. Reading this account of the cave made it more than just a rumor, and thus began my search for "Cornplanters Cave", a search that would span seven or eight years.

Little did I realize, that I was now at the beginning of a long, drawn out, very exhaustive, comprehensive, sometimes (most of the time) obsessive, unrelenting search ................. "The Search For Cornplanters Cave".


The search for Cornplanters Cave Part Two:


Finding the Facts

After talking to several people and reading everything I could find, I started to make a list of "clues". Some were found in various books, or on maps, and some were just plain old rumors.

Often I heard some of the same "stuff" repeated, and sometimes some of the stories and/or rumors seemed to conflict.

Here are some of the "facts" I learned about Cornplanters Cave:

  • Cornplanter first "found" the cave while hunting as a boy. The legend goes that he shot a deer with his bow and arrow and the dear ran behind a giant rock and into the cave.
  • Cornplanter was said to have claimed that he could see the camp at "Cold Springs" from the cave.
  • The cave was where Cornplanter and other Indians would meet to discuss war plans. There was supposed to be a "room" with a fire ring in the middle.
  • The cave was three "rooms" deep, three distinct different rooms.
  • The "second room" of the cave contained an underground "lake" that had blind fish in it.
  • The cave was located on the WEST bank of the Allegheny River, below the NY state line.
  • The cave is located on "Cornplanters Peak".
  • The cave is on the EAST bank of the Allegheny on what is now called "Tracy Ridge", between Tracy Run and Whiskey Run.
  • The cave was just up the hill from his boyhood home.
  • After Cornplanter died he was buried in a memorial in the cemetery on the north point of what is now Willow Bay.
  • After Cornplanter was buried in the cemetery, he was "dug up" by Indians and buried in his cave. Then a boulder was placed in the entrance, "closing it off for good".
  • In the late 1940's two boy scouts from a near by scout camp found "Cornplanters Cave". Their story claims it was at the river level, and inside were a bunch of Indian artifacts and drawings and writing all over the cave walls. As the story goes, they were never able to re-locate the cave.
  • In modern times several Indians claim they visited and entered the cave. And I've even heard that the cave is guarded by Indians.

Let's see, now for the "detective work".

First let's "de-bunk" the boy scouts story. In my day boy scouts were supposed to be honest and not tell "lies"!

All of the caves around this area are "tectonic" caves. Caves formed by the movement of the rock plates of the earth moving toward each other and up heaving where they met. The caves are results of the rock cracking, forming passageways.

Most people, when they think of caves, think of limestone caves formed by water eroding passages through the rock.

Our caves around here are all sandstone and quartz conglomerate (a variation of sandstone). Incidentally, the Olean field of quartz conglomerate rock is the largest field of quartz conglomerate rock in the world. The Olean field, reaches down into Pa., well into "Cornplanters Kingdom".

All the "cave openings" are in the main rock plates, and ALL of these "carst" areas are near the tops of the hills (mountains), NONE are near the river level. In this particular area, the exposed rock is all above the 1800 foot elevation. Any opening below this has been "filled in" for millions of years by millions of years of erosion. The boy scouts "claim" that the cave was at "river level" is false due to the physical nature of the caves in this area, AND they dispute more "documented" stories or reports of the cave that all describe it on a hill top.

The boy scouts claim of paintings or markings on the walls of the cave can also easily be discounted. First of all the "paint" that the Indians used was quite water soluble and hardly durable and would have "washed" off the walls of the soft sandstone caves that "bleed" water, and loose their outer surface year after year. Any kind of markings made by charcoal or colored powdered "paint" used by the Indians would hardly last a year, never mind 150 years! Even carvings in the rocks (even modern deep carvings made with steel tools) would be doubtful to have made it 60 or 70 years, never mind 150 years or so. The boy scouts told of "painted pictures" on the cave walls.

So, due to the fact that the sandstone tectonic caves of the area are constantly eroding and "shedding" their cave wall "skins" each year, AND the fact that there are no caves possible at river level, the "story" the two boy scouts swore was true, unfortunately was just a "tall story". That and the fact that is was just a mile or two from the boyscout camp and immediately after they told the "story", they could not re-find the cave, and others who searched (for many many years) could not find it. The boy scouts reported the cave find in the late 1940's and the area was not flooded for the Allegheny Reservoir until 1965.

Now how about dispelling the "blind fish" rumor?

One of the first written mention of the "blind fish" comes from a time when coincidentally a story went around the world of the discovery of "blind fish" by biologists. The "world famous" discovery was in the larger caves down south where there are very old, very large limestone caves that have large lakes, rivers, and streams inside them. It's very conceivable that the fish, trapped inside a large lake or river or stream that never had access to "daylight" could evolve "blind" or without eyes.

Around here? Not hardly. Although some of our caves get really wet, and some might have small streams or springs running through them, there are none with large underground "lakes" that have been here for hundreds of years. Our water table is not constant enough to have a "wet" cave with a stream or lake that would have allowed "blind fish" to evolve for millions of years. There is a cave at "Rim Rock" that has a "second room" that often floods in the spring and early summer, and can be called a "lake", but then always drains weeks later.

I consider all the reports of the Boy scouts and all the reports of the cave having a lake with blind fish physically impossible.


The search for Cornplanters Cave Part Three


Rim Rock

The area that today is called "Rim Rock" was once called "Sam's Rocks".

Sam, was Samuel Morrison who was the son of James Morrison, once a very close friend of Cornplanter. James was one of the very first white men that came to the area. He was friendly toward the Indians, and accepted by them. It's said that Cornplanter trusted "James Morrison" more than any other white man. Cornplanter was supposed to have cherished his "cave" very much. It's said that all through out his life he often returned there in times of turmoil, to "meditate" as we might say today.

