(Shared Research submitted by William Greene, Andover)


                The following letter and new paper article were sent by Craig Braack , Allegany County Historian.  It pertains to The Lost Nation.  After the letter will be a news paper article written by the Olean Times Herald in June 4th 1976 .   

                The Buffalo Evening News published an article, written by Frank Balch, many years ago.  The headlines read, “Lost Indians of Allegany County Valley Mystify Both Ethnologist and Historians.”  Although interesting, it sheds no light on our local mystery, but it does explain why a section of our town ( Centerville ) is called the “Lost Nation”.  So I will quote some parts of it.  

                North Valley in Allegany County , 60 miles from Buffalo , today is a territory known chiefly to hunters: once it was populated by a industrious Indian nation that vanished, leaving so little trace it is know only as the lost Indian nation.  

                Long before the extensive explorations of the whites, the deadliest Indian civil war of all time took root along the St. Lawrence.  It was the bloody crusade of the might Five-nation Iroquois Confederacy of             Mohawks, Senecas, Onondagas, and Cayugas—later the Six Nations with the Tuscaroras added.  

                Hereditary enemies of the Iroquois were the Algonquins, masters north of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence.  

                All this bears on the disappearance of the little nation peacefully fashioning it existence in the then lush valley of what is now Northern Allegany County .  Perhaps it disappeared in the Iroquois century-long surge of power in which several tribes were slaughtered and villages razed.  

                The battle grounds ranged from the Hudson to Lake Huron , from Lakes Erie and Ontario southward beyond the Great Smokies.  

                The Lost Nation of Allegany County undoubtedly scattered before the onslaught of the Iroquois, and vanished through death, and assimilation by other tribes.  

                First white settlers in the Allegany Valley prospered until the post-1812 war business decline, when crops rotted on the ground, unemployed factory hands invaded the farm “for their keep” and ruined them by ignorance and indolence.  

                Even today, old wells, fallen chimneys, disintegrating walls are visible.  In recent years, however,  Civilian Conservation Corps reforestation and modern agriculture methods promise a comeback for the desolate, abandoned farming area.  

                “I do not know anyone, lacking authentic data, can venture any opinion on the identity and fate of the Indians of Allegany County Valley,” said the Rev. David Owl, resident pastor of the Baptist and Presbyterian congregations on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation.  

                “Intrigued by the Buffalo Evening News” attempt to unearth clues to the little nation’s identity, I have spent much time on it.  Mrs. Warner, the Thomas Indian School librarian, and I have searched diligently through voluminous literature, and found no trace, no suggestions, nothing to throw even the faintest light on this profound mystery.  However, we’re continuing the search.  Maybe we’ll find the hidden clue.  




Times Herald Outdoor Edition  Friday, June 4, 1976

Times Herald - Olean,NY

                CENTERVILLE - Lost Nation - the long-ago home of a vanished Indian tribe, or just barren farmland, abandoned?  For generations, mystery has shrouded history of the 1500 acre tract in the northwestern corner of Allegany County ’s Town of Centerville .  

                Now, the only structures there are two huge stone fireplaces that stand sentinel over the evergreen hideaway.  Theories of its origin remain divided, and no one says with certainty how the “Nation” came to be.  The hilly, wooded area’s oval shape is bordered by neighboring counties of Cattaraugus on the west, Wyoming on the north.  Legend says an Indian tribe once inhabited the area but disappeared - either victimized by warfare or assimilated by other tribes. 

lostnation                More practical perhaps - but not as romantic - is the theory that during the past -1812 /war business decline, unemployed factory hands resorted to farm work “for their keep” and agricultural though mismanagement.  

                In 1935, during Depression years; the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), established one of its many “camps” at the Nation.  The program furnished government subsidized public work jobs for the unemployed - in this case, young men from metropolitan areas including Buffalo , Rochester and New York City .  Labor consisted of reforesting former farm acreage which had been purchased by New York State at a average cost of $4 an acre.  Crews planted tiny evergreen trees that have grown to time stance, and many have been harvested by private and commercial buyers.  

                The oversize fireplaces remaining were once inside CCC buildings since torn down or moved.  One was in a recreation hall; the other heated dining quarters.  The camp complex included six barracks for workers: quarters for directors, all Army officers: an infirmary, garage and repair shop.  

                In recent years, Lost Nation has been included in the State Forest Land System under direction of the Department of Environmental Conservation.  It is open to hunters, hikers, campers and picnickers, free of charge.  Water is piped from continuously flowing springs; a brook cuts through a valley at the site.  

                Access to Lost Nation is by a graveled, graded road constructed under Conservation Dept. direction.  David Zlomek, Allegany County DEC Region 9 senior forester, said future plans are to supply additional side roads leading to more remote portions of the preserve.  In addition to serving recreation purposes, such highways would make more timber areas accessible. “The woods need to be thinned,” explained Mr. Zlomek.  “But many potential buyers of small amounts such as fireplace wood supplies don’t have equipment necessary to do the job without good trails.”  

                “The Conservation Dept. is also interested in encouraging small private sawmill operators to utilize trees that would otherwise go to waste,” added Mr. Zlomek.  “This would serve the two-fold purpose of good conservation practice and stimulating the area economy.  

                Centerville ’s  old timers don’t remember when there wasn’t a Lost Nation.  Neither do they know when or why it gained that name.  It’s not disputed that this was Indian country, the neighboring Genesee River Valley to the east holds the lore of Seneca generations. There is neither proof nor disproof that an ill-fated Indian clan presided here.  But the Nation’s shaded paths provide a pleasant place to contemplate that question.