Reminiscences of John Mountpleasant
from the Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase
of Western New York by Orsamus Turner
Glimpses of Western New York after the Revolution
NOTE: The author at this point, to connect the chain of events
as nearly as possible in chronological order, will avail himself of the
preceding portion of narratives he has had from some of the earliest adventurers
to the regions of Western New York; reserving for their order of time,
the remainder. Since he commenced the preparation of this work, he has
had interviews with a large number, who yet survive to tell the story
of their wilderness advents. As far as consistent with brevity which it
is necessary to observe, he will endeavor to preserve that interest in
the narratives, which the relators in their own language and manner, could
alone impart to them.
JOHN MOUNTPLEASANT, a native of Tuscarora, is now sixty-eight years old.
His father was Captain Mountpleasant, of the British army; at one period
commandant of Fort Niagara; his mother was an Oneida; emigrated to Canada
during the Revolution, and afterwards came to Tuscarora. His father and
mother, residing for two years at Mackinaw; that was his birth place,
although almost his entire life has been spent at Tuscarora. He had a
sister, who became the wife of Capt. Chew, of the British army. Capt.
Mountpleasant was ordered to Montreal when his children were quite young;
he was not entirely unmindful of them; occasionally sent them presents.
"The earliest white people I can recollect, were the English at Fort
Niagara, and a small guard they used to keep at Lewiston, to guard the
portage. When I was a boy, the portage used to employ five or six teams.
I remember well when the early emigrants used to come through on the trail,
going to Canada. Their children were frequently carried in baskets, strung
across the backs of horses."
See his account of Brant's Mohawk village on Ridge Road. "The Middaughs,
came from North River; when they first came they occupied one of the old
houses left by the Mohawks. Hank Huff, and Hank Mills, were early at Lewiston.
Huff had a Mohawk wife, and used to live in the house that Brant left.
When I was a small boy, I used to go through to Genesee river, with my
mother. There was Poudery at Tonnawanda, 'a white man' (Berry), keeping
a ferry over the Genesee river.
"Deer were not plenty in this region, the wolves hunted them; driving
them into the lake, they would wait until they were wearied with swimming,
and catch them as they came on shore. In periods of deep snows and crusts,
they used to make great havoc among them. As the wolves grew scarce, the
deer became plenty. A strip of land between Ridge and lake, used to be
a great resort for bears. Our best hunting grounds used to be off toward
Genesee river. Secord was an early and successful white trapper in this
region. Some Tuscarora hunters once killed a panther, in the marsh near
Pekin. There were no crows until after the war of 1812. The bittern, was
often seen about the marshes. The white owl used occasionally to make
his appearance here. Flocks of swans were often seen about the Islands
above the Falls.
"When I was a boy, most of the marshes in Niagara county, were open ponds.
I have been with my mother, picking cranberries, in open marshes, where
there was then but small bushes; now there are tamaracks, soft maples,
black ash, &c. as large as my body. The beaver dams were in good state
of preservation as long as I can remember,—though then but few beaver
left. I have taken salmon in Eighteen mile creek, where Lewiston road
crosses near Lockport, and below the Falls of the Oak Orchard, with my
hands three feet in length.
"My mother's second husband was a white man named James Pemberton, who
was taken prisoner at the same time that Jasper Parrish was. He was brought
to Lewiston with the Mohawks. He remained with the Tuscaroras after the
Mohawks went to Canada, and until his death.
"I remember when the Indian family—Scaghtecitors—lived at
the creek at Black Rock that derives its name from them. They moved back
to Seneca village, after the land was sold. One of the family was murdered
at 'Sandy Town,' and robbed of twelve dollars. The murderers were never
"When I was a boy, two schooners used to come to Lewiston--armed, King's
vessels--the 'Seneca,' and 'Onondaga.' There was another afterwards, called
the 'Massasagua.' I used to see batteaux come up, taken out of the river,
and conveyed over the Portage; manned by jolly Frenchmen, who used to
sing, keeping time with their oars, as they came up the river.
"For many years I followed the business of stocking rifles. I learned
to do it from seeing Bill Antis do it at Canandaigua. For many years he
stocked rifles for us without pay, being employed for that purpose by
the government; afterwards we paid him half price.
"I remember when Gov. Simcoe first came to Niagara. He had a thousand
troops with him called 'Queen's Rangers.' They wore green uniforms. Their
barracks were at Queenston, —thence the name."
The narrator resides at Tuscarora with his sons, who are good farmers,
educated and intelligent. His fine form would serve as a model for a sculpture.
Tall, unbent by age; with a countenance, mild, benevolent, and expressive.
NOTE. — The author is indebted to a Judge Cook of Lewiston,
for some additional particulars which he adds to the brief narrative of
John Mountpleasant. When James Pemberton, was brought a prisoner to Lewiston,
it was decreed that he should be burned at the stake, to revenge the death
of some Mohawk warrior. Brant interested himself in saving him; proposed
that he should be saved and adopted. He told the Indians that he was a
man of fine proportions (as he really was), and that he would become useful
to them. He interested the squaws in behalf of the captive, by promising
that some one of them should have him for a husband. Managing to divert
the attention of the Indians from their victim, Brant pointed out to Pemberton
a way of escape, which he pursued with sufficient fleetness of foot, to
enable him to reach Fort Niagara, where he was protected. The Indians
had compelled Pemberton to collect the brush and dry wood for his own
destruction. He was stripped naked—all was ready for the terrible
sacrifice, when Brant's scheme in his behalf saved him. The place of the
intended burning at the stake, is a small spot of level ground, between
the dwelling of Seymour Scovell, Esq., and the Ferry. Pemberton pointed
it out to Judge Cook, and told him the story of his fortunate escape.
He remained at Niagara until the peace of '83, then went to Tuscarora
and married the mother of John Mountpleasant. He died in 1806 or '07.
His children and grand children reside at Tuscarora.
The first husband of the sister Mountpleasant speaks of, was
a Capt. Elmer, of the U. S. army, stationed at Niagara. She lived with
him at the garrison—he acknowledged her as his wife—and when
ordered to New Orleans, and prohibited by his superior officer from taking
her with him, the parting was one which gave evidence of strong affection.
To use the language of one who knew her at that period: "she was a beautiful
woman." After the separation, she became the wife of Capt. Chew, a British
Indian Agent at Niagara. She, died a few years since, at an advanced age.
Her eldest son is now head chief of the Tuscaroras.
Selection begins on page 314 of the Pioneer History.