Reminiscences of Silas Hopkins and John Gould
from the Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase
of Western New York by Orsamus Turner
SILAS HOPKINS, of Lewiston, Niagara county, started from New Jersey,
the summer of 1787, to assist his father in driving a drove of cattle
to Niagara. Twelve or thirteen other young men came along, to assist in
driving the cattle, and to see the country. Party came to Newto[w]n Point,
thence to Horse Heads, Catherine's Town at the head of Seneca lake, Kanadesaega,
Canandaigua, and from thence upon the Indian trail via Canawagus, the
"Great Bend of the Tonewanta," Tonawanda Indian village, to Niagara. Route
up the Susquehannah, to Tioga, was principally in the track of Sullivan's
army; after that almost wholly upon Indian trails. Saw the last white
inhabitant at Newtown Point. There were a few Indians at Catherine's Town,
and among them the old squaw that is named in accounts of Sullivan's expedition.
At this period, nine tenths of the settlers upon the frontiers in Canada,
were Butler's Rangers. They had all got lands from the British government,
two years supply of provisions, and were otherwise favored. The New Jersey
drovers sold their cattle principally to them, and to the garrisons at
Queenston and Niagara.
"I came out twice the next summer with my father upon the same business.
Upon one of these occasions, I went with my father to the residence of
Col. Butler near Newark, (Niagara). He was then about fifty five or sixty
years old; had a large, pretty well cultivated farm; was living a quiet
farmer's life. He was hospitable and agreeable, and I could hardly realize
that he had been the leader of the Rangers.
"In all our journeyings in those early days, we were well treated by
the Indians. They had a custom of levying a tribute upon all drovers,
by selecting a beeve from each drove as they passed through their principal
towns. This they regarded as an equivalent for a passage through their
territories; and the drovers found it the best way to submit without murmuring.
At Geneva, there was an Indian trader named Poudrey, and another by the
name of La Berge. There were several other whites there; they were talking
of putting up a building. We happened to be at Canandaigua at a treaty.
Phelps and Gorham bought several head of cattle of my father, to butcher
for the Indians. When I went to Canada the first time, Gov. Simcoe was
residing at 'Navy Hall,' near old Fort George. He was esteemed as a good
Governor, and good man.
"In 1789, on one of our droving excursions there was an unusual number
of drovers collected at Lewiston. We clubbed together and paid the expenses
of a treat to the Indians,—gave a benefit. They were collected there
from Tonawanda, Buffalo, Tuscarora, and some from Canada. There were two
or three hundred of them; they gave a war-dance for our amusement. We
had as guests, officers from Fort Niagara. The Indians were very civil.
After the dance, rum was served out to them, upon which they became very
merry, but committed no outrage. We had a jolly time of it, and I remember
that among our number was a minister, who enjoyed the things as well as
any of us.
"In 1790, after I had sold a drove of cattle at Lewiston, (to go over
the river, and at Fort Niagara,) I met with John Street, the father of
the late Samuel Street of Chippewa, C. W. He then kept a trading establishment
at Fort Niagara. He was going to Massachusetts, and said he should like
my company through the wilderness, as far as Geneva. Waiting a few days,
and he not getting ready, I started without him. He followed in a few
days, and was murdered at a spring, near the Ridge Road, a mile west of
Warren's. The murderers were supposed to be Gale and Hammond. Gale lived
near Goshen, in this State. I knew his father, a Col. Gale. Hammond had
been living on the Delaware river. They were arrested in Canada, by authority
of the commanding officer at Fort Niagara; sent to Quebec for trial; Hammond
turned King's evidence, divulged the whole affair, charging the offence
principally upon Gale, but made his escape. Gale was afterwards discharged.
When I came up the next season, I camped at the spring. Some fragments
of Mr. Street's clothes were hanging upon the bushes. His body had been
discovered by some travelers, stopping at the spring; their dog brought
to them a leg with a boot upon it. His friends in Canada, gathered up
fragments of the body, and carried them home for burial. He was robbed
of a considerable sum of money."
Judge Hopkins remarked at this point in his narrative, that the fact
having become generally known that drovers with considerable sums of money,
and emigrants to Canada, were every few days passing on the "Great Trail
from the Susquehannah to Niagara," robbers had been attracted to it. It
was soon enough after the close of the border wars, to have remaining
upon the outskirts of civilization, men fitted to prowl around the wilderness
path, and solitary camp of the traveler.
"My father being at Niagara, on one occasion, a letter was sent to him
by Col. Hollenbeck who was on the Susquehannah, warning him against starting
on his return journey alone, as he was satisfied that a couple of desperadoes,
in his neighborhood were intending to waylay him somewhere on the trail.
He handed the letter to the commandant at Fort Niagara; a couple of men
soon made their appearance in the neighborhood answering the description
of Col. Hollenbeck. They were arrested and detained at the garrison until
my father had time to reach the settlement on the Susquehannah.
"When but sixteen years of age, my father had some business in Canada
that made it necessary to send me there from N. Jersey, I came through
on horseback, the then usual route. I encamped the last night of my journey,
on Millard's branch of the Eighteen-mile creek, about a mile above where
it crosses the Chestnut Ridge, five miles east of Lockport. In the morning,
my hoppled horse having gone a short distance off, I went for him, and
on my way stumbled upon a silver mounted saddle and bridle, and a little
farther on lay a dead horse that had been killed by a blow on the head
with a tomahawk. I carried the saddle and bridle to Queenston, where they
were recognized as those of a traveler who had a few days before come
down from Detroit, on his way to New York. Nothing more was ever known
of the matter."
