Temperance Society

About the year 1800, a new religion was introduced among the Six Nations, who alleged to have received a revelation from the Great Spirit, with a commission to preach to them the new doctrine in which he was instructed.

This revelation was received in circumstances so remarkable and the precepts which he sought to inculcate, contained in themselves such evidences of wisdom and beneficence, that he was universally received among them, not only as a wise and good man, but as one commissioned by the Great Spirit to become their religious teacher, by the name of Ga-ne-o-di-yo , or “Handsomelake.” This new religion, as it has ever since been called, with all the ancient and new doctrines, was also taught, strenuously, the doctrine of Temperance, which seemed to be the main and ultimate object of his mission, and upon which he chiefly used his influence and eloquence through the remainder of his life. He went from village to village, among the several nations of the Iroquois, and continuing his visits from year to year, preaching the new doctrine with remarkable effect; many abandoned their dissolute habits and became sober and moral men.

The wholesome doctrine of sobriety was not preached in vain, even among the Tuscaroras; nevertheless, they did not embrace the ancient and the new faith, nor its ceremonies, but the preaching of this singular person. The influence of his eloquence, with which he enforced the doctrine of temperance, had the effect of forming a temperance society, which was kept up a number of years, by holding meetings and by lectures given by the leading men of the nation, until the year 1830, when a regular temperance society was organized, which was based on a written constitution; and in the year 1832 there was a general temperance society formed at the Cattaraugus Reservation, embracing all the, then, different Seneca Reservations; and in the year 1833 the Tuscarora reorganized so as to be connected with the Seneca temperance society, organized at Cattaraugus. I found the following articles in the records of the Tuscarora temperance society, to-wit:

“Temperance Society, formed among the Tuscarora, February 19th, 1830, re-organized January 27th, 1833.




“Whereas, Present and past occurrences clearly prove that intemperance is a great and destructive evil; therefore, Resolved , That we, the chiefs and warriors of the Tuscarora Nation, will do all in our power to arrest its progress, both in this village and elsewhere.”

Experience has taught us that efforts to advance this good cause are not in vain, encouraged by what we have already effected, we have conceded to re-organize our society, which shall be named and governed as follows:




Article I. This society shall be denominated the Temperance Society auxiliary to the general Temperance Society formed at Cattaraugus, March 1st, 1832, by our red brothers from five different Reservations.

Article II. It shall embrace individuals of both sexes of men, women and children.

Article III. We who sign our names to this constitution, solemnly pledge ourselves to abstain entirely from the use of intoxicating liquors, and persuade others in an affectionate, faithful manner to do the same, not suffering it to be used in our families, nor purchasing it for those in our employ.

Article IV. It shall be the duty of those who were appointed a committee by the general Temperance Society to visit the members of this Society individually, and enquire whether they adhere to or strictly obey the articles of the constitution, and converse with others on the subject of temperance, so far as practicable, and make a report of their doings to the Society.

Article V. The officers of this Society shall be a President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer. The duty of the President shall be as follows, viz: To open the meetings by calling the assembly to orders to appoint the time for meeting; to settle questions in any discussions made in the Society; to appoint the speakers. The duty of the Secretary shall be to minute the proceedings of every meeting, and read the report at the close of every meeting, and to keep in record the names of the members of the Society. The Treasurer shall keep in charge the revenues of the contributions, and attend to the lights.”

Names of the first officers of this Society: President Nicholas Cusick. Vice-President William Mt. Pleasant. Secretary and Treasurer James N. Cusick.

Names of Chiefs at that time: William Chew, William Printup,Jonathan Printup, Mathew Jack, John Mt. Pleasant, John Johnson, John Fox, George Printup, Isaa Miller.

This united Temperance Society held a yearly convention on the different Reservations, alternately, for a number of years, but the interest in the convention gradually declined, until the convention was entirely given up. Afterwards they somewhat remodeled the constitution to suit their circumstances, and added the following article, viz:

“In the temperance assemblies the following subjects are to be lectured on:


Temperance, Industry, Education and Moral Reform.


