Selected Indians of New York State Part III


Jack Berry

Jack Berry, or Major Berry, as he was usually called, lived at Squakie Hill until he removed to the Buffalo reservation. His father was a white trader residing near Avon, and the Major was in the habit of referring to his white relatives as father, uncle, or cousin, as the case might be. He spoke the English language fluently, and often acted as interpreter for Bed Jacket, on one occasion accompanying that chieftain to Washington in this capacity. He had a peculiar way of prefacing and clinching every sentence of the great orator's speeches, thus, "Jacket says," then, interpreting Ms words he would end with, that' s what Jacket says." He was somewhat consequential and proud of his importance among the Indians, but proved, on many occasions, a useful friend of the whites. It is said he dropped a hint to Horatio Jones just before the latter ran the gauntlet as a prisoner at Portage Falls, a hint which saved him many a blow from the savages' clubs. In person lie was rather
short and thick set. His house at Squakie Hill had a chimney and floor, conveniences possessed by but one other, and the wife of Thomas Jemison, the senior, bought the house of Berry when he went to Buffalo. He was somewhat given to his cups but under all circumstances preserved his self-respect.

Captain Pollard

Captain Pollard, Ga-on-do-wah-neh lived at Big Tree village. His mother was a Seneca squaw, and his father an English trader, whose name he took, and identified it with Indian affairs and their domestic matters of this region. He had great weight in councils. His judgment was sound and his oratorical powers scarcely inferior to the best of his race. He was pitted against Red Jacket in a memorable trial in Buffalo, in which Tommy Jimmey was charged with killing a squaw ; and, judging from the effect upon the Indians assembled, was more successful than Red Jacket. "He was one of the most honest, pure-minded, worthy men I ever knew, white or red," says Hon. Orlando Allen.J Horatio Jones said, "morally speaking, Pollard was as good a man as any white minister that ever lived." Some thirty-five years ago Thomas Jemison was in Washington with a party of
of natives. Pollard and Captain Jones were both there. The latter, one night at the hotel, said to Pollard, "I out ran you, I think, some years ago." "Oh, yes," responded the chief, good naturedly, "but I have often wanted to try it over again, and
you were never quite ready. Captain Jones laughed and said no more. In person he was square built and above the medium size, dignified in manner and of agreeable countenance. He was, in faith, a Christian, and a most devoted and exemplary one, and was solicitous of being buried according to Christian rites. In the summer of 1834, when Black Hawk and the War Prophet and other Sac and Fox Indians, were returning from their tour through the States and about to be released by the government, they stopped a day or two in Buffalo. Arrangements were made for their meeting the Indians on the reservation at the
Seneca council house. Young and old gathered to witness the interview. Captain Pollard, who was familiar with the "Black Hawk war," made the speech, "one of the most appropriate and telling ones I ever heard," says Orlando Allen, "not a Senator in
Congress would have done it better." Both Black Hawk and the Prophet replied, and owned that they had had enough of fighting the United States.

Hot Bread

Hot Bread, O-ah-gwa-dai'-ya, was one of the leading wise men at Canawaugus. He was quite gifted as a speaker and stood well with his brother chieftains and tribesmen. In person he was rather short, and his complexion more than usually dark. Hot Bread signed the letter of the 30th of July, 1789, to Governor Clinton, a document likely enough prompted by persons
interested in the Livingston lease, and marked by more of spirit than courtesy. Brant, Big Tree, and Little Beard, besides several other leading Indians, also signed it. The letter claimed that the state had not observed treaty stipulations, and that the money due the Indians, had not been fairly divided ; and they objected to having the State surveyor mark out
the lands, even threatening the State authorities, though somewhat obscurely. Hot Bread was indolent, and his appetite voracious. Red Jacket once said of him, "Hot Bread, waugh ! big man here," pointing to the stomach, "but very small here,"
bringing the palm of his hand with emphasis across the forehead. He died at Canawaugus, as Angus McKenzie thinks, of small pox. Many others of the natives died the same year of that disease. The number included Corn-Tassel. Indeed, but few of the
Indians recovered. About the year 1815 a disturbance took place between the Indians and whites at Caledonia Springs. Hot Bread figured prominently in this. Some offence was taken, and the Indians rallied in their war paint and made an attack upon
the settlers. The fracas was quelled at last without serious results. Hot Bread was one of the leaders of the anti-Christian party among the Senecas, and his name appears in the memorial addressed to the Governor of New York, in respect to the "Black
coats," as the Indians usually designated clergymen. This unique paper closes thus : "We ask our brothers not to force a strange religion upon us. We ask to be let alone, and, like the white people, to worship the Great Spirit as we think it best. We shall then be happy in filling the little space in life which is left us, and shall go down to our fathers in peace."

