Tuscarora Immigration

In the year 1846, on the 16th day of May, about forty of the Tuscarora immigrated from the reservation to their new homes in the Indian Territory, and in one year about one-third of them died on account of the sufferings they endured. They were destitute of everything, and the Government was to have sustained them for one year, and to build houses for them, and provide all the necessaries of life, but they failed in fulfilling their promises on account of the misconduct of Dr. A. Hogeboom, the moving agent of the emigration party.

By reference to official documents in the Indian department it appears that a petition from a small party of discontented emigrationists at the Tuscarora village, dated March 4th, 1845, was sent to the President of the United States, expressing a desire to remove to the West. It also further appears that a letter had been received by the department from a certain D. G. Garnsey, dated May 8th, 1845, stating that a portion of the Seneca, and others of the Six Nations in western New York, were now ready to remove. The Government, justly fearing that there might be persons so anxious to possess themselves of the moneys appropriated by law for the removal and support of emigrating Indians, as to resort to fraudulent means for the purpose, by letters warned the Indian agent at Buffalo to be on his guard against such imposition. Afterwards, several petitioners from small fragments of the Seneca and other tribes, were prevailed on to sign memorials to the President, asking to be removed, and begging appropriations for that purpose. To those well acquainted with these movements, there was sufficient evidence that persons interested in their removal were at the bottom of all this business.

Of the Six Nations, once the owners and lords of the soil within the boundaries of the great Commonwealth of New York, there were many small remnants scattered over the western part of this State in a condition of wretched vagrancy; reduced by idleness and intemperance to poverty, and ready, for a trifling compensation, to have their names attached to any memorial, without regard to its objects, for a small sum of money they would lend themselves to the service of any artful intriguer whose designs were to defraud the Government.

By an act of Congress passed on the 3rd day of April, 1843, the sum of twenty thousand four hundred and seventy-seven dollars and fifty cents was appropriated for the removal of two hundred and fifty Indians to the countries west and south of the Missouri river.

This appropriation was granted in consequence of repeated assurances made to the Indian department that this number were anxious to emigrate. The glittering prize thus hung up in the face of the noon-day sun was so bright and alluring that a goodly number of hungry candidates were soon seen entering the lists and struggling for the prize. But, alas! for the conditions; unless two hundred and fifty Indians could be procured to enroll themselves on the emigration engagement, and actually embark for the West, the stakes could not be legally won. Here was the great difficulty. And yet one would suppose that out of four thousand eight hundred and eighty-five Indians, belonging to the following tribes, to wit: the Seneca, Onondaga, Cayuga, Tuscarora, Oneida, St. Regis, Stockbridge, Munsee and Brotherton, by taking up all the poor, degraded individuals, and gathering together all the sincere emigrationists, such a small proportion of the whole might easily be procured; especially if these candidates for an agency had told the truth when they asserted that large bodies of the Indians were anxious to remove . By these movements the Government had been induced to believe that there really was an emigration party sufficiently large to meet the objects of the late appropriation, and to warrant the appointment of an emigration agent. Under this impression, the Secretary of War, by a letter dated Sept. 12, 1845, addressed to Dr. Abraham Hogeboom, appointed him to that office, instructing him, however, that no movement was to be made unless the full complement of emigrants should desire, in good faith, to remove to the West, and Hogeboom was also explicitly informed that “the Government would not undertake the emigration of these Indians unless two hundred and fifty of them, then residing in the State of New York, exclusive of the Canada Indians, should muster themselves and actually go with the agent.”

As if to leave no door open for misunderstanding, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs at Washington addressed a letter to Hogeboom, dated Oct. 2nd, 1845, in which it was expressly declared that “two hundred and fifty Indians is the smallest number that will be emigrated.”

On the 27th of that month, Hogeboom wrote to the department giving it information that two hundred and nine Indians had enrolled themselves, and some of their chiefs had assured him that at Buffalo, Cattaraugus and Alleghany there would be twenty more. Thus the utmost number that the Doctor could dare to hope for was two hundred and twenty-nine. If that letter was written in order to feel after the temper of the department, and to ascertain how far it was disposed to relax its determination to send no less away than two hundred and fifty, he was not long in suspense, for by a letter dated Nov. 4th the Secretary of War again reminded him that he, was “selected to act as emigrating agent only in the event that two hundred and fifty would go.” But on the 7th of that month Hogeboom again writes to him, dating his letter from Buffalo, saying he had ascertained that two hundred and sixty, Indians had enrolled themselves, and had fixed on the 20th of that month as the time for starting. This sudden and unexpected movement was not agreeable to the Secretary on account of the advanced state of the season; but, hoping they might get out before the lakes and rivers should be impassable on account of the ice, he immediately ordered provisions for their sustenance at their intended homes, to be procured and be in readiness at the time of their arrival.