We have also a cornet band, which is connected with the temperance society, which enliven and cheer the meetings by the sweet strains of their music, and adds very much to the interest of each meeting. This band goes by the name of the “Tuscarora Temperance Cornet Band.” It was organized in the year 1842, and has existed continually to the present time, in 1880.

On the 11th day of November, 1844, there was a delegation sent here by the Tuscarora, from Grand River, then Canada West, now Ontario, to connect themselves with our temperance society, which was granted them, and the following delegates were admitted, viz: William Green, a Sachem; David Hill, Jacob Hill, Rev. Nicholas Smith and Thomas Thomas.

This society was afterwards invited to hold a temperance meeting on the Tuscarora Reservation at Grand River, Ontario, with the view of organizing a temperance society in conjunction to ours. The meeting was held according to the time designated. The meetings were opened and conducted with much interest, but dissolved without the formation of a society. There was a disagreement concerning the constitution of the society, respecting the subjects of discussion in the meetings of the society. The Canada Indians wished to have the three other subjects, from that of temperance, to be stricken out, but the Tuscarora of the States adhered to the forms of the constitution of their society, which includes Industry, Education and Moral Reform, as the subject of lecture of each meeting, which was adopted at nearly period.

In the autumn of 1862, the cornet band and a number of the members of the society made a visit to Grand River, Ontario, among their Indian brethren, and when they arrived there the Sons of Temperance had a social party, to which we were very cordially invited to participate of the sumptuous feast, which was already prepared, and were two days devoted to temperance meetings. The time was taken up by lectures on temperance and music by the two cornet bands, which played their music alternately, and added very much to the interest of the meetings. The speeches were interspersed with the rehearsals of the different traditions of the causes of the declension of the Indian nations, and regretting the slowness of the progress of their civilization, and attribute to temperance, to be the great cause of the retard of their advancement in industry and civilization.

They were invited several limits by these, our Canada red brothers, to their Sons of Temperance conventions at Grand River, of which they faithfully attended, and they were also invited at one of their conventions held at Monseetown, near London, Ontario, on the reservation of the Oneidas: our cornet band and quite a number of the members of our society complied to the invitation. The meetings were very interesting. There were many speeches made on the subject of temperance, and on various topics for the advancement of the respective Indian nations. A speech was also made by the author of this book, which began as follows, to-wit:

“My dear friends and relatives. I have been interested in the great and good cause of temperance for a number of years, and have attended many meetings and assemblies in the temperance cause, but this, our present gathering, is to me, unusually interesting; it brings my mind back for more than a century, when the Tuscarora were broken down, as a nation, by the pale faces, and expelled from their long-cherished homes, and driven from the graves of our noble ancestors, into the wild and cold-hearted world: and when they were without a friend and without a home, and no one to pity them, in this, their time of trouble. You, the Oneidas, gave us the hand of friendship and brotherly love, and gave us peaceful homes within your wide extended domain, and whispered in our ears the words of consolation; when, and how shall we ever forget or repay you for the unbounded kindness that your fathers exercised towards ours? We have ever given you a place nearest our hearts, with all its affections, here we give you our hands and our hearts in the great and good cause of temperance, and we wish you prosperity in every sense of the word both temporally and morally.”

This convention was denominated the Six Nations Sons of Temperance Convention, although we, from the States were not members of that order. It seems that they deemed it not derogatory to their dignity that we should be present at their conventions, although ours is a common, open and free, temperance society.

We, also, invited them to hold their convention on our reservation, which was acceded to and held in the fall of 1865, and there were delegates of several Oneidas, from Monseetown, Ontario, and of the Tuscaroras, from Grand River, Ontario, and also a cornet band of the Onondagas, from Onondaga Castle, N. Y., which favored us with the sweet strains of their music, alternately, with our cornet band.

Every morning the assembly would meet at the school-house, Mt. Hope, at 10 o’clock, A. M., and there form in procession and march to the council-house, about one mile, to the place of meeting: the two cornet bands played their music while the procession was moving, and our temperance banners were floating in the air, as if to say, rally round the temperance banner.

