Ancient Work On Buffalo Creek

Ancient Battlefield on Buffalo Creek

Ancient Work On Buffalo Creek
Ancient Work On Buffalo Creek

Site of an ancient battlefield, with vestiges of an entrenchment and fortification on the banks of the Deoseowa, or Buffalo creek.

The following sketch conveys an idea of the relative position of the several objects alluded to. Taken together they constitute the distinguishing feature in the archaeology of the existing Indian cemetery, mission station, and council-house on the Seneca reservation, five or six miles south of the city of Buffalo. As such, the site is one of much interest, and well worthy of further observation and study. The time and means devoted to it, in the preparation of this outline, were less than would be desirable, yet they were made use of, under favorable circumstances, as the current periodical business and deliberations of the tribe brought together a large part of them, including the chief persons of education and intelligence, as well as many aged persons who are regarded as the depositories of their traditions and lore.

Tradition, in which all concur, points out this spot as the scene of the last and decisive battle fought between the Senecas and their fierce and inveterate enemies the Kah-Kwahs, a people who are generally but erroneously supposed to be the same as the Eries. 1 It is not proposed in this place, to consider the evidences on this point, or to denote the origin and events of this war. It is mainly alluded to as a historical incident connected with the site. It is a site around which the Senecas have clung, as if it marked an era in their national history; although the work itself was clearly erected by their enemies. It has been the seat of their government or council fire, from an early period of our acquaintance with them. It was here that Red Jacket uttered some of his most eloquent harangues against the steady encroachments of the white race, and in favor of retaining this cherished portion of their lands, and transmitting them with full title to their descendants. It was here that the noted captive, Dehewamis, better known as Mary Jemison, came to live after a long life of most extraordinary vicissitudes. And it is here that the bones of the distinguished Orator, and the no less distinguished Captive, rest side by side, with a multitude of warriors, chiefs and sages. Nor can we, on natural principles of association, call in question the truthfulness or force of the strenuous objections, which, for so many years, the whole tribe has opposed to the general policy of its sale. But these events are now history; the tribe has come into arrangements to remove to reservations owned by their brethren, in more westerly parts of the State, and there will soon be no one left whose heart vibrates with the blood of a Seneca, to watch the venerated resting places of their dead.

It was suitable, before the plough was put into these precincts, and the last trench and mound of the tribe were obliterated, that some memorial of the locality should be preserved, and I can only regret that the labor itself has not been better or more successfully accomplished.

A. denotes the site of the mission house; B, of the council house; D, of the battlefield, or that portion of it where the result was consummated; F, the grave yard. At C, there are still the remains of a mound, which tradition asserts was raised over the incinerated bodies of victor and vanquished slain in battle. These bodies were piled together, interspersed with the carcasses of deer and other game, which had been hunted with the special view, that it might be offered as a sacrifice with the bodies, or to appease their spirits in the land of the dead. In making partial excavations into this mound, which has been frequently plowed over in modern times, I procured several partially charred or blackened bones, supposed to represent parts of the human and brute species; a proof, it would seem, of the truth of this curious part of the tradition. 2 Mixed in the funeral pile, there were set vessels of pottery, with drinks offered as libations to the dead. And it is certain, also, that pieces of reddish coarse pottery were obtained at the same time, in making these partial examinations.

The dotted lines are designed to show the probable figure and ex tent of the work, from the accounts of the Indians. That it was a circular work, appears to be denoted by the only parts of the wall yet remaining, which are drawn in black. The site itself was elevated moderately above the plain. There is no reason to suppose that this elevation of the surface was artificial. The relative position of the creek is denoted by G. H marks the position of a stone, which is connected with the history of their domestic arts, before the disco very of the country. It was not practicable to obtain accurate ad measurements of distances; the design being merely to present a pencil sketch.Citations:

  1. This is a French pronunciation of a Wyandot or Huron term. Vide Hennepin, Amsterdam, ed. 1698.[]
  2. The Indian name of Buffalo Creek, which gives name to the city, has been variously written. In the treaty of 1784, at Fort Stanwix, it is called “Tehoseroron,” which is the Mohawk term, the final n being probably designed to convey a nasal sound. The word, as pronounced to me by the late Mrs. Carr of Wellington square, Canada, who was a daughter of the celebrated Brandt, I have written Tehoseroro, meaning Place of the Linden tree. The letters d and t are interchangeable between the Mohawks and Senecas. The latter, who at the same time do not use the letter r, and have some peculiarities in the use of the vowels, pronounce it in a manner which I thought should be written Deoseowa, as above. Mr. Wright, in his “Mental Elevator” and “Seneca Spelling Book, makes it a word of four syllables, and uses the sound of y as heard in “yonder,” for the vowel e in his second syllable. Every practised ear is acute to satisfy its own requisitions of sound, which is not easy in unwritten languages; and there is besides a marked difference in the pronunciation of Indians from different localities, or uttered under different circumstances. Mr. Ellicott, on his original plat of Buffalo, writes it Tushuway.” Others have spelt it still differently. The meaning of the word has excited but little difference of opinion. It denotes a locality of the linden or basswood tree, a species found upon the rich bottom lands of this stream, whose bark was highly valuable to these tribes for covering their lodges, and for the tough and fibrous inner coat, which at an early time served them to make both twine and ropes.

    Whence then, it may be asked, is the origin of the word Buffalo, since it is not found in the Indian term? Tradition denotes that the range of this animal once extended to the banks of the great lakes. There was a current opinion among the early travelers along the shores of Lake Erie, that the bison had been seen and killed on this creek. Whether the impression arose from, or was traceable, in part or wholly, to a deception of certain hunters in bringing in “other flesh,” under the denomination of Buffalo meat, as has been said, it would be difficult to determine. From whatever cause, it is certain that the stream acquired the popular name it now bears at an early day, whilst the aboriginal name was neglected.[]


Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. Notes on the Iroquois: Or, Contributions to American History, Antiquities, and General Ethnology. E. H. Pease & Company. 1847.

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