Notwithstanding all these assurances on the part of Hogeboom, when the time for telling the truth came the whole scheme failed; a sufficient number of Indians could not be persuaded to go. The emigration was therefore indefinitely postponed.

It will be seen by the foregoing statement that on the 27th day of October Hogeboom wrote to the department that only two hundred and nine had enrolled themselves, and he then admitted that only twenty more could be hoped for in addition; of course there was no prospect of emigrating that season. Indeed the Doctor says in that letter, speaking of the Indians, “they do not think they will be able to obtain the number of two hundred and fifty to emigrate this fall.” Up to this time nothing had been done to induce the war department to advance any money to the agent. So, not only had the emigration scheme failed, but, so far as the Doctor had been moved by pecuniary motives, he had also failed. This was no doubt a trying circumstance, but the trial did not long continue, for only ten days after he had written to the war department that the Indians did not think they could emigrate this fall, he wrote again to the Secretary of War, under date of Nov. 7th, 1845, saying “I have ascertained that two hundred and sixty Indians have enrolled themselves for emigration, and have fixed the time for starting on the 20th inst.” The following is an extract from a letter from the department to Hogeboom, dated Nov. 14th, in answer to his of the 7th. It was no doubt a letter such as the Doctor much desired:



I have received your letter of the 7th inst., informing the department of the enrollment of two hundred and sixty New York Indians for emigration to their western homes, and proceed, now that there appears to be no doubt of the movement taking place , to give you some instructions, &c. A requisition for $10,000 has this day been issued in your favor, with which you will be charged and held accountable for, under the head of “removal, &c., of New York Indians,” per act March 3rd, 1843.

(Signed) W. Medill, Commissioner.


Thus the Doctor was put in possession of the sum of ten thousand Dollars, and we hear no more about the two hundred and sixty Indians, nor of any more trouble about Indian emigration during the remainder of the year.

The proceedings of Dr. Hogeboom; and other persons interested in removing the Seneca, necessarily produced great agitation, and a very unsettled state among those who had no idea of emigrating. The chiefs on the reservations of Alleghany and Cattaraugus, harassed and perplexed by this vexatious state of things, at length determined to address the President on the occasion. This application procured the appointment of the council which was held at Cattaraugus on June 2d, 1846.

In the spring of 1846 Dr. Hogeboom, hearing that the Government had called a council of the Seneca, for the express purpose of inquiring officially whether there was an emigration party among them, and, if there was one, what its number, made great exertions to push off his emigrants. Regardless of the positive instructions of the Government, and without its knowledge, he hastily collected as many of the Indians as he could bring under his influence, and with them embarked in a steamboat at Silver Creek, on Lake Eric, near Cattaraugus Reservation.

The circumstances and manner of the embarkation throws much light on the motives and conduct of this emigrating agent. The subject is graphically related in a speech of Israel Jemison, as made in a council of 1846, and addressed to the Commissioners of the United States, as follows, to wit:

“Brothers! The question relative to emigration being disposed of, I will explain the manner in which this removal of the Indians to the West has been effected. I believe it was irregularly conducted. Indeed, I may say, of this I am convinced. The agent who came to execute it was duly notified, that the Government had called the present council for the consideration and investigation of this matter. As soon as it was known that this had been determined on, great efforts were made to hurry off the emigrants and induce them to leave before the council would meet . I am satisfied that many were decoyed away by various contrivances and gross misrepresentations on the part of the emigrating agent and his emissaries. I myself remonstrated against these proceedings, and asked if it could be proper to inveigle and deceive the Indians in this manner. In reply I was desired to be silent, to which I rejoined that many of them whom they had decoyed on board were then drunk, and in a state of unconsciousness! This remonstrance’s availed nothing, and the whole were hurried away. If any showed an unwillingness to go they were told they might return if they chose, should they not like the place when they got there.”

The painful, and indeed the awful result of this inhuman conduct of Dr. Hogeboom will be seen by reference to the memorial of the Seneca chiefs to the President of the United States, invoking the aid of the Government to bring back the wretched surviving remnant of the poor duped people. It is as follows:


To His Excellency, James K. Polk, President of the United States :