When Cornplanter realized that the "white man" was taking over the area, and that it was inevitable, that the Indians were going to be "pushed" onto reservations, he sold the area now known as "Rim Rock" (previously known as "Sam's Rocks") to James Morrison, father of Samuel Morrison, whom the rock area was named for before the wise men at the ANF changed the name arbitrarily to "Rim Rock".

Sam Morrison is buried in a grave along 321 across from the Red Bridge campground entrance. Up until a few short years ago there was a monument and a giant White Pine tree on the grave.

Again, some wise men at the ANF decided to cut this hundreds-of-years-old giant White Pine down for no apparent reason.

The "new" reservation that the Indians were "given", was the spot just south of the NY state line, the site of Cornplanters boyhood home, where the Indians lived for thousands of years!

There are several caves at Rim Rock. There are two that are "blocked off". The main cave, that has Indian steps going into it, interestingly enough, is actually three rooms deep. It has large boulders just outside the entrance, just like in the rumored description of "Cornplanters" cave. This is also the last piece of property that Cornplanter owned and sold to his best, most trusted white friend. Could this be the most compelling "clue" as to Cornplanters Cave?

The cave is, like I said, three rooms deep. A walk-in entrance, a short squeeze into a second room that is often flooded in the spring, and then there is a hidden passage that leads to a room that has a fire ring in the middle with rocks as seats all around it (maybe Cornplanters meditation or "war room"?).

This may be "Cornplanters Cave". It fits with some of the descriptions of his legendary cave, but not with all. One thing that is for sure (and documented), is that Cornplanter did own the rock area, the Indians built steps to easily access the cave, and that this was one of Cornplanters favorite caves, and the last area that Cornplanter personally owned before the "white man" took over the area.

Did Cornplanter have more than one cave?


Could, over the years, the stories and/or rumors of the cave have gotten "twisted"?

Most likely.

Could there be more caves yet to be found?

I doubt it, but maybe.

Could this cave, the cave at Rim Rock be the legendary "Cornplanters Cave"?

..... Maybe.

Have I personally, stopped looking for Cornplanters Cave?

Not yet!



UPDATE! First two weeks in April, we searched extensively for caves in the Tracy Ridge area. We found some caves, and some very interesting areas that may be closed off caves.

Two areas have streams coming from the hillside with unexpectedly warm water in them. It could be an indication of an underground lake or pond. One cave was a nice smaller room, but hardly what we would consider was "Cornplanter Cave". It was, however in the "right spot".

Stay tuned, more will follow!

NEW! .... Check out the "Indian Map of the Upper Allegheny"
Indian Map of the Upper Allegheny

Here is more information on Chief Cornplanter:

Samuel Kirkland

 Samuel Kirkland, son of Rev. Daniel Kirkland, pastor of the third Congregational Church in Norwich, (now Lisbon,) was born at Norwich, December 1, 1741. At the age of twenty, he entered this school; was graduated at Princeton College, New Jersey, in 1765, leaving College a few months before graduation to engage in his mission to the Indians; a work to which he had given himself from very early life.

 In company with two Seneca Indians, he set out, November 20, 1764, on a missionary expedition to their own tribe, the most remote and the most savage of the Six Nations. The snow was four feet deep, and he traveled on snow-shoes, with his pack of provisions on his back, more than two hundred miles into the wilderness, without paths or houses to lodge in.

After an absence of about a year and a half, a period of great hardship and peril, yet of some encouragement in his work, he returned to Connecticut, bringing a Seneca chief with him. On the 19th of June, 1766, he was ordained at Lebanon Crank, and on the same day received a general commission as an Indian Missionary from the Connecticut " Board of Correspondents" of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge; a board which was constituted July 4, 1764, to have the supervision of these Indian missions.

 In about six weeks he was again at his mission work, taking up his residence among the Oneidas, where he continued to labor, with some interruptions, for more than forty years. A Christian church was soon organized under his ministrations, which, by occasional accessions, showed a good degree of prosperity. His labors were partially suspended during the Revolutionary war, though he continued to hold such an influence as to keep the Oneidas and part of the Mohawks on friendly terms with the Americans, while nearly all in the other tribes of the Six Nations took the position of active hostility.

 In 1779 he was Brigade Chaplain with General Sullivan, having previously been employed in procuring intelligence of the designs and movements of the enemy at Niagara. In the spring of 1784 he resumed his missionary work at Oneida. Two years afterwords his labors were attended with a considerable revival of religion, which seemed to have its beginning in the conversion of a strong minded Indian more than seventy years old, who up to that time had been a bigoted pagan.

 In 1788, Mr. Kirkland and his two eldest sons received from the Indians and the State of New York conjointly, a grant of large and valuable tracts of land in the vicinity of Oneida, on which he built for himself a log house.

 In 1790, while on a mission to Congress in behalf of the Senecas, he,was instrumental in the conversion of the celebrated chief, Cornplanter, to the Christian faith.

In the winter of 1791-2, by request of the Secretary of War, he conducted about forty chiefs and warriors, a representation of five nations, to Philadelphia, to consult with Congress on the best method of intro ducing the blessings of civilization among them, and also with a view of preserving peace between the Indians and the United States. This visit had the desired effect, and not only secured to the United States the friendship of the Six Nations, rendering them mediators between the Federal Government and the Western Indians, but also securing to the Six Nations an increased degree of favor from the Government in the promotion of education and civilization among them".


At the breaking out of the Revolution, the limits of settlement and civilization had extended somewhat nearer to Chautauqua county; but no event of great importance affecting these regions transpired until near the close of the war. Long prior to 1779, the hostile Indians and tories had desolated the frontier settlements of New York and Pennsylvania; to punish them, Washington planned two expeditions. One was to march by the north branch of the Susquehanna, against the Indian villages of the Six Nations in New York; the other was, at the same time, to proceed up the Allegany, under the command of Col. Daniel Broadhead, a gallant and enterprising officer, who then commanded at Pittsburgh, and to destroy the villages of the Seneca and Munsey Indians, who dwelt along that river and its tributaries, and afterwards to unite with the army of Gen. Sullivan in a combined attack upon Fort Niagara.