Our temperance banner was made in the year 1844, by our people, assisted by, then, our Missionary, Rev. G. Rockwood. It is illustrated by several animals illustrative of the several clans that are in the nation; and also, six stars that are grouped in the upper corner of the banner, next to the pole, indicative, as in the animals, of the several clans, that they, aught, also, group together and combine as in one, to work against the great monster, intemperance, which is also illustrated by a seven- headed serpent. As this monster is formidable, so aught we abstain from all intoxicating liquors. There is also, a great eagle soaring in the air, in the act of grasping the great seven-headed serpent. This illustrates that in our endeavors in the capacity of a society, to defeat the great monster intemperance we have a helper, which is the Legislature of the State of New York and the United States, in enacting laws to the effect of staying the great tide of intemperance among the Indians, in which we should take courage.

There was another convention held here in 1873, when there was quite a large delegation of the Oneidas, from Monseetown, Ontario, and also from Grand River, Ontario, among them was the Tuscarora cornet band of Grand River. The meetings were occupied by lectures on temperance and on other topics, which were thought to be the most needed for the advancement of the social and moral conditions of our red brethren.

The Grand River cornet band, and ours, played, alternately, their angelic melodies, to cheer us in the great temperance cause. It was then the convention of the Sons of Temperance urged upon us to adopt their Order, but our people thought it not advisable to change the order of our society, as it has existed since the year 1830; the form may be different, but the object is the same. We said we preferred to adhere to the old form of our society, open to all, and free to partake of the benefits of it, we prayed them God’s speed in their turning the great wheel of temperance, and we should lay hold on the same wheel and turn the same way. That same night the convention closed. There was a great bonfire made in the street; and then there was a general farewell, hand- shaking, and it closed with music from the bands in the dead of the night.

The next convention was held at Grand River, Ontario, in October, 1874, in the Six Nation council-house. There was quite a large representation of the Six Nations. Speeches were made on the subject of temperance by all the different nations, to-wit:

Mr. Josiah Hill, Sachem, of Grand River, Tuscarora. Mr. David Hill, Sachem, of Grand River, Seneca. Mr. Levi Jonathan, Sachem, of Grand River, Onondaga. Mr. Clinch, Sachem, of Grand River, Mohawk. Mr. James Jemison, of Grand River, Cayuga. Mr. Eligah, of Monseetown, Oneida. Mr. William Patterson, Sachem, of Lewiston, Tuscarora. Dea. Samuel Jacobs, of Lewiston, Tuscarora. Mr. William Chew, of Lewiston, Tuscarora. Mr. Elias Johnson, of Lewiston, Tuscarora.

The winter after the meetings above, a communication was received by the Secretary of our society, Dea. Samuel Jacobs, from the Tuscaroras of Grand River, Ontario, wishing him to forward to them a copy of the constitution of our temperance society, and stating that they wish to form a society based upon the same, which was deferred by Dea. Jacobs until the June following, when Dea. Jacobs, Wm. Patterson, Rev. Thomas Green and Wm. Chew went to Grand River with the constitution. After it was read in their meeting, the Canadian brothers adopted it and formed a society based on the same. It was then proposed and adopted that a convention should be held in the Six Nations council-house, at Grand River, Ontario, in October, 1875. Accordingly the convention duly met and continued three days. Our cornet band was present, with quite a number of the members of our society. The meetings were very pleasant and interesting. The officers were as follows, to-wit:

President Wm. Chew, of Lewiston Vice-President John Hill, of Grand River; Secretary Josiah Hill, of Grand River

Before the convention closed it was decided that the next convention should be at the Tuscorora Reservation, Lewiston, N. Y., on the 17th day of October, 1876, and the officers appointed were as follows, to-wit:

President Josiah Hill, of Grand River. Vice-President Dea. Samuel Jacobs, of Lewiston, N. Y. Secretary Elias Johnson, of Lewiston, N. Y.