The memorial of the undersigned chiefs and warriors of the Seneca Nation of Indians, residing in the State of New York, respectfully showeth, That a party of the Seneca Nation, consisting, as your memorialists have been informed, of sixty-two persons, together with a portion of the Cayuga, Onondaga and Oneida, residing with us, and a party of the Tuscarora, residing near Lewiston, in Niagara county, left the State of New York last spring to settle in the country west of Missouri. That your memorialists have been credibly informed by letters received from individuals among them, and by the statements of such as have returned, that great distress has, from their first arrival there, existed among them, and does exist without mitigation, in consequence of the insalubrities of the climate; that twenty persons of the sixty-two Seneca were already dead some six weeks since, and about the same proportion of our friends of the other tribes; that many others were sick; that three of the leading Seneca chiefs, one of the Onondaga, one of the Oneida, and a leading man of the Tuscarora, were dead; that the remnant of the people, with very few exceptions, were very anxious to return, but were destitute of the means of doing so; that many of them have sent earnest requests to us for assistance to enable them to do so; but that only a few families among us are able to furnish efficient relief to their suffering friends. In view of all these facts, we would respectfully request the Vice President to furnish the necessary assistance to bring back the remnant of the party to their former homes, and to arrange for the payment of the annuities belonging to them, so that in future they may receive them here. Although they went out from us against our earnest remonstrance and entreaty, and some of them mocking our expressions of concern for them as we stood around the boat when they were going on board, still we shall rejoice to have them home again amongst us, for they are our brethren and their sufferings grieve us to the heart. Thirteen of the Seneca have already returned, and three others, we have heard, are on the way. This makes the condition of those unable to return the more lonely and wretched. We hope the President will not say it was their own fault that they went there, for even if they were to be blamed for doing so, they had already suffered a fearful punishment. But we think that if the President were acquainted with the circumstances he would pity rather than blame them for going. Notice had been repeatedly given from the War Department that unless a company of two hundred and fifty emigrants could be organized, none would be removed. Such a company having failed to be organized in the fall of 1845, we were told that the Department had required the removing agent to refund the money he had received for the purpose of removing them. In the spring of the present year certain men were running from house to house among our people saying that the agent still held the money in his hands, and would remove all who wished to go, upon the opening of navigation. Directly after, notice was received from the Government that commissioners were appointed, and that a Council would be held on a specified day to ascertain if the requisite number wished to emigrate. When this became known it was immediately reported that the removing agent (Dr. Hogeboom) had already contracted for their passage that the steamboat would take them in at Cattarangus Creek on a certain day, and it was not necessary for them to wait for the action of the Government. The agent soon after appeared, accompanied by two individuals from Buffalo, who, as we were afterward credibly informed, instigated him to practice this fraud upon the Government, and endeavored, by representing the country west as a paradise, to induce a large company to go on board their boat. Some of our friends, who had not disposed of their effects, were told not to mind their stuff, for the country to which they were going was so rich, and they would prosper there so rapidly that they would never feel the loss of it, and one family were hurried away from their table, leaving everything upon it just as it was when they arose from their dinner. We have reason to believe that the whole company, except a few leaders, most of whom are now dead, were deluded by these flattering but fate representations of those white men, and inasmuch as the removing Agent appeared on the ground, with the money in his hand, these simple people were made to discredit the orders received from the department, relative to the council of the 2d of June. Justice would indeed seem to require that these white men should repair the injury they have done to us, and not to us alone, but also to the government.

But we have no power to compel them. Our only resource is to appeal to the government in behalf of our afflicted and desponding brethren, who are perishing under the accumulated pressure of disappointed expectations grief for the dead and the heavy hand of disease upon their own persons. We trust our appeal will not be disregarded. We think it is the dictate of humanity, and we confidently believe that the voice of the whole country would approve the course of the President if he would grant the needed relief. We would beg leave further to request the President to make known to us through our friend Philip E. Thomas, of Baltimore, who will present our memorial, the decision he may make in regard to it.

And your memorialists, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.

Cattaraugus Reservation, Dec. 16, 1846.


James X Shongo
Moses Stephenson
N. T. Strong
William X Jones
Robert X Gordon
Zachariah X L.
Daniel Two Guns
Samuel X Wilson
William X Johnson
John X Bolden
Benjamin Williams
George Lindsay
John Kennedy, Jr.
George Greenblanket
David X Snow
John Huson
Solomon W. Lane
Jim X Junius
Henry Two Guns
Little X John
John Talor
John X Luke
Governor X Blacksnake
Israel X Jimison
William X Patterson
John X Greenblanket
S. M. Patterson
Moses X Pierce
James X Stephenson
Abraham X John
Jabez X Stephenson
Peter X White
Charles Graybeard

In reply to this memorial, the following answer was received from the Indian Bureau at Washington:


War Department, Office of Indian Affairs, Feb. 23rd, 1847.


The application for the removal of the Seneca Indians back to New York who emigrated West from there last summer has been duly

considered. With every disposition to gratify the wishes of the Society of Friends, and of the New York Indians, so far as it could properly be done, I have to inform you that the Executive Department of the Government has neither the authority nor the means to justify a compliance with their desire. In this particular Congress only could authorize the measure and provide the requisite means for the expense it would invalue.

Respectfully your ob’t servant, W. Medill.


To Philip E. Thomas, Esq., Baltimore, Md.

When the chiefs were made acquainted with the result of this application, they addressed the following communication to the joint committee of Friends:


Cattaraugus Reservation, March 22nd, 1847.