In narrating this, the Judge remarks that the howling of the wolves in
the Tonawanda swamp, all night, deprived him of sleep. A boy, sixteen
years old, alone far away from civilization; the howling of the wolves,
his forest lullaby; the relics of a murdered traveler, presented to him
in the morning! He acknowledges that he left his camping ground with less
delay than usual.
"I spent most of the summer of 1788, at Lewiston, purchasing furs. I
bought principally, beaver, otter, muskrat, mink. The Indian hunting grounds
for these animals, were the marshes along the Ridge Road, the bays of
the Eighteen, Twelve, and Fourmile-creeks. The marsh where I now live,
(six miles east of Lewiston,) was then, most of the year a pond, or small
lake. The only white inhabitant at Lewiston, then was Middaugh. He kept
a tavern—his customers, the Indians, and travelers on their way
to Canada. I carried back to New Jersey about four hundred dollars worth
of furs, on pack horses. At that period, furs were plenty. I paid for
beaver, from four to six shillings; for otter, about the same; for mink
and muskrat, four cents. There were a good many bears, wolves, and wild-cats;
but a few deer.
"Immediately after the defeat of St. Clair, the Indians were very insolent
and manifested much hostility to the whites.
"In 1778 or '9, I was returning from Niagara, to New Jersey, in company
with a dozen or fifteen men. When we arrived upon the Genesee river, we
found a white settler there—Gilbert Berry;*—he had arrived
but a few days before with his wife and wife's sister; had made a temporary
shelter, and had the body of a log house partly raised. He had tried to
raise it with the help of Indians, and failed. We stopped and put it up
for him. The next day, we found at the outlet of the Honeoye, a settler
just arrived by the name of Thayer. He had logs ready for a house, but
had no neighbors to help him. We stopped and raised his house."
The narrator of these early events is now seventy-five years old; his
once vigorous and hardy constitution, is somewhat broken by age, but his
mental faculties are unimpaired. In the war of 1812, he was early upon
the frontier, as a Colonel of militia, and has well filled many public
stations. He was the first Judge of Niagara, after Erie was set off.
* Gilbert Berry was an Indian trader. After his death, his widow kept
a public house, early, and long known, as "Mrs. Berry's," at Avon. His
two daughters are Mrs. G eorge Hosmer of Avon, and Mrs. E. C. Hickox of
JOHN GOULD, Esq. of Cambria, Niagara county, came from New Jersey in
1788, as a drover; came by Newto[w]n, Painted Post, Little Beard's village,
Great Bend of Tonawanda, &c.—stopped with drove at Little Beard's
village over night. In the morning, Little Beard pointed out a fine ox,
and an Indian boy shot him down with a bow and arrow. This was the usual
tribute, mentioned by Judge Hopkins. "The Great Bend of the Tonnewanta,"
was a well known camping ground for Butler's Rangers, in their border
war excursions, and after emigration to Canada; for early drovers, and
"Col. Hunter, was then in command at Fort Niagara. Our cattle and pack
horses were ferried across to Newark in batteaux and Schenectady boats.
Nothing then at Newark, (Niagara village,) but an old ferry house and
the barracks that had been occupied by Butler's Rangers. The Massaguea
Indians were numerous then in Canada. They had no fixed habitations; migrated
from camping ground to camping ground, in large parties; their principal
camping grounds Niagara and Queenston. There were their fishing grounds.
Sometimes there would be five or six hundred encamped at Niagara. They
were small in stature, gay, lively, filthy; and much addicted to drunkenness.
"We sold our cattle principally to Butler's Rangers. They were located
mostly at the Falls, along the Four and Twelve Mile Creeks. Oxen brought
as high as £50, cows £20.
"In June, after I arrived, I was at Fort Niagara, and witnessed the celebration
of King George's birth day:—there was firing of cannon, horse racing,
&c. The Tuscarora Indians were there, in high glee. It was upon this occasion
that I first saw Benjamin Barton, sen.
"Butler's Rangers had taken a sister of my mother's captive, upon the
Susquehannah. She afterwards became the wife of Capt. Fry, of the Mohawk,
who had gone to Canada during the Revolution. She had induced my mother
and step father, to emigrate to Canada in 1787. I found them located upon
the Six Mile creek. At the time my aunt was taken prisoner, there were
taken with her several children of another sister: their names were Vanderlip.
"When I came through in '88, I saw no white inhabitant after leaving
Newto[w]n, till I arrived at Fort Niagara. At Newto[w]n there was one
unfinished log house. 'Painted Post' was at the junction of Indian trails.
It was a post, striped red and white.
"Along in '88, '90, eagles were plenty on Niagara river and shores of
lake Ontario. Ravens were plenty; when they left, the crows came in. Black
birds were a pest to the early settlers; they seemed to give way to the
crows. The crows are great pirates. I think they robbed the nests of the
black birds. There used to be myriads of the caween duck upon the river.
In the breaking up of the ice in the spring, they would gather upon large
cakes of ice, at Queenston, and sailing down to the lake, return upon
the wing, to repeat the sport; their noise at times would be almost deafening.
"In '99, on my return to New Jersey, I went by Avon, Canandaigua, &c.
Widow Berry was keeping tavern at Avon; settlers were getting in between
there and Canandaigua; there were a few buildings in Canandaigua; a few
log buildings at Geneva. On my return the next year, emigration was brisk;
the military tract, near Seneca lake was settling rapidly"
Mr. Gould is now 78 years old; vigorous; but little broken by age; relaxing
but slightly in an enterprise and industry, that has been crowned with
a competency, which he is enjoying in the midst of his children, grand
children, and great grand children.
Selection begins on page 310 of the Pioneer History.