 On account of the difficulty of providing Col. Broadhead with supplies in time, and the want of satisfactory information concerning the country along the Allegany, the idea of the two expeditions co6perrating with each other was abandoned by Gen. Washington.+ Col. Broadhead, however, on the IIth of August, 1779, at the head of 605 militia and volunteers, and with one month's provisions, set out from Pittsburgh, and advanced up the Allegany river to the mouth of the Mahoning. Here their provisions were transferred from the boats to pack-horses; and the army proceeded on to Brady's Bend, in Clarion county, Pennsylvania.

 Here an advanced party of Col. Broadhead's force, consisting of fifteen white men and eight Delaware Indians, under the command of Lieut. Harding, fell in with thirty or forty Indian warriors coming down the river in seven canoes.

 The Indians landed and stripped off their shirts; a sharp contest ensued; the Indians were defeated, and five of their number were killed and several wounded; and all their canoes and contents fell into the hands of Col. Broadhead. Lieut. Harding had three men wounded, including one of the Delaware Indians.

 Capt. Samuel Brady, who was in this encounter, and whose name has been given to this locality, was born at Shippensburgh, Penn., I758. He was at the siege of Boston, and a lieutenant at the massacre of Paoli. Having lost both his father and brother by the hands of Indians, he took an oath of vengeance against the race.

 Having been ordered to Fort Pitt with the rest of his regiment under General Broadhead, it gave him an opportunity to fulfill his vow. He was generally placed in command of scouting parties sent into the Indian country from Fort Pitt; and being an athletic, active and courageous man, familiar with the woods and Indian warfare, he (* Doc. Hist. N. Y., pp. 587-9I. t Letter from Washington to Col. Broadhead, April 21, I779. ) became the hero of many bold exploits in the north-east part of the valley of the Ohio, and a serious trouble to his Indian foes in those parts.

 An account of his daring adventures and hair-breadth escapes would fill a book. They gave his name permanently to many localities in Western Pennsylvania and Ohio. Jonathan Zane was also in this engagement, and was wounded. He was a celebrated scout and great hunter, and piloted many expeditions against the Indians.

Colonel Broadhead's command continued to march up the river, as far as the Indian village of Buckaloons, on the flats near Irvineton, at the mouth of the Broken Straw, in Warren county. The Indians were driven from their village, and retreated to the hills in the rear. The town was destroyed, and a breastwork of trees thrown up.

 A garrison of forty men was left to guard the provisions; and the remainder of the force proceeded to the Indian town of Conawago, which was found to have been deserted eighteen months before. Conawago was burnt, and the troops marched still further up the river, past Kinjua to Yohroonwago, a place about four miles below the southern boundary of the state of New York.

 Here they found a painted image, or war post, clothed in dog skin. The troops remained there three days, burning this and other towns in the vicinity and destroying the extensive cornfields that they found there. Col. Broadhead believed, from the great quantity of corn found, and from the number of new houses which were built, and being built of square and round logs and of framed timbers, that the whole Seneca and Munsey nations intended to collect there.

Yohroonwago was situated where, some years afterwards, Cornplanter made his residence, and where an Indian village grew up, called De-o-no-sa-da-ga, meaning, in English:" burned houses".

According to Mrs. Jemison, Colonel Broadhead's troops ascended the Allegany as far as Olean Point, and burnt other Indian towns on French creek, including Maghinquechahocking, a village of thirty-five large houses. Col. Broadhead arrived at Fort Pitt, on his return, September I4th, 1779; having burned ten Indian villages, containing one hundred and sixty-five houses, having destroyed more than five hundred acres of Indian corn, and taken three thousand dollars' worth of furs and olher plunder, and having himself lost neither man nor beast.


 The expedition of Sullivan and Broadhead, and the destruction of the Indian towns and cornfields, had the effect to throw the Indians upon the run (*Butterfield's Hist. of Crawford's Expedition, I28, 129. t).

 Sometime afterwards, Major Morrison, who became a distinguished citizen of Lexington, Ky., returned to the mouth of the Broken Straw to reconnoiter, and narrowly escaped with his life. He had stooped to drink from the creek, when a rifle ball from an Indian's gun splashed the water into his face.-Pa. Hist. Collection, 653.

 The remains of this stockade were very plainly to be seen a few years ago. They were situate about half a mile above the crossing of the Broken Straw, on the road to Warren, on a high bluff on the Allegany river, and commanded an extensive view up and down the river.(Dr. Win. A. Irvine. Broadhead's Rep. to T. Pickering, Sept. I6. I799).

This page is from: History of Chautauqua County, New York, from its first settlement to the present time; with numerous biographical and family sketches. By Andrew W. Young ... Embellished with upwards of one hundred portraits of citizens., Young, Andrew W. (Andrew White), 1802-1877.

Near Irvinton, in Warren county, at the mouth of the Broken Straw,was the Indian village of Buckaloons. About five miles above Kinjua, extending several miles along the Allegany river, was a large Seneca town, called Yah-roon-wa-go. Near where once was the centre of this town, Cornplanter made his residence.

 Mrs. Mary Jemison, before her faculties were impaired, imparted much information to the white men respecting the Indians and some of their settlements in Western New York. She was known by the early settlers as the " White Woman." She was captured by the Indians in her youth during the French and Indian wars, and lived with them the remainder of her days. She died in Buffalo, September 19th, I833, at a very advanced age, much esteemed for her goodness and intelligence, by both whites and Indians.

 She was so kindly treated by the Indians after her captivity, that she adopted their customs, and married an Indian husband. In 1759, with her little son on her back and with her three adopted Indian brothers, she journeyed through the wilderness from Ohio to Little Beardstown, on the Genesee.

