EARLY EXPLORATIONS, ETC.
ALTHOUGH the first white person whose foot pressed the soil of Allegany, whose name can be given with any degree of certainty, was the captive, Mary Jemison. the De-he-wa-mis of the Senecas, so generally referred to as the "White woman of the Genesee." As with her Indian captors she made her advent into the "Genesee country," about 1759. when the party halted for a day and a night at the upper Caneadea village (Gah-yah-o-de-o of the ancient Senecas), which was in the present town of Caneadea, on their way to Gardeau. it is nevertheless reasonably removed from the field of conject. ure that possibly La Salle. and perhaps some others of the early French Jesuits or their subalterns. had already a full half-century before passed over this route of travel, which afterward for a time served as the pathway from the St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico.
Remembering and ever keeping in mind this fact that in all the earlier explorations of our country, the natural water-ways were the medium through which the remote recesses of the vast forest solitudes were reached, and, glancing occasionally as you read at a map of Western New York, carefully scan what follows.
In his admirable address before the Livingston County Historical Society at Nunda in January, 1886. the late lamented Geo. H. Harris. Esq., of Rochester, asserted that "The great water route from the St. Lawrence to the south, sought by La Salle and other explorers, was by way of Lake Ontario, Irondequolt bay, and the Genesee river to Belvidere, the Oil and Ischua creeks to Olean, then down the Allegany, Ohio and Mississippi rivers to the Gulf of Mexico. There were variations in this route between the Genesee and Ohio rivers, the discovery of which caused a vast expense of time, money and human blood. During the French dominion in Canada their voyageurs were frequently upon the Genesee and its connecting trails. The first description of the river ever published was that of the good Father Charlevoix, who passed along the south shore of Lake Ontario, in 1721 Writing from Fort Niagara, he says 'There is a little river, which I would have visited if I had sooner been informed of its singularity, and of what I have now learnt on my arrival. They call it Casconchiagon. It is very narrow, and of but little depth at its entrance into the lake (Ontario). A little higher it is 140 yards wide, and they say it is deep enough for the largest vessels.' Two leagues (six miles) from its mouth, we are stopped by a fall which appears to be 60 feet high, and 140 yards wide. A musket shot higher, we find a second, of the same width, but not so high by two-thirds. Half-aleague farther, a third fall 100 feet high good measure, and 200 yards wide; after this, we meet several torrents, and having sailed 50 leagues farther, we perceive a fourth fall every way equal to the third. The course of the river is 100 leagues, and when we have gone up it about 60 leagues, we have but ten to go by land, taking to the right to arrive at the Ohio, called La Belle Riviere. The place where we meet with it is called Ganos, where an officer worthy of credit, and the same from whom I learnt what I have just now mentioned, assured me that he had seen a fountain, the water of which is. like oil and the taste like iron. He said that a little farther on, there is another fountain exactly like it, and the savages make use of its waters to appease all manner of pains."
The officer to whom Charlevoix alluded was Joncaire, a Frenchman, who had been adopted by the Indians, and lived for some years at Lewiston, on the Niagara river. He was on the best of terms with the Indians, had two half-breed sons, Clanzonne and Chabert. The elder Joncaire made a number of journeys up the Genesee river, to Belvidere, over the divide to Oil creek, and so on, down the Allegany and Ohio rivers. One or both of the Sons also made the same journeys. On these journeys they were sometimes provided by the French government with a number of lead plates, about eleven inches long, seven and one-half wide, and one-eighth of an inch in thickness, with inscriptions thereon, leaving blanks to be filed out with date and place of using them. They were to be buried at certain well defined places. like the confluence of important streams, or where some strongly marked geographical feature existed. It was one of a class of ceremonies, which was con sidered of importance in "taking possession" of the country in the name, and by the authority of the French sovereign. On one of these trips a plate, designed for such a purpose, was stolen from Joneaire while going through the Seneca country, and on the 29th of January, 1751, Gov. Clinton, into whose possession it is presumed to have fallen, sent a copy of the inscription to Gov. Hamilton of Pennsylvania.
The inscription as translated is:
"In the year 1749, of the reign of Louis the 15th, King of France, we Celoron, commander of a detachment sent by Monsieur the Marquis de-laGalissoniere, Governor General of New France, to re-establish tranquility in some Indian villages of these cantons, have buried this Plate of Lead, at the confluence of the Ohio and the Chautauqua, this 29th day of July, near the river Ohio, otherwise Belle Riviere, as a monument of the renewal of the possession we have taken of the said river Ohio, and of all those which empty into it, and of all the lands on both sides, as far as the sources of said rivers, as enjoyed or ought to have been enjoyed, by the Kings of France preceding, and as they have there maintained themselves, by arms and by treaties, especially those of Ryswick, Utrecht and Aix la Chapelle."
"This was the first reliable account of the Genesee given by the old writers, and errs only in the exaggerated distances. The fountains mentioned were a petroleum oil spring near Cuba, N. Y., and another in Venango county, Pa. The wonder expressed by Charlevoix, over 170 years ago, is still felt by all who have a personal knowledge of the Genesee river. From its source in Pennsylvania to its entrance into Lake Ontario, its course is through some of the most magnificent scenery, and is marked with wondrous changes wrought by the hand of nature."
The third fall mentioned in this description, is the one at Rochester, and the fourth at Portage, which should have been given as three. The exaggerated distances given are not to be wondered at, as the river was very tortuous, and its course lying for the most part through such an entirely primitive wilderness, the way must necessarily have seemed much longer than it really was, and it was really much longer to travel with boats then than it is at the present time.
It would of course be a satisfaction to know more of the officer of whom Charlevoix speaks and how he pursued his journey, and how many men accompanied him, their names, etc.; but as that is impossible, and from the fact of the Genesee river being the principal stream of the county, traversing its whole length from south to north, thus furnishing its most prominent and distinguishing geographical feature, the reader will, it is trusted, agree with the writer in considering the foregoing account, even though meagre, as appropriate in this connection. I will close this chapter by introducing an extract from an address which the writer delivered before the Allegany County Historical Society, January 8, 1890. This expedition of Charlevoix's lieutenants had been briefly alluded to. "I fancy that if our honored friend Major Richard Church, who is detained at home by illness this evening, would only provide himself with a sort of reversed horoscope of reasonably strong power, adjust its focus for about 1720, and train it so as to sweep for some distance the banks of the river along about opposite his beautiful homestead, he would be able to descry, through the intervening mists and shadows of the ages, the well defined outlines of the particular officer spoken of by Charlevoix, accompanied by a few privates and an Indian guide or two, as they pulled and poled their bateaux up the shallow waters, unloaded their store of tiinkets, camp utensils and accoutrements, and prepared for the portage to Oil creek! There is no reasonable doubt of it.
A Centennial Memorial History of Allegany County, New York
John S. Minard, Esq. Historian
Mrs. Georgia Drew Andrews, Editor.
W. A. Fergusson & Co., Alfred, N. Y. 1896