Tuesday, February 19, 2008


On the hill between Potter and the Guyanoga Valley little evidence remains of an ancient fort and cemetery that was found by early settlers. Today this site is located in a part of Yates county know as Friend. This hidden valley holds a secret history that spans the pioneers, the Seneca, and the earlier Algonquin people that lived here. The site of the "Old Fort" was located near an excellent spring situated along an ancient trail that linked villages from Naples, Vine Valley, and points West with the villages near Branchport, near the current site of Keuka college, Indian Pines, and East to Geneva. The fort was probably originally built by the Algonquin people that lived here before the Seneca. It may have been inhabited continuously or just during times of warfare. Local Seneca probably occupied the fort when Denonville's forces attacked the Seneca and later when Clinton's revolutionary forces burned the Seneca villages and crops during the Revolutionary war. This blog documents the information that I have found while researching this site.

A. I. Tyler

A. I. Tyler was a school teacher who taught on the Bluff in the early 1900's. He was an amateur archeologist and left his notes on local archeology at the Oliver House shortly before his death. The following account was included in these notes.

I last visited this site in 1923 or 1924. The Dinehart family has kept at least a semblance of the ditch preserved in their yard. All traces are graded awy. The big spring is near the brook. I agian checked the Iroquoian clews (as written in the notes). Others have done the same. The skeleton I found and the lower jaw of another one from a potato field both were of aged people. All molar teeth had been extracted and alveolar process completed. The eye teeth were worn down on backside by long years of mastication and incisors complete. The round hole in the back of the skull I think was by an antler prong club and not an arrow. Certainly not a bullet. Columbus probably had not found America at the time of demise.

Buried Treasure

The following account was included in Miles Davis’s History of Jerusalem. It includes a colorful story of buried treasure. Although this story can’t be confirmed or denied it should be noted that storytelling was a major form of entertainment in the days of the pioneers and buried treasure was a favorite topic.

The situation of this ancient fortification seems to indicate that it was constructed for some other purpose than defense in war. There may have been a two-fold object the builders had in view. The elevated lands to the East would have afforded besiegers a chance to hurl destructive missiles into the “fort” with more or less deadly effect, while, if it had been constructed solely as a stronghold of defense, the site would naturally have been chosen overlooking the surrounding direction. Yet why the fortification should have been erected for other purposes than involved in war, does not seem clear. The earliest settlers relate that there was a deep trench all the way around the outside of the work, and that large timbers were placed on the embankment, fitted firmly together, and palisadied with heavy post. As in the case of all fortified enclosures intended for permanency, an excellent never-failing spring of water was made accessible to those within, and naturally in this instance it was at the foot of a steep bank, naturally protected, on the West side. The spring is still there. The late Joseph N. Davis, who passed away in 1890, remembered when very large trees were growing in the bottom of the trench, the then some four or five feet below the level of the ground. The trench was filled up and leveled down years ago, and there is no trace of it now.

Many curious works of art have been found on the site of this ancient fortification (if such it was) which plainly belong to a period of peace and actual civilization. Many years ago during the pioneer period an iron box was unearthed upon the site by a man by the name of Weston who had been digging there a number of nights. It was in the earliest days of spring , and on the night of the find there was a fall of six inches or more of snow. “He was on the ground with a yoke of oxen and an ox sled, and the next day the tracks of the sled were observed by some who visited the location, and they stated that the sled runners cut down through the snow into the soften surface of the earth as though he must have gone out with a heavy load. Some declared they saw the considerable amount of coined money is a reasonable inference from the well attested fact that he went right on out of the country hereabouts, and , though a poor man, unable to buy land, while here, he went away into another state, where he immediately purchased a large tract which he paid for in coined money at the time of purchase. Civilized people only are producers or users of coined money. This event was fully related to the writer by an early pioneer of Jerusalem, in 1873, whose word was unquestioned; and it was also related to the writer by reliable resident of locality.
Specimens of ancient pottery have been found at various times on the site, which seems to indicate that the builders or occupant of this fortification, or whatever it was, were a civilized race with curious knowledge of arts quite different from any known of the Indians. Once in walking over the ground the late Joseph N. Davis found a perfectly shaped stone pipe, which was evidently the work of artisans of the stone age.