 In her account of their journey, she says: "When we arrived at the mouth of French creek, we hunted two days, and thence came on to Connewango creek, where we staid eight or ten days, in consequence of our horses having left us and strayed into the woods. The horses, however, were found, and we again prepared to resume our journey.

 During our stay at that place, the rain fell fast, and had raised the creek to such a height, that it was seemingly impossible for us to cross it. A number of times we ventured in, but were compelled to return, barely escaping with our lives. At length we succeeded in swimming our horses, and reached the opposite shore, though I and my little boy but just escaped from being drowned. From Sandusky the path we traveled was crooked and obscure, but was tolerably well understood by my oldest brother, who had traveled it a number of times when going and returning from the Cherokee wars. The fall by this time was considerably advanced, and the rains, attended with cold winds, continued daily to increase the difficulties of traveling.

 From Connewango we came to a place called by the Indians Che-na-shun-ga-tan, on the Allegany river, at the mouth of what is now called Cold Spring creek in the town of Napoli [now Cold Spring], Cattaraugus county, and from that to Twa-wan-ne-gwan, or Tu-ne-un-gwan, [which means an eddy not strong], where the early frosts had destroyed the corn, so that the Indians were in danger of starving for want of bread. Having rested ourselves two days at that place, we came to Caneadea." The Indian village of Tu-ne-un-gwan mentioned by Mrs. Jemison, was situated 18 miles further up the river than Che-na-shun-ga-tan in the town of Carrollton, Cattaraugus county.

The Senecas also settled, at an early day, near the mouth of the Cattaraugus creek. At the close of the last century, there were indians along the Allegany and French  creek (* Its Indian name was Hosh-e-nuk-wa-gunk, signifying the place where much broken straw and other drift stuff are accumulated together.-Aldez's Alissions, 156. ) Signifying, in the Indian tongue, the place of many fishes.


Scattered through north-western Pennsylvania and south-western New York, were other Indian towns; but none were then known to have certainly existed in Chautauqua county. The evidences remained, however, at the first settlement of the county, of its having not long previously been occupied at various points by Indians.

 In 1795, when Col. James McMahan passed through this county, upon the Judge Prendergast tract on Connewango creek, in the town of Kiantone, there was an Indian camping ground. There were also to be seen, at the first settlement of the county, near the mouth of the Kiantone, the forms of corn hills, upon lands that appeared to have once been cleared, and had since grown up to small shrubbery of thorns and red plum."

In November, 1805, when William Bemus first came to the town of Ellery, at Bemus Point, unmistakable evidences remained, that an Indian settlement had formerly existed there. Where the cemetery is situated, were the decayed remains and traces of some Indian dwellings, and the evidences that a large tract of land in the vicinity had formerly been improved. On Bemus creek were two clearings, each about ten acres in extent, a quarter of a mile apart. Where these improvements were, wild plum trees grew; and there were the remains of brush inclosures, which Wm. Bemus had repaired, enabling him to secure a crop of grass the first years of his settlement there. Corn hills also were visible, and even potatoes of the lady finger variety, that had been perpetuated from year to year were there still growing; some of which were gathered and planted by Wm. Bemus. Below Bemus', at Griffith's Point, were similar signs of Indian occupation.

 After the close of the Revolutionary war, that numerous portion or clan of the Seneca nation residing along the Allegany and its tributaries, were under the control of the very able and just war chief Cornplanter, sometimes called John O'Beel.

The domain of this branch of the Senecas' property included Chautauqua county; and the rude improvements found here were the results, probably, of the occupation by these Indians, who undoubtedly, at some time during the last century, had at least temporary homes within the county.

 This clan were often referred to as the Seneca-Abeel; and in a map published by Reading Howell, 1792, the country of the upper waters of the Connewango, and of Chautauqua lake, is designated as "O'Beel's Cayentona".

 This map is among the Pennsylvania Historical Collections. In James Ross Snowden's Historical Sketch of Cornplanter, prepared for the occasion of the Cornplanter monument, is the following:"A solitary traveler, after the close of the Revolutionary war, in I783, wandering near the shores of Chautauqua lake, found himself benighted; and ignorant of the path which should lead him to his place of destination, he feared he would be compelled to pass the night in the forest, and without shelter. But when the darkness of the night gathered around him, he saw the light of a distant fire in the woods, to which he bent his steps. Then he  found an Indian wigwam, the habitation of a chief with his family. He was kindly received and hospitably entertained. After a supper of corn and venison, the traveler returned thanks to God, whose kind Providence had directed his way, and preserved him in the wilderness. He slept comfortably on the ample bear skins provided by his host. "In the morning, the Indian invited the traveler to sit beside him on a large log in front of his cabin. They were seated, side by side. Presently the Indian told the traveler to move on a little, which he did; and, keeping by his side, again requested him to move. This was repeated several times. At length, when near the end of the log, the chief gave an energetic push, and requested his companion to move further. The traveler remonstrated, and said,'I can go no further; if I do, I shall fall off the log.''That is the way' said the Indian in reply,'you white people treat us. When the United People, the Six Nations, owned the whole land from the lakes to the great waters, they gave to Corlaer a seat on the Hudson, and to Ouas a town and land on the Delaware.

 We have been driven from our lands on the Mohawk, the Genesee, the Chemung, and the Unadilla. And from our western door, we have been pushed from the Susquehanna; then over the great mountains; then beyond the Ohio, the Allegany, and Connewango; and now we are here on the borders of the great lakes, and a further push will throw me and my people off the log.''`' The chief, in conclusion, with a-sad and anxious countenance asked the question, Where are we to go?' The only response that was made, was the sighing of the wind through the leaves of the forest; the traveler was silent." The traveler above referred to was the Rev. Samuel Kirkland, who, for many years previous to the Revolutionary war, was a missionary among the Six Nations, and whose name and services are, during and after the Revolution, recorded in connection with Indian history.
* Judge E. T. Foote. Warren's History of Chautauqua County. + J. L. Bugbee. See also his sketch of WTm. Bemus.

