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Article researched and written by Laura Habecker.

Houghton, a small hamlet of Caneadea, sits across the river from where the western door of the great Iroquois nation once was, is also where Copperhead lived his last days. He was a kind old Indian man who lived in a cabin on the hill just above the “Bedford House” and just behind one of the Houghton family houses on Old River Road in the Houghton hamlet. In the deed for the Houghton Family house, which still stands to this day, there is a note to leave the back door open for Copperhead to come in on cold winter nights and sleep by the stove. 

In a scrapbook of Florence Kelly, a student of Houghton College from 1914-1917, who attended the memorial “exercise” when the monument for Copperhead was placed on June 1915, she mentions the reminiscences of “the Old Timers”. How he liked to fish and hunt. How he liked to spend time with the schoolchildren who would share their food with him and he would share stories with them.

 Seneca territory

The Northern Allegany Observer (July 3, 1914) reporting a year earlier when Copperhead was reinterned (June 10,1914) reprinted an article from The Spectator (Spring 1910), where one of those old timers, John Parker said, “He stayed in a little hut on the hill just above Sylvester Bedford’s home and lived on the charity of the people. He was a harmless man and would sometimes receive portions of dinner from the school children’s dinner pails, and sometimes a mess of fish from Charley Tarey and others who knew his appetite for such things.”

But these stories have been forgotten. These stories were buried long ago, in Kelly’s scrapbook at the Houghton College Archives, in articles from the Houghton Star (accessible on line), articles from the Northern Allegany Observer, a newspaper now out of print (viewable at The Hume Museum) and in Helen C. Phelan’s book “Allegany’s Uncommon Folk”(published in 1978). In all of the above mentioned sources the people telling the stories are eye witnesses. John Minard was the county historian. John Parker, Milo Thayer, Charley Tarey were old timers who interacted with Copperhead. 

Phelan’s book says, “According to [John] Minard, Copperhead was not Shongo. The correct record needs to be known.” In the Northern Allegany Observer on February 5, 1892, in an article reporting on the death of Lucy Herrick, one of “the last survivor[s] of the pioneers of Caneadea” it says “The peaceful Senecas were many of them callers at the residence of the Herricks, and Copperhead, Shongo, Jim Hudson, Ohitquant and others…were familiar neighbors…” (pages 14-15). Our two men in question are listed as two different frequent visitors to the Herrick home.

Over the years, Chief Shongo and Copperhead’s stories have become entwined. It is easy to do, Ga-ne-shon-go, they say, means Copperhead. But those who lived in their time, those eyewitnesses of Hume and Caneadea, say they were two different people. As Minard said, “The correct record needs to be known.”

 
     Northern Allegany Observer, July 22 1932

 

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 A Page from Florence Kelly's Scrapbook

Florence Kelly was a student to Houghton from 1914 to 1917. Her scrapbook is an amazing treasure trove of information about Houghton during those years, including the local war effort for WW1. The page below includes information from 2 different events, a year apart. Once to bury Copperhead's bones, the other to place the boulder monument. (Return to top of article.)

Florence Kelly Scrapbook page discussing Copperhead

Copperhead monument - from Florence Kelly scrapbook

Closeup of Copperhead monument plaque

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Excerpt from Helen Phelan's Allegany's Uncommon Folk 

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Helen C Phelan Allegany's Uncommon Folk, excerpt.

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Copperhead Reinterred on Campus of Houghton Seminary, from Northern Allegany Observer, July 3, 1914

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 Article from Northern Allegany Observer, February 5, 1892

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 Northern Allegany Observer article, Feb. 5, 1892

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