For an interesting possible connection to this story of buried treasure visit this web site : http://www.coudy.com/Austin/Scully4.htm

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Yates County Chronical-Tuesday Jan. 21st, 1840

Ref: Yates County Chronical-Tuesday Jan. 21st, 1840
(For the Yates County Whig)
Antiquities of Yates County
The above title of this communication may be thought somewhat novel, and so it is. We are very apt to overlook, with a sort of magnificent contempt, the crumbling ruins and mementos of past ages when they are the subject to our frequent notice. “Distance lends enchantment” is an idea so generously received that it would wretched policy in in me to raise my voice against it.
But we have ruins at home in our own green forest land” which we may surround with any circumstances and speculations we please without fear of contradiction is not within the memory of man.
In the Town of Jerusalem, in this county, may be seen the remains of a fortification which I have never heard designated by any other title than “The Old Fort”. It lies a mile west of the residence of the Friend’s on a roll or swell of land descending a little to the west. I have often passed it - at different times during the years, always making firm resolutions to visit it and examine it in detail if ever my time and business permit. Such an opportunity presented itself during the last fall and I was not slow in improving it.
In circumference it is not far from thirteen hundred feet. The principal entrance is on the south-west corner and about twenty-five feet wide. On the north side extending between two and three hundred feet. On the North-east side are three or four gateways, one of which is about fifteen feet wide.
The western side of the fort must have been constructed on this side is evident from existence of the fort must have been constructed on this side is evident from existence of the entrance at the above mentioned termination, else why the necessity of an opening into the fort at that point. That they were constructed of wood is evident from the fact that no remains of the walls are seen which would not have been the case, but had been constructed of less perishable materials.
It is reasonable probable that a wooden breastwork was carried round on the top of a bluff of land ten or twelve feet high which extends along the northwestern and western sides to the distance of two or three hundred feet. At the foot of this bluff runs a stream of water. In an indentation of the bluff and at its base bubbles up a clear and beautiful spring which was probably included within the walls of the fort. The southwestern side was probably defended by a wooden breastwork of about two hundred feet in length. The wall of earth and the ditch are the only marks which indicate the existence and locality of this fort.
The ditch is now about three feet deep, and the breastwork about three feet high. When first constructed it was probably ten or twelve feet high.
Its course distances, and entrance-ways are distinctly marked. The date of its erection and occupation is unknown to history or tradition. At the time I observed it the owner of the land, on which it is situated, had just cut away the thick growth of small pines which covered a part of its area. In the ditch I saw the stumps of pine trees; but I think none indicated a great age - certainly not over one hundred years, and probably considerably within that period.
I found no large stumps within the fort - none that which I should think more than a century old. The lower part of its area is a meadow, but that the upper part has never been subjected to the plow would seem probably from the perfect state of the wall and ditch. The early settlement of the country found it in the same situation it now is.
Should I hazard an opinion of my own as to the period of its erection, I should not put it earlier than the French and Indian War, if indeed so early. It is well known that the Indian tribes who were thickly scattered over the western part of the state at that time, had frequent communication with French officers from the Canadian frontier. Others place it in the chain of forts extending from the interior and northern parts of this state south. I know not how far.
Some of the bones of its occupants are found embedded in its soil which is a light, sandy loam, and I should not think well calculated to preserve them. I have herd the erection of the fort attributed to the Mexicans; upon what ground I know not.
I shall feel greatly obliged if any citizen of Jerusalem will take the trouble to communicate any well authenticated facts with regard to this fort through the medium of our village papers.
signed H.M.S. Penn Yan , Jan. 14 1840
Document #C

Chet Culver



Locality Once Known As “Old Fort” Legend Tells of Ancient Retreat Built by Early Race AS Protection from Seneca Indians. Some evidence Indicates that company of General Sullivan’s Men drove Red Men to the old fort.