The Indian villages of North-western Pennsylvania and Western New York often contained houses sufficiently large to accommodate three or four families. Adjacent to them were frequently extensive cornfields. Between these villages, or leading from them to their favorite hunting grounds and fishing places, were well trodden pathways, several of which passed through the county of Chautauqua.

A broad and well worn Indian trail led from the Cattaraugus creek, through the lake towns, to the Pennsylvania line. Another commenced near to the mouth of the Cattaraugus creek, and passed over the ridge in Arkwright and Charlotte, at the point of its lowest elevation; and through Charlotte Center and Sinclairville, and southerly in the direction of the Indian towns on the Allegany river.

 This trail had the appearance of much use; the roots of the trees along its margin were marred and calloused; and at certain points it was worn deeply into the ground. It was used by the early settlers as a highway or bridle path, in going from the center to the north-eastern part of the county, and also by the Indians subsequently to the settlement of the county. Still another Indian path commenced at the Indian settlement, near the mouth of the Cattaraugus creek,. and passed down the Connewango valley, through the eastern parts of the towns of Hanover, Villenova, Cherry Creek, and Ellington.

This path was  used by white men in the settlement of these towns, and by the Indians subsequently to the settlement of the county. All the region lying west of Blue Ridge, and east of the Wabash, which included within its limits Chautauqua county, remained unexplored and almost unknown to Europeans, until nearly as late as the year 1750; for the outermost limits of the back settlements of the English colonies of Virginia and Pennsylvania only extended as far west as the Blue Ridge.

 Either the French had been excluded from here by the fierce and warlike Senecas, who were their implacable foes, or their enterprise had not yet led them in this direction; and prior to this time, the points occupied by civilized men in the West were mostly mere trading posts, and the forests were only traversed by traders and missionaries.

 Chautauqua county, and the adjacent regions, not being in the route of their travel, were barely known, and were untraversed except by bands of Indians in their hostile excursions. The French officer La Hontan says: "The banks of this lake [Erie] are commonly frequented by none but warriors, whether the Iroquois, the Illinese, the Oumiamies, etc.; and it is very dangerous to stop there. By this means it comes to pass, that the stags, roebucks, and turkeys run in great bodies up and down the shore, all around the lake. In former times the Errionons and the Andastogueronons lived upon the confines of the lake; but they were extirpated by the Iroquois, as well as the other nations marked on the map.

 Events leading to the French and Indian wars: The boundary line between the French and English possessions in America had long been a cause for earnest contention. The French claimed dominion to all the country lying west of the Allegany mountains. The English also claimed the territory westward of their colonies to the Pacific Ocean. The territory of Chautauqua county was included in these disputed regions; and as a consequence of this controversy, it was soon brought nearer to the scene of prominent military operations, and in close proximity to important lines of communication, or rough military highways leading from distant military posts in this then interminable western wilderness. Communications between the French posts on the Mississippi river, and the French forts and settlements in Canada, were at first maintained by the long and circuitous route of the Mississippi, Green Bay, and the Ottawa, and afterwards by Lake Michigan and the Illinois; and at a still later period by the way of the Maumee and the Wabash. The direct and easy communication that could be had between Canada and the Mississippi, by the way of Lake Erie and the short portage of Chautauqua lake, or over that from Presque Isle [Erie] to French creek, and the upper waters of the Ohio, seems for a long time to have been unknown to the French; but events of an important character as affecting this part of the world, and also the history of that of the two most powerful nations of Europe, were destined soon to  La Hontan's Voyages.

This page is from: An illustrated history of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,, Egle, William Henry, 1830-1901.


A history of Warren county would be incomplete without some notice of, perhaps the earliest settler, Gy-ant-wa-chia, alias John O'Bail, alias " The Cornplanter."

He was a distinguished chief of the Seneca tribe of Indians, one of the confederate Six Nations, celebrated before and during the Revolutionary war. Cornplanter was a half breed, the contemporary of Washington, about the same age, a valiant warrior of his tribe, and of superior sagacity and eloquence.

He fought on the side of the French during the French and English struggle for the north-west of this continent, commencing with the battle of the Monongahela, on the 9th of July, 1755, and resulting in Braddock's defeat and death.

 During the Revolutionary war, he, as a chief of one of the Six Nations, was in league with and fought on the side of the British. Immediately on the close of the war, being deserted by his British allies, his superior sagacity convinced him he had been in the wrong in that contest, and that the true policy for his tribe and race was to accept the situation, and make friends with their future masters. This he hastened to do, and was efficient in bringing the Six Nations into friendly treaties with the Government.

 He was himself one of the negotiators and signers to the treaties of Fort Stanwix and Fort Harmar, ceding large districts of land to the United States. He maintained his allegiance most faithfully and efficiently during the Indian war, from 1790 to 1794, rendering valuable assistance to the general government and in the protection of the western frontiers of Pennsylvania.

For these services, among other rewards, he received from Pennsylvania permission to select 1,500 acres of land from her unappropriated territory for himself and his posterity. Among his selections he chose for his own occupancy a tract of 640 acres of beautiful land on the west bank of the Allegheny river, about fourteen miles above Warren, together with two large adjacent islands.

Here he permanently located himself and family about 1791 and resided until his death, in 1836, at the age of one hundred or upwards, and here his family and descendants, to the number of about eighty-five, still reside.

 Notwithstanding their history and surroundings, they have never brought their land to a high state of cultivation. They farm it some, not enough for their subsistence, and many of them talk English. But with all the advantages of white neighbors and an English school kept among them, they are Indians still.

