Pieces of the Past
Artifacts, Documents, and Primary Sources
from Letchworth Park History

Contemporary Accounts of Mary Jemison

Truman Stone's Account published 1918


When Mary Jemison or Dehgewanus lived in the Genesee Valley, she was well known to her pioneer neighbors and early travelers. Several who were acquainted with her set their memories of "The Old White Woman" down for future generations.

Truman L. Stone sent Mr. Letchworth an account of Mary Jemison that had been passed down in his family by his grandfather. The elder Truman Stone was "accustomed to tell it to his children and grandchildren nearly ever Thanksgiving Day after the Thanksgiving dinner."

The story was included in the appendix of the ASHPS editions of Seaver's work.


You can see a listing of other accounts here.


"The best meal of victuals I ever ate was called by Mary Jemison, the White Woman of the Genesee. A short time after I settled in Orangeville, which in 1807 was in Genesee county (now Wyoming county), all of the grain crop of the settlers was a failure, consequently, it was a year of great dearth. There was no grain to be had; and although we had meat and mile and some vegetables, we felt the necessity of having bread.

I heard that there was some corn on the Genesee flats, twenty-five miles away, and started out on foot with a pillow-case for a sack, to buy and bring home some corn or wheat. I continued my journey, making inquiries of the settlers along the road for corn or wheat. Some had a little corn and some had a little wheat but none to sell and not enough for their own use. On the second day away from home, I was traveling up the Genesee river on the Gardeau reservation. Just at night, I came up to the While Woman;s cabin and asker her if she had any corn. She replied that she had corn but none to sell. I told her that I would give her five dollars for a bushel of corn. Her reply was that she would not sell me a bushel of corn for a bushel of dollars. At the same time, she asked me if I was hungry. I told her that I had not had anything to eat since breakfast the day before. She invited me into the cabin, swung a kettle over the fire and made a cake (an Indian cake was some cracked corn wet up, a little salt added and baked in a kettle). After the cake was done, she broke a goose egg into the kettle and friend it, all of which was served on a wooden platter or plate. Then she invited me to eat, which I did, and it was the best dinner I ever ate.

While I was eating, the White Woman went up the log stairs to the attic and brought down the pillow-case full of shelled corn. I offered to pay her for it but she said, 'No, I will take no pay. Take this to your starving family.' When I started for home, twenty-five miles away, that night, and we had corn bread for a few days. The our wheat ripened and we had plenty ever after."


Seaver, A Narrative of the Life of Mary Jemison, 1942 ed  p 426-427


Also see

A Glimpse of Mary Jemison

Image of Mary Jemison Aged 90


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