This locality takes the name “Friend” from Jemina Wilkinson, “The Universal Friend,” who with her followers here settled this section, na and gave it the designation, “The New Jerusalem.”

The colonial mansion built by her more than a hundred years ago, was constructed so substantially that after the lapse of a century or more it is but little impaired by the ravages of the elements. Prior to the establishment of the post office, Friend, this locality was most generally known as “The old Fort”

This fort so called consisted of a semi-circular embankment of earth enclosing an area of about three acres of land and containing within its walls an unfailing spring of crystal clear water. The open side faced in the west upon what must have been in early times, before the timber was removed, an impenetrable swamp. The embankment was about breast high on the inside and encircled by a deep trench on the outside, indicating that the dirt from which the embankment was raised was taken entirely from the outside. The outside was as perpendicular as possible with the loose dirt that made up its material. The inside wall was more sloping and about breast high from the floor or bottom. If this earthwork was designed for purpose of defense, it was admirable adopted to withstand an assault from the outside and to withstand a siege. the great antiquity of this construction is attested by the face that when first discovered by the white man, great pines two and three feet in diameter were standing upon the embankment and in the trench encircling it.

Learned men who have examined this structure have expressed the opinion that it tit was the work of a prehistoric race who occupied this country prior to the Indians and alleged to support of their opinion that the Indians were incapable of constructing a work of this magnitude and perfect geometrical outline. It is evident that had this structure been supplemented by a row of stakes driven on the edge of the bank and sloping outwards it would have been practically impregnable against the assault of the Indian with the primitive weapons at his command. Indubitably this locality was formerly populated as in past years it was a very common occurrence to unearth skeletons at a depth of about two feet and usually in a sitting position and in close proximity to the earth work. At the time when this locality was settled by Jemina Wilkinson and her followers a few scattered remnants of the Indian tribes were still living in the vicinity. A tradition related by the Indians to the pioneers and handed down by them to their descendants is substantially as follows; Before the appearance of the Indian upon the scene, this country was occupied by a comparatively highly civilized but decadent and peace loving race. ; the savages pressed them back and hemmed them in until after years of constant warfare the ancient people gathered within the walls of the fortress and attempted to make a last stand against the savage intruder; at length the savages exceeded in breaking through the wall and exterminated the defenders to the las man, woman and child. The Indian occupied the country and continued to increase in power and number until the coming of the white man centuries later. Yet another tradition handed down by the early settlers bears upon the face of probability of truth, yet the records are so imperfect that it can not be wholly substantiated. At the time when General Sullivan made his famous expedition against the savage of the Finger Lakes region a considerate Indian village existed within the enclosure known as the “Old Fort” entrance to the fortification. This plan was carried into effect so successfully that the Indians were taken completely by surprise and few of their number escaped. the old men, women and children were spared and one of two cabins left for their shelter with sufficient provisions to sustain them for some little time. the remaining cabins all stores, provisions and weapons with the bodies of the slain Indians were cast into the great heap and burned in celebration of the victory. Upon the completion of their mission the soldiers started upon the return and traveling due east to compass to Seneca Lake, thence northerly along the lake, they arrived at Kashong at night of the same day. they had achieved their great exploit. Thus the Indians is said in have met the same fate meted out by his ancestors to the original possessor of the soil.

A few years later the country was occupied and settled by Jemina Wilkinson and her followers and other pioneers. In due time the wilderness was subdued , the timer cleared away and the eland brought under cultivation. In course of time the log cabins of the earlier settlers were replaced by more commodious and more comfortable dwellings.

The site of the first school house built in this territory is within the space formerly enclosed by the walls of the “Fort” and to this day it is known ad the Old Fort School House. A half century later a church was built, also within the ancient enclosure, and dedicated to the worship of the white mans God. Upon this historic spot, drenched at different times with the blood of three contending nations , stands the two emblems of out American sovereignty and dominion, the Church and the School.