 In 1866, the Legislature of Pennsylvania authorized the erection of a monument to the memory of the old chieftain, which was done under the supervision of the writer at a cost of five hundred and fifty dollars, and now marks the grave of one of the bravest, noblest, and truest specimens of the aboriginal race.

 Three of his children were present at the dedication of his monument in 1866the last of whom died in 1874, at the age of about one hundred years.

Sir John Johnson invades Johnstown-Cornplanter with the expedition .

Historical notice of Cornplanter, alias Abeel, alias O'Beel, alias O'Bail-His letter-Speech of Cornplanter and others to Gen. Washington.


The name of Cornplanter's father was John Abeel; we find the name in the public records as a citizen or merchant of Albany, in 1692.

 This was probably the father of John Abeel, the father of Cornplanter, as he must have been a man somewhat advanced in years, and a trader.

 He also appears to have held offices at different times in the municipal government, and to have been connected with Indian affairs. John Abeel the father of Cornplanter, is spoken of about 1755-6, as an Indian trader, and is complained of by the Senecas, for bringing rum into their country, and when forbidden to do so, declared his determination to persist in it, for " every quart of rum was as good to him as a spanish dollar."

 It would seem that he began his career as an Indian trader as early as 1748, and was taken prisoner by the French while among the Senecas; and in a negotiation between the English and the French for an exchange of prisoners, John Abeel is said to have a child among the Senecas.

This child, was undoubtedly the embryo Indian chief; Cornplanter, who must have been born about 1730.

 John Abeel does not seem to have borne a reputation for the strictest integrity; about 1756 he came down from the Senecas country with a canoe load of skins, said to be " fraudulently obtained" in that country. According to this computation, the age of the chief at the time of this expedition in which he was engaged, must have been over thirty years. He not only became a warrior of distinction, but he also became noted for his ability as a statesman and orator. The three things in which according to Indian estimation, true greatness consists. Perhaps no individual had more influence in all the negotiations of the Six Nations with the whites from the period when he became connected with public affairs, than Cornplanter.

 It is true he lost his standing in a measure with the Indians before the close of his life, by a supposed, or real sacrifice of the interest of his people, for a consideration received by himself in lands upon the Allegany, the place of his residence. That he was a man of extraordinary ability, we have abundant evidence in numerous letters and speeches of his which have been preserved and published; although a straight, active, athletic man when young, he became in his old age quite infirm, and could not stand erect.

 He had not the standing among the Indians that some of his cotemporaries had, and his character seems to have been that of a shrewd diplomatist, rather than that of an open, frank, ingenuous man. There is no doubt that he was at heart in the British interest up to the period of Wayne's victory over the combined forces of the British and Indians in 1794; his speeches and letters all show this. He seems to have acted in concert with Brant, during the period of the Indian troubles in Ohio, after the close of the Revolutionary war.

 The speeches of Cornplanter, Half-Town and Great-Tree, published in the American state papers (Indian affairs, vol. 1,) have generally been attributed to Cornplanter, whose signature stands first in order.* But it is more probable that these speeches, or miore properly communications, were the joint production of the three, or perhaps of Great-Tree who was celebrated as an orator, which, strictly speaking, Cornplanter was not. The curious letter of Cornplanter, written in 1794, to Lieut. Polhemus, who'was then in command of Fort Franklin on the Alleghany, is characteristic of Cornplanter, and is an index of the temper of his mind and disposition.

It is as follows: Ginashadgo, 24 May, 1794. SIR:-I have returned home safe. I wrote a letter to you, (hope you have received it,) in regard to the British sending a man to Catarogaras & he sent for me-I went'See Appendix. to see him, n'ot him alone, but likewise the Moncyes respectingthe man that was killed at French-creek as you wrote to me concerning that business. Brother this man that sent for me to Catarogais wanted to know what we were about, it seemed to him as if we were hiding ourselves. I spoke to him, & told him the reason of our hiding ourselves-that the white people think that we are nobody-I have told him everything from the beginning. That the Six Nations could not be heard by anybody. This was all passed between this British man & myself-his name is William Johnston. Brother then I spoke to the Moncyes in regard of your writing to me to help you, and I asked their minds as the tommyhawk was sticking in their heads. Then the Moncys spoke & told me they was not drunk about this affair. As you writ to me, and told me you wanted to make our minds easy about this affair.-As you writ to me that you wanted our minds easy-it shall be so-this is all I have to say this present time about it. As I went there everything happened right, & you will hear a little what Bears-Oil chief said as he was sent there by the chiefs of Conniatt, (Conyaut.) I send you three strings of wampum given to me by Bears-Oil chief and his words were that God almighty had mad day and night, and when he saw me it appeared to him as if it was daylight-Brother, says Bears-Oil my mind is very uneasy when I live at Conneat every summer and I see the bad Indians and always tell them not to interupt our friends this way. Bears Oil says his mind is very uneasy and the reason is, that he cannot hardly keep these western nations, back any more, as they the white people ale making forts in their country and another thing our worriors & children are very uneasy. They say that they cannot go out of doors to ease themselves for fear of spoiling Genl. Washingtons lands-and that may (which must) be the reason we will or can (are to) be killed. Bears Oil speeks and says he was sent by all the chiefs, and they looked out which was the best way for him to go; by water their was a lake that God almighty had made for everybody and he hoped that Genl. Washington would have nothing to say if he went by water. Now Brothers says Bears Oil to the Six Nations I have corn to know your minds and it you want me to corn down hear to live, I shall cor, and I send you five strings of wampum as his speech on that head-I spoke to Bears Oil chief for Wm. Johnston to help him, as the white people thinks nothing of us, then Johnston spoke and told him he would help him, and for (told) him to go home and tell his worriors and children to go to work, plent corn and git their living-I then spoke to Bairs Oil myself to make his mind easy and go home, and if he see (saw) any of the western nations going to war, to tell them not to enterupt anybody about French-creek or anywhere in that country,* and if he should see them, to tell them to go back, to those that ware at war-I told Bears Oil afterwards that if you don't see any of them, and they do any mischief we cannot help it-then after that I considered and dispached runners to Oswego and to Bufflow-creek and to the Genessees for all the chiefs to rise and likewise Gen. Chapin Supiren't of Indian affairs.`I wrote you last about stoping the troops-I hope you will till affairs is (are) settled. Then Mr. Johnston spoke and said if the Six Nations went, he would go with them. Their is but eight days to corn when they will meet at this place if they like what I have said-Brothers at French-creek if it should happen that they dont come you must not blame me, for it is not my fault, because you know very well I am almost tired of talking, because, none of you will hear me —it will be but a few days before I will know whether they are coming, and if they are coming, you will know it imeadeatly I am Your friend and Brother his JOHN PC OBAIL mark (Cornplanter) Lieut. John Polhemus Commanldg F F