Just before the appointed time for the convention to meet, there was a communication received by Mr. John Mt. Pleasant, our head chief, from A. Sim Logan, of Cattaraugas Reservation, N. Y., being leader of the Seneca national cornet band, asking the privilege of attending the contemplated convention with his band. The letter was read at one of the temperance meetings and was not only acceded to, but they were cordially invited to attend, and on the 17th day of October, 1876, the day appointed for the convention, they were on hand. A. Sims Logan, with his national cornet band, of Cattaraugus, and Levi Jonathan, with his Tuscasora cornet band, of Grand River, and Solomon Cusick, with his temperance cornet band, of Lewiston, N. Y, were present, which comprise the three leading bands of music of any nations of Indians.

The programme was substantially as follows:

The meeting was called to order by the president, Josiah Hill, of Grand River.

A hymn was sung by the assembly, in the Indian language, words, “Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing my Redeemer’s praise;” tune, Dundee.

Prayer by Dea. Samuel Jacobs, of Lewiston, N. Y.

The following were chosen as committees of arrangements to-wit:

Mr. Wm. Chew, of Lewiston, N. Y. Mr. Win. Printup, of Lewiston, N.Y. Mr. Joseph Henry, of Grand River, Ont. Mr. George Beaver, of Grand River, Ont. Mr. Wm. Nephew, of Cattaraugus, N. Y. Mr. Wm. Printup made the congratulatory speech of the meeting through an interpreter, Joseph Henry.

The speakers of the first session were as follows, to-wit:

Mr. Levi Jonathan, of Grand River, Ont., on Temperance. Dea. Samuel Jacobs, of Lewiston, N.Y., on Moral Reform. Mr. Joseph Henry, of Grand River, Ont., on Industry. Mr. A. Sim Logan, of Cattaraugus, N. Y., on Education

The Tuscarora cornet band favored this session with music between the speeches.

Adjourned at 2 o’clock P. M. and convened again at 5 o’clock P.M.

The assembly was called to order by the president.

The following were the speakers, to-wit.

Mr. Simon Carrier, of Grand River, Ont. Mr. Josiah Hill, of Grand River, Ont. Mr. William Anderson, of Grand River, Ont. Mr. Wm. Chew, of Lewiston, N. Y. Mr. John Mt. Pleasant, of Lewiston, N. Y. Mr. Elias Johnson, of Lewiston, N. Y. Mr. Wm. Nephew, of Cattaraugus, N. Y.

Music was favored the second session by the Seneca national band, of Cattaraugus. N. Y.

Adjourned at 8:30 o’clock P. M. to 10 o’clock A. M. tomorrow, after singing the tune Greenville, words, “Savior, Visit Thy Plantation.”

Benediction by Rev Thomas Green.

Oct. 18. The assembly was called to order by the Vice-President. Dea. Samuel Jacobs, of Lewiston, at 10 o’clock A.M. Opened by singing an Indian hymn Prayer by Rev. Thomas Green, of Lewiston, N. Y.

The following were the speakers, to-wit:

Mr. Thomas Williams, of Grand River. Mr. George Beaver, of Grand River. Mr. John C. Lay, of Cattaraugus.

Adjourned at 1:30 o’clock P. M. to 4 P. M.

The assembly was called to order at 4 o’clock P. M. by the President.

The following were the speakers, to-wit:

Mr. John John, of Grand River. Mr. Levi Jonathan, of Grand River. Dr. Bombry, of Grand River. President Josiah Hill, of Grand River. Mr. Albert Cusick, of Onondaga Castle. Mr. Abram Hill, of Onondaga Castle. Rev. Thomas Green, of Lewiston, N. Y. Mr. John Mt. Pleasant, of Lewiston, N. Y. Mr. William Patterson, of Lewiston, N. Y. Mr. Marvin Crows, of Cattaraugus, N. Y.

This forenoon we were favored with music by our temperance cornet band between the speeches.

In the afternoon session we were favored with music by C. C. Lay’s orchestra band, of Cattaraugus, N. Y.

President Hill in the chair, business was resumed.Mr. John C. Lay moved that the next convention be held on the

Cattaraugus Reservation, N. Y. This was followed by a motion of Levi Jonathan, that the next convention be held at Grand River, Ontario, who claimed that they had adopted the constitution, while the Senecas had not. After some discussion, A. Sim Logan said, “If you will give us a copy of your constitution, we will accept of it and form a society based on the same.”

