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.

Fort Description

The largest of these may have been the Old Fort at Friend in the town of Jerusalem. This was an ellipse, 545 feet long and 485 feet wide. Samuel Hart Wright, investigating in 1880, said this earthwork had twelve gateways or openings, alternating eight and 14 feet wide. The enclosure surrounded almost five acres, with a deep trench running around the inside of the earthwork itself. A large spring was nearby. “Many years” before Wright wrote his account, Bartleson Shearman found a cemetery about 20 rods southeast of the earthwork. In one grave was the skeleton of a man, with a woman to his right and a child in her lap; the skulls of the latter were broken with some weapon. Wright found Indian pottery in the earthwork, and reported that previously a stone pipe bowl and a French gunlock had been found. This certainly sounds as though the Senecas had at least used the place but one of their chiefs told Shearman they knew nothing of the work’s origin.

From a document of unknown origin that was probably given to me by Doris Pace. I’ve labeled it Document #A.