This letter was unquestionably dictated by Cornplanter, but evidently written by an unskillful amanuensis. The following is the speech, or more properly the communication of Cornplanter and his associates, to Gen.. Washington, already alluded to.


 FATHER —The voice of the Seneca Nation speaks to you, the great councillor in whose heart the wise men of the thirteen fires have placed their wisdom. It may be very small in your ears, and we therefore entreat you to harken with attention, for we are about to speak of things which to us are very great. When your army entered the country of the Six Nations, we called you the town destroyer; and to this day, when that name is heard, our women look behind them and look pale, and our children,cling close to the necks of their mothers. Our councillors and warriors are men, and cannot be afraid; but their hearts are grieved with the fears of our women and children, and desire it may be buried so deep as to be heard'no more. When you gave us peace, we called you father, because you promised to secure us in the possession "of our lands. Do this, and so long as the lands shall remain, that beloved name will live in the heart of every Seneca. Father-We mean to open our hearts before you, and we earnestly desire that you will let us clearly understand what you resolve to do. When our chiefs returned from the treaty at Fort Stanwix, and laid before our council what had been done there, our nation was surprised to hear how great a country you had compelled them to give up to you, without your paying to us any thing for it. Every one said that your hearts were yet swelled with resentment against us, for what had happened during the war, but that one day you would reconsider it, with more kindness. We asked each other, what have we done to deserve such severe chastisement? Father-When you kindled your thirteen fires separately, the wise men that assembled at them told us, that you were all brothers, the children of one great Father, who regarded also, the red people as his children. They called us brothers, and invited us to his protection; they told us that he resided beyond the great water, where the sun first rises; hat he was a King whose power no peo-'ple (could resist, and that his goodness was bright as that sun. What they said went to our hearts; we accepted the invitation, and promised to obey him. What the Seneca Nation promise,'they faithfully perform; and when you refused obedience to that King, he commanded us to assist his beloved men, in making you sober. In obeying him, we did no more than yourselves had led us to promise. The men who claimed this promise, told us that you were children, and had no guns; that when they had shaken you, you would submit. We hearkened to them, and were deceived, until your army approached our towns. We were deceived; but your people, in teaching us to confide in that King, had helped to deceive, and we now appeal to your heart. Is the blame allours? Father-When we saw that we were deceived, and heard the invitation which you gave us to draw near to the fire which you kindled, and talk with you concerning peace, we made haste towards it. You then told us, that we were in your hand, and that, by closing it, you could crush us to nothing, and you demanded from us, a great country, as the price of that peace which you had offered us; as if our want of strength had destroyed our rights; our chiefs had felt your power, and were unable to contend against you, and they therefore gave up that country. What they agreed to, has bound our nation; but your anger against us must, by this time, be cooled; and although our strength has not increased, nor your power become less, we ask you to consider calmly, were the terms dictated to us by your commissioners, reasonable and just? Father-Your commissioners, when they drew the line which separated the land then given up to you, from that which you agreed should remain to be ours, did most sol -we fear he has deceived us in the writing he obtained,from us. For, since the time of our giving that power, a man of the name of Phelps has come among us, and *claimed our whole country northward of the line of Pennsylvania, under purchase from that Livingston, to whom, he said, he had paid twenty thousand dollars for it. He said also, that he had bought, likewise, from the council of the thirteen fires, and paid them twenty thousand dollars more for the same. And he said also, that it did not belong to us, for that the great King had ceded the whole of it, when you made peace with him. Thus he -claimed the whole country north of Pennsylvania, and west of the lands of the Cayugas. He demanded it; he insisted on his demand, and declared that he would have it all. It was impossible for us to grant him this, and we immediately refused it. After some days, he proposed to run a line, at a small distance eastward of our western boundary, which we also refused to agree to. He then threatened us with immediate war, if we did not comply. Upon this threat, our chiefs held a council, and they agreed that no event of war could be worse than to be,driven, with their wives and children, from the only country which we had any right to, and, therefore, weak as our nation was, they determined to take the chance of war, rather than to submit to such unjust demands, Which seemed to have no bounds. Street, the great trader to Niagara, was then with us, having come at the request of Phelps, and he always professed to be our great friend, we consulted him upon this subject. He also told us, that our lands had been ceded by the King, and that we must give them up. Astonished from what we heard from every quarter, with hearts aching with compassion 26 for our women and children, we were thus compelled, to give up all our country north of the line of Pennsylvania, and east of the Genesee river, up to the fork, and east of a south line drawn from that fork to the Pennsylvania line. For this land Phelps agreed to pay us ten thousand dollars in hand, and one thousand a year forever. He paid us two thousand and five hundred dollars in hand, part of the ten thousand, and he sent for us to come last spring, to receive our money; but instead of paying us the remainder of the ten thousand dollars, and the one thousand dollars due for the first year, he offered us no more than five hundred dollars, and insisted that he agreed with us for that sum, to be paid yearly. We debated with him for six days, during all which time he persisted in refusing to pay us our just demand, and he insisted that we should receive the five hundred dollars; and Street, from Niagara, also insisted on our'receiving the money, as it was offered to us. The last reason he assigned for continuing to refuse paying us, was, that the King had ceded the lands to the Thirteen Fires, and that he had bought them from you, and paid you for them. We could bear this confusion no longer, and determined to press through every difficulty, and lift up our voice that you might hear us, and to claim that security in the