It was then put to vote and carried that the next convention should be held at Cattaraugus, N. Y., on the 25th day of September, 1877.

The following officers were appointed, viz:

Mr. Elias Johnson. Tuscarora, of Lewiston, N. Y., President. Mr. Josiah Hill, Tuscarora, of Grand River, Vice-President. Dr. Bombry, Cayuga, of Grand River, Secretary.

On the evening of October 25th, as aforesaid, the convention duly met, and was called to order by the President, E. Johnson; opened by singing and prayer. Business was then resumed. The Secretary not being present, Prof. Chancy C. Jemison, of Cattaraugus, was appointed to fill the vacancy.

The committee of arrangements was as follows, viz:

Mr. John Canada, Seneca, of Cattaraugus. Mr. A. Sim Logan, Seneca, of Cattaraugus. Mr. Job King, Seneca, of Cattaraugus. Mr. Levi Jonathan, Onondaga, of Grand River. Mr. James Jemison, Cayuga, of Grand River. Mr. Josiah Hill, Tuscarora, of Grand River. Mr. John Mt. Pleasant, Tuscarora, of Lewiston. Mr. Wm. Chew, Tuscarora, of Lewiston. Mr. Daniel La Fort, Onondaga, of Syracuse, N. Y. Mr. Abram Hill, Oneida, of Syracuse, N. Y.

The convention continued three days. Many speeches were made by the leading men of the several nations that were represented. The meetings were unusually interesting. Every speaker seemed to be moved to the utmost of their enthusiasm. The congregations were large, and every face seemed to glow with the interest that was awakened in the great cause of temperance. The order and decorum that prevailed throughout all the meetings was becoming to any Community.

There were also four cornet bands which favored the assemblies with music, in their proper times, which added very much to the interest of the convocation. The bands were as follows, to-wit:

Mr. A. Sim Logan’s national cornet band, of Cattaraugus, N. Y. Mr. Chester C. Lay’s silver cornet band, of the same place. Mr. Levi Jonathan’s Tuscarora cornet band, of Grand River, Ontario. Mr. Enos Johnson’s temperance cornet band, of Tuscarora, N. Y.

On the morning of the last day of the convention before the services began, the four cornet bands consolidated in one, which made over fifty members, and played several tunes together outside of the Presbyterian church, in which the convention was held, and made a rousing band of music.

The first article of the constitution, which reads thus: “This society shall be denominated the Temperance Society,” was amended so as to read thus: “This society shall be denominated the Six Nations Temperance Society of the United States and Canada.”

The assembly was then called to sign the temperance pledge of this society. There were upwards of two hundred that signed, most of whom resided on the reservation in which the convention was held; but there were some from the Tonawanda, Alleghany and Onondaga reservations, and also one Oneida, from Green Bay, Wis.

The Onondaga and Tonawanda made application for a copy of the constitution to be sent to them, that they might form temperance societies on their respective reservations, which was granted them, and Mr. Josiah Hill was appointed to write the copy and send the same to them.

The convention adjourned on the evening of the third day to meet again the next year at Grand River, Ontario.


Mr. John Canada, Seneca, of Cattarauguh, President.
Mr. Wm. Patterson, Tuscarora, of Lewiston, N. Y., Vice-President.
Mr. Josiah Hill, Tuscarora, of Grand River, Secretary.
Mr. John Mt. Pleasant, Tuscarora, of Lewiston, N. Y., Treasurer.

It will be seen by the above that the Tuscaroras have not been altogether idle on the subject of temperance. The temptations of intemperance surrounding our reservation are great. We hope that the legislature will aid us in enacting more rigid laws, for the temptation is working even in cider, which seems to be more intoxicating now than in former times.

Johnson, Elias. Legends, Traditions, and Laws of the Iroquois, or Six Nations and History of the Tuscarora Indians. Lockport, New York: Union Printing and Publishing Co. 1881.

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