Half Town

Half Town, Ga-ji-ot, lived at Big Tree. His name appears to the 'Livingston lease, and to the noted address to President Washington. He possessed a strong mind and was a wise councilor. His demeanor was grave. In complexion he was quite dark. In
person, he was rather below the medium height. Though the Senecas fought against the colonies in the Revolutionary war, the remnant of their warriors took the American side in 1812. Two years before hostilities opened, Red Jacket informed our government that Tecumseh and other native leaders in the territories, were trying to draw the Senecas into a great western
combination then forming against the whites. The Senecas promptly volunteered their services, but their aid was declined by our authorities from motives of policy. The action of the British officers in taking possession of Grand Island in the Niagara river, a territory of peculiar interest to the Senecas, was too much for the pride of the race ; and Red Jacket,
Farmer' s Brother, Half Town, and other chiefs, called a council, to which the American agent was invited. Red Jacket here presented the reasons why his nation insisted on taking up arms on the side of the States. These were so cogent that the President concluded to accept their offer, and General Porter volunteered to lead them. The Indians bore themselves with signal bravery and humanity throughout the war. A body of them took part in the action near Fort George, in August, 1812, in which the enemy were routed and a number of British Indians were taken prisoners. Captain Half Town, Red Jacket, Farmer' s Brother, and other chiefs, all took active parts and were in a number of sharply contested engagements. As a manager of moneys belonging to his nation, Half Town was at one time advised to place certain funds in a bank, at interest. He did not readily comprehend how money could grow, as it was not placed in the earth like corn, but locked up in an iron chest. Once
made aware of the operation, however, he became keenly alive to its advantages. Certain of these moneys were invested, in stock of the United States Bank when that institution failed, and, of course, dividends then ceased. The Seneca sachems and
warriors addressed a letter to Mr. Eustis, Secretary of war, on the subject. The letter was laid before Congress, and was so just and forcible in terms, that eight thousand dollars was promptly voted in lieu of the dividend. Half Town was at Fort Harmer in 1789, where, with twenty -three other chiefs he executed a treaty with the commissioners, General St. Clair,
Oliver Wolcott and Arthur' Lee. Big Tree was also numbered among the signers. Pennsylvania, in 1791, granted eight hundred dollars to Cornplanter, Half Town, and Big Tree, in trust for the Senecas. An Indian war was then feared ; settlers were intruding upon their lands, and otherwise exciting their enmity, and every movement of the natives was regarded with
suspicion. Half Town was the white man' s friend, and kept the neighboring garrisons of Venango and vicinity informed of every movement of the hostile bands, which, for a long time, hovered about ; and, but for the vigilance of himself and other friendly chiefs, much evil would have resulted to the whites. Cornplanter and Half Town kept a hundred warriors under
arms, and their runners were out constantly, watching the movements of war parties until the danger was over. Colonel William Jones, who was personally acquainted with Half Town, thought he died at the Big Tree village.