possession of our lands, which your commissioners so solemnly promised us. And we now entreat you to inquire into our complaints and redress our wrongs. Father-Our writings were lodged in the hands of Street, of Niagara, as we supposed him to be our friend; but when we saw Phelps consulting with Street, on every occasion, we doubted of his honesty towards us, and we have since heard, that he was to receive for his endeav ors to deceive us, a piece of land ten miles in width, west of the Genesee river, and near forty miles in length, extending to lake Ontario; and the lines of this tract have been run accordingly, although no part of it is within the bounds that limit his purchase. No doubt he meant to deceive us. Father-You have said that we are in your hand, and that, by closing it, you could crush us to nothing. Are you determined to crush us? If you are, tell us so, that those of our nation who have become your children, and have determined to die so, may know what to do. In this case, one chief has said he would ask you to put him out of pain. Another, who will not think of dying by the hand of his father or his brother, has said he will retire to the Chateaugay, eat of the fatal root, and sleep with his fathers, in peace. Before you determine on a measure so unjust, look up to God, who made us, as well as you. We hope he will not permit you to destroy the whole of our nation. Father-Hear our case: many nations inhabited this country; but they had no wisdom, and, therefore, they warred together. The Six Nations were powerful, and compelled them to peace; the lands, for a great extent, were given up to them; but the nations which were not destroyed, all continued on those lands, and claimed the protection of the Six Nations, as the brothers of their fathers. They were men, and when at peace, they had a right to live upon the earth. The French came among us, and built Niagara; they became our fathers, and took care of us. Sir William Johnston came and took that Fort from the French; he became our father, and promised to take care of us, and did so, until you were too strong for his King. To him we gave four miles round Niagara, as a place of trade. We have already said how we came to join against you; we saw that we were wrong; we wished for peace; you demanded a great country to be given up to you; it was surrendered to you as the price of peace, and we ought to have peace and possession of the little land which you then left us. Father-When that great country was given up, there were but few chiefs present, and they were compelled to give it up; and it is not the Six Nations only that reproach those chiefs with having given up that country. The Chippewas, and all the nations who lived on those lands westward, call to us, and ask us: Brothers of our fathers, where is the place you have reserved for us to lie down upon? Father-You have compelled us to do that which has made us ashamed. We have nothing to answer to the children of the brothers of our fathers. When, last spring they called upon us to go to war, to secure them a bed to lie upon, the Senecas entreated them to be quiet, till we had spoken to you. But, on our way down, we heard that your army had gone toward the country which those nations inhabit, and if they meet together, the best blood on both sides will stain the ground. Father-We will not conceal from you, that the great God, and not men, has preserved the Cornplanter from the hands of his own nation. For they ask, continually, where is the land, which our children, and their children after them, are to lie down upon? You told us, say they that the line drawn from Pennsylvania to lake Ontario, would mark it forever on the east, and the line running from Beaver (Buffalo*) Creek to Pennsylvania would mark it on the west, and we see that it is not so. For, first one, and then another, come, and take it away, by order of that people which you tell us promised to secure it to us. He is silent, for he has nothing to answer. When the sun goes down, he opens his heart before God, and earlier than that sun appears again upon the hills, he gives thanks for his protection during the night; for he feels that among men, become desperate by their danger, it is God only that can preserve him. He loves peace, and all he had in store, he has given to those who have been robbed by your people, lest they should plunder the innocent to repay themselves. The whole season which others have employed in providing for their families, he has spent in his endeavors to preserve peace; and at this moment, his wife and children are lying on the ground, and in want of food; his heart is in pain for them, but he perceives that the great God will try his firmness, in doing what is right. Father-The game which the Great Spirit sent into our country for us to eat, is going from among us. We thought He intended we should till the ground with the plow, as the white people do, and we talked to one another about it. But before we speak to you concerning this, we must know from you whether you mean to leave us and our children any land to till. Speak plainly to us concerning this great business. All the land we have been speaking of, belonged to the Six Nations; no part of it ever belonged to the King of England, and he could not *Evidently a mistake in the interpreter; Beaver and Buffalo in the Seneca are similar in their pronunciation; the termination of both is the same. give it to you. The land we live on, our fathers received from God, and they transmitted it to us, for our children, and we cannot part with it. Father-We told you that we would open our hearts to you. Hear us once more. At Fort Stanwix, we agreed to deliver up those of our people who should do you any wrong, that you might try them, and punish them according to your law. We delivered up two men accordingly, but instead of trying them according to your law, the lowest of your people took them from your magistrate, and put them immediately to death. It is just to punish murder with death; but the Senecas will not deliver their people to men who disregard the treaties of their own nation. Father-Innocent men of our nation are killed, one after another, and of our best families; but none of your people who have committed the murder. have been punished. We recollect that you did not promise to punish those who killed our people, and we now ask, was it intended that your people should kill the Senecas, and not only remain unpunished by you, but be protected by you against the revenge of the next of kin? Father-These are to us very great things. We know that you are very strong, and we have heard that you are wise, and we want to hear your answer to what we have said, that we may know that you are just.

his CORN X PLANTER mark his HALF X TOWN, mark his GREAT X TREE. mark Signed at Philadelphia, the 1st day of December, 1790. Present at signing, Joseph Nicholson, Interpreter, Tim'y Matlack.

Back to the Allegheny Outdoors Page :


Stoneman Guitars Main Page

All text and photos on this page © John V Stoneman