Respected friend, Philip E. Thomas: Permit us to address you a few lines, and, through you, the committee of the four-yearly meetings of the Society of Friends, in reference to the condition of our suffering friends and brethren still remaining in the country west of the

Mississippi. We suppose the committee are already thoroughly acquainted with the means used to decoy those Indians off, in contravention of the instructions of the Government to the removing agent. They were flattered with prospects of almost unbounded prosperity. The country was described as a paradise; and they were told that there friends here, who might now refuse to accompany them, would soon be compelled to follow, and that it would be better to go now and get well started in their improvements, &c., as soon as possible. But, when they reached that country, instead of being a paradise, they found it rather a land of desolation, disease and death, and a large proportion of them are now lying beneath the turf. The survivors are discouraged and broken-hearted, in addition to the sufferings from the disease which has swept off their companions, and they are anxious to return. Application has been made to the Government in their behalf, without obtaining relief, and, from a recent letter from Dr. Wilson, we learn that a similar application to the Legislature of this State is likely to fail. We cannot make any appropriation from our national funds until the meeting of our national council, as a law has been passed which would forbid it, but if we delay till that meeting it will expose our friends to the horrors of the sickly season once more, and doubtless many more of them will perish in consequence. Under these circumstances we see no other resource but to look again to those kind-hearted friends who have done so much already to relieve us in our distresses. Our obligations are already very great, and we cherish deep feelings of gratitude for past favors. We would not willingly burden your kindness now were it not for the peculiarly difficult and perplexing condition of things just at the present time. But we feel that humanity towards our own people demands of us to make this application in their behalf, as well as of ourselves, for we will always cherish a lively remembrance of your kindness.

Wishing you the reward of the benevolent in the great day, we subscribe ourselves your obliged and sincere friends,

In presence of Asher Wright,

Henry Two Guns
William Krouse
George X Button
John X Greenblanket
Abraham X John
James Spring
Daniel Two Guns


Notwithstanding the fact that these Indians were carried away without the knowledge or sanction of the Government, and consequently without the requisite preparation for their comfort and subsistence in the western country, yet the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, as soon as he was apprised of the movements of Dr. Hogeboom, anxious to afford them all the relief in his power, promptly ordered arrangements for their reception at the place of their destination, as will be seen by the following documents in the War Department, to wit:


War Department, Office of Indian Affairs, June 10th, 1846.


Sir: Information has been recently received at this office that A. Hogeboom had started for St. Louis with a party of New York Indians, in number about two hundred. This act of starting with a less number than two hundred and fifty, in connection with the recent action of this office, looking to a suspension of the emigration for a time, was wholly unauthorized, and of course unexpected, but as the party are without the reach of the Department, measures must be taken to subsist them. I have therefore to request that you will give directions to the Osage sub-agent to invite proposals as contemplated in my instructions to you of the 14th November, 1845, to which you are referred.

Respectfully, &c.,

W. Medill.


To T. W. Harvey, Esq., Supt. Indian Affairs, St. Louis, Mo.

Notwithstanding this humane effort on the part of the Commissioner to make provision for the reception and accommodation of these emigrants, it appears that from the hardships and exposures to which they were subjected, and from the unwholesome nature of the climate one-third of them perished within six months after their arrival at their intended residence. When their distressed situation was made known to the Department, the Commissioner immediately addressed a letter to the Indian Agent at St. Louis, calling his attention to their case, from which the following is extracted:


War Department, Office Indian Affairs. October, 29, 1846.

Sir: I transmit herewith a copy of a letter just received from James Cusick, one of the party of the New York Indians removed west last summer by Dr. Hogeboom, from which it appears that there has been much sickness and mortality among those Indians, and that they are in a distressed situation. Mr. Cusick’s letter, supported by Capt. Burbanks, is calculated to excite much anxiety on account of these Indians. They were removed contrary to the instructions and expectations of the Department at the time, and their having gone west was not known until they were some distance on the route. There was, consequently, no opportunity for making the requisite preliminary arrangement for their comfort and welfare on their arrival west. After giving you the instructions of June 10th for their subsistence, such had to be left to the judgment and views of duty, under these circumstances, of yourself and the Osage Sub. Agent, under whose immediate supervision they came, in regard to what further required to be done for them. In my letter of the 30th ultimo your attention was especially called to their situation, and no doubt is entertained, that your answers to that communication will show you have done, or caused to be done, all that could be done, under the circumstances, for their relief. Should the amount now remitted not be sufficient to cover the expenses of what you have already done, or what it may be, in your judgment, further requisite to do for them in addition to their subsistence, for which there is a special appropriation, you will please report promptly accordingly, and the necessary funds will be furnished. Funds will also be remitted on account of their subsistence when this office is informed that they are needed.


W. Medill.

Thomas H. Harvey, Esq., St. Louis, Mo.

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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