The Cattaraugus Reservation, in Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, and Erie Counties, New York, as delineated on the map, occupies both sides of Cattaraugus creek. It is 9.5 miles long on a direct east and west line, averages 3 miles in width at the center, dropping at is eastern line an additional rectangle of 2 by 3 miles. A 6-mile strip on the north and 2 “mile blocks” at diagonal corners are occupied by white people, and litigation is pending as to their rights and responsibilities. The Seneca Nation claims that the permit or grant under which said lands were occupied and improved was never legally authorized or executed by the nation. A long and practically undisturbed possession leaves the main question, one of ground rent or quitclaim, upon terms just to all parties, the improvements to remain with the occupants of the soil without appraisement.
The reservation itself is a compromise substitute for larger tracts reserved for the Seneca Indians under the treaty at Big Tree, September 15, 1797. A strip 14 miles in length along the south shore of Lake Erie, extending to a point only S miles from Buffalo, with 2 others, embracing an area of about 50 square miles, and which included what are now the towns of Dunkirk, Fredonia, and Silver Creek, were exchanged by treaty concluded at Buffalo June 30, 1802, with the Holland Land Company for the present compact and fertile tract of 21,680 acres in the counties of Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, and Erie. The Ogden Land Company has the same pre-emption right to purchase these lands, if sold by the Seneca Nation, as that which rests as a heavy encumbrance upon the lands of the Allegany reservation in Cattaraugus County.
The bottomlands, rich, fertile, and well watered, are almost entirely upon the north and east border of Cattaraugus creek. The general shape of the reservation is that of an +. In this angle lies the little village of Versailles, containing a hotel, 3 stores, a gristmill, and a Methodist church, all in the town of Perrysburg, 5 miles distant from the village of that name, on the New York, Lake Erie and Western railroad. By a shrewd establishment of the reservation line a valuable waterpower was left within the angle outside of the reservation proper. Successive mills and factories have been built and burned, so that, aside from the business done at the stores, everything bears the type of a settlement whose best days have ended. From this village a road runs down each side of the creek to the thoroughly modern and flourishing town of Gowanda, which lies in 2 counties, divided by Cattaraugus creek. This, with its banks, mills, and excellent stores, is the nearest market for the farm products of the reservation.
A bench runs along the steep river bank from Versailles nearly to Irving, on the south shore of Lake Erie, backed by a higher slope or hill, which produces good crops of oats, wheat, or barley-when well eared for. About 3 miles westward, on the broken and. neglected river road toward Irving, is a creek known as Burning Spring, bedded and bordered by masses of closely laminated slate and shale, from the crevices of which coal gas escapes in sufficient quantity to boil water for picnic parties.
A second bench, backed by higher ground, marks the north side of the creek, but sufficiently retired to admit of fine meadows and wheat fields in the valley proper.
The real center of all divergence on the Cattaraugus reservation is at the four corners, where the national courthouse and Indian Methodist church are located. From this point the best road on the reservation runs westerly past the Thomas Orphan Asylum (sending off a branch northward, near the Presbyterian Church, through Brandt, 4 miles distant, on to Angola, 8 miles), passes the Baptist Church and schoolhouses Nos. 1, 2, and 3, and enters Irving along with the tracks of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern and Western New York and Pennsylvania railroads, which cross Cattaraugus creek at that point.
The road from Versailles, past the central four corners, with deep and at times almost impassable gulleys, was described to the legislative council at its December session to be “without question the worst mail route in the United States and a daily reproach to the Seneca Nation”. Pledges, freely made, to put it in order were realized to the extent of 1 load of brush and 2 loads of gravel. The mail wagon runs twice each week day from Versailles to Lawton station, on the Buffalo and southwestern branch of the New York, Lake Erie and Western railroad, passing schoolhouses Nos. 5 and 7 and the council house at Newton; and leaving the reservation three-quarters of a mile west of the station, at a distance of 4 miles front Versailles. From this council house a road runs northward to North Collins and southwest by a devious and uncertain track to Cherry Hollow.
On the east side of the creek, reached directly by the road to Gowanda, which runs east from the courthouse square, and high above the rich bottom lands; is spread out the “Four mile level”. Many wagon trails run through its dense bushes, second-growth pines, and young oaks. Thousands of great pine stumps show how the early chiefs of the Seneca Nation turned their choice timber into cash for nominal returns and testify to the unscrupulous robbery by the white people who maintained sawmills near the line as long as there was timber to be bought o or stolen. At present there is not enough timber on the reservation to fence it thoroughly, and to a large extent the wood used for fuel is taken from saplings, which ought to be left for maturer growth.
The reservation is amply supplied with water from small streams and springs.
Occupants of Cattaraugus Indian Reservation
We have carefully copied the names listed on the map in hopes it will provide a better record but also help you in your search for ancestors. This list has been done using section numbers plus telling you if it is an un-numbered section.
Unnumbered section in upper left corner
W. Mohawks: Heirs
No. 1 School
Moses V. Stevenson
Louis T. Jimerson
Adam H. Pierce
I. Jimerson Estate
Gerrit W. Smith
Old Council House
Mrs. M. Jones
School No. 7
S. Lay Jr.
L. S. York
E. J. Armstrong
Old Quaker School Site
School No. 3
Widow Hary Pierce
Old Council House
School No. 6
John Lay 2nd
Jos Lay 2nd
Across Cattaraugus Creek with no numbers
Isaac Jimmerson Estate
Thomas Orphan Asylum
Section (2) Unnumbered under section 45
Section (2) Unnumbered under section 46
Young M. Lay
Section (2) Unnumbered under section 47
Sections below Cattaraugus Creek from County line to section 70
School house No. 10
M. E. Church
Unnumbered Section next to 71
Old Council House
School No. 8
Genl. Wm. Scott
Section to left of 76-83
Old Mill Site
Schoolhouse No. 9