Sharp Shins

Sharp Shins, Haah-tha-o, was a small Indian with diminutive legs, thin features and a squeaking voice, but possessed of a gentlemanly demeanor, and though sometimes violent in temper, was generally reckoned among the leading men of his people. In early life he was a noted runner for a long race. In 1815 Colonel Wadsworth, of Durham, made a visit to his relatives, the Wadsworth brothers, at Geneseo. Colonel Wadsworth was greatly respected by the Indians, with whom he had transacted much public business, and, in his honor, James Wadsworth invited several chiefs to dinner at his house. Captain Horatio Jones
came as interpreter. The Indians were dressed with care and conducted themselves with great propriety. They smoked in a friendly way, and talked freely of their past history and of the future of their race. Sharp Shins took a leading part in the conversation, and Colonel Lyman, who was there, recollects that his views were notably sensible and made a decided impression upon all present. Turner says, on one occasion, Sharp Shins commenced the play of throwing tomahawks at Horatio Jones. It soon became earnest. Jones threw them back with such effect as to endanger the Indian' s life and render his recovery quite doubtful. He however got well, and was afterwards careful how he provoked the Yankee warrior. Thomas Jemison describes, with much humor, the experience of Sharp Shins in breaking a pair of unruly steers, especially his earnest advice to them in a set Indian speech. Tommy Infant lived at Canawaugus. In person he was above the ordinary size, though rather fine-looking, and appeared like an over-grown youth. Hence his name. He was good natured, and many anecdotes are related of his awkward size. Being in Avon, late one evening, he took the liberty to enter a vacant house through a door accidentally left open, and lay down for the night. The owner happened to come along and saw the prostrate Indian, and, in much surprise, asked: "Who's here?" "Oh, it's no Dutchman," said the six-footer native in his ludicrous way, "It's me, little baby, Tommy Infant." A merchant in York owed him for some peltry. Tommy called two or three times, but the trader was in no hurry to pay him. After sitting two or three hours one day, without making any demand or saying a word, Tommy, as he got up to go, turned around and said to the merchant, " I sue somebody, may be don't know. "He sued the merchant.

John Montour

John Montour, Do-noh-do-ga, was of mixed blood, a descendant of Queen Catherine, a half-blood of great beauty, whose father was said to have been a French governor of Canada, and whose mother was a squaw. Catherine became the wife of a noted chief, and allied herself with the Cayugas, establishing a village at the head of Seneca Lake. Here John was living at the opening of the Revolution. He removed to the Genesee country, and after the peace of 1783, settled at Big Tree village. He appears in the Gilbert narrative as one of the leaders of a band of natives, who, in the spring of 1780, took several prisoners in eastern Pennsylvania, among them the Gilbert family ; and it would seem that his zeal kept him on the war-path during the whole struggle with the Colonies. He was acting with the force under Butler, between the Genesee and Conesus Lake, when Sullivan lay at the inlet, and retreated to Fort Niagara when the American army advanced toward the river towns. While at Fort Niagara, it is said the British gave the Indians some flour that contained a poisonous element. Many died. Montour lived, but the poison resulted in an ulceration of his upper lip, which was quite eaten away, leaving both teeth and jaw exposed. This gave him a fierce look though he was quiet and good natured. " At first thought, " a pioneer adds, "one would be led to expect him to take a scalp at a moment's notice." He was sometimes called "No-nose," and an impression prevails that a cancer ate away his lip. He knew something of medicine, and, with remedies self-applied, had stopped the progress of the ulcer. His imperfect lip made it difficult for him to drink. Once, Colonel Lyman met him at the river in mid-summer. Montour was thirsty and lay down on the bank to quench his thirst. He drank and drank, got up and lay down again, and drank as though he would never get his fill. As lie rose, he said, "Lyman, the river is very low, very dry time." "Low," said the Colonel, "you have drunk all the water." The Indian laughed heartily. His probity was well known. Coming into Colonel Lyman' s store one day, Montour saw a pair of shag mittens hanging overhead. "Ah, Lyman," said he, "those are mine." "But stop" the merchant was about to take them down '* let me describe mine first. I was at a certain place, a little drunk, staggered and fell, the hand covered by this mitten struck a burning log, which scorched it in such a part Pull them down and see." The Indian got the mittens. A quarrel had long existed between Quawwa and Montour. The latter was quite athletic and very active, and always came out best, but in 1830 the pair got into a brawl at Squakie Hill. Montour had been drinking and Quawwa proved too much for him. He was knocked down and carried insensible to Big Tree. Here Doctor Bissell attended him, but he died in a week's time. He was buried in a blue broadcloth coat, white collar and silk cravat. His rifle, a noted piece, his tomahawk, belt and several other articles, lie beside him. His grave is a couple of rods east of the road, marked by a grassy hillock which the plow has never disturbed. Four other natives Stump-foot's wife, Westfall, and two others sleep beside him. It is recollected that Montour's wife was an estimable woman, and that his two children, Judy and Bill, possessed more than ordinary comeliness of person.

Article Name: Selected Indians of New York State Part III
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: A History of Livingston County, New York by Lockwood Lyon; Geneseo; Edward E. Doty 1876
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