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

Mary Jemison's Time line

Part II


This time line chronicles some of the important events in the life and times of Mary Jemison or Dehgewanus, the "white woman of the Genesee". Part II begins shortly after the destruction of Mary's village by American troops which resulted in her taking her children to a place called Ga-da-oh. It ends with her death at Buffalo Creek in 1833.

The time line is divided into year, the event in Mary's life, other events in America, additional notes relating to the Jemison story, and the sources. All quotes are from Mary Jemison's narrative unless otherwise noted. They have been also put in italics. Please note that after her adoption, the names "Mary Jemison" and "Dehgewanus" are interchangeable. Illustrations come from a variety of sources. Some images are linked to pages on this site.

For more information, see our Glimpse of Mary Jemison, and other material on her life found in the Mary Jemison section in our "Pieces of the Past."

Please note - If you have suggestions for changes or additions to the timeline, please send them to us!

Go to Part I


 A note regarding sources: All general time line materials relating to American History are taken from general sources and the Timetables of American History by Laurence Urdang, Editor, New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1981. The Mary Jemison related material was taken primarily from the list of resources found below

  • A Narrative of the Life of Mary Jemison....by James Seaver, 1824. (For this time line we used the 1942 edition by the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society that includes footnotes.
  • History of the New York Iroquois by William Beauchamp, 1905.
  • The Seneca People by George Abrams, 1976.
  • History of Livingston County by Lockwood L. Doty, 1876.
  • History of Buffalo, Vol 1 by William Ketchum, 1864
  • Development of Central and Western New York by Clayton Mau, 1958
  • Iroquois in the War of 1812 by Carl Benn, 1998
  • I Have Spoken, American History through the Voices of the Indians compiled by Virginia Armstrong, 1971



Jemison Event

Other Events



Her village of Little Beardtown destroyed the previous fall by the Sullivan and Clinton expedition, Mary and her children survive the hard winter living with two runaway slaves in their cabin on the Gardeau Flats.

"They (the runaway slaves) lived in a small cabin and had planted and raised a large field of corn, which they not yet harvested. As they were in want of help to secure their crop, I hired to them to husk corn till the whole was harvested....I husked enough for them, to gain for myself...twenty-five bushels of shelled corn. This seasonable supply made my family comfortable for samp and cakes through the succeeding winter...."

Seneca warriors and British Rangers from Fort Niagara resume raids on frontier areas of New York and Pennsylvania. It was during this series of raids that the Seneca Cornplanter, the son of a Seneca woman and a white trader, captured his father John O'bail. Cornplanter later released his father.


Deghewanus(Mary Jemison) thought the winter after Sullivan attack was "the most severe that I have witnessed since my remembrance. The snow fell about five feet deep, and remained so for a long time, and the weather was extremely cold...almost all the game ..perished....Many of our people barely escaped with their lives, and some actually died of hunger and freezing."  Seaver:74-77;  Abrams:88

 1781 or 82

The African Americans leave Gardeau. Mary and her family remain and renew the cycle of their lives along the Genesee River.

Daughter Jane is born.

 American and French forces defeat a major British force at Yorktown, Virginia (1781), Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and John Adams begins negotiations with the British for a peace treaty to end the Revolution    Seaver:311-312

The infamous Ebenezer "Indian" Allen arrives at Gardeau. Over several years he befriends the Jemison family. Several times when he was in hiding from his numerous enemies, Dehgewanus brought him food and other supplies.  Treaty of Paris ends the Revolutionary War - the British fail to include their Indian Allies in the negotiations or terms.  The Seneca remain technically at war with the United States  Seaver:79-92

 "My Indian brother Kau-jises-tau-ge-au... offered me my liberty, and told me that if it was my choice I might go to my friends....My son, Thomas, was anxious that I should go....after I had duly considered the matter, I told my brother that it was my choice to stay and spend the remainder of my days with my Indian friends, and live with my family...." Treaty of Ft Stanwix ends hostilities between the Iroquois and US. Provisions include the return of prisoners and captives. (see treaties)


One of the Jemison family cabins
from the Gardeau Flats

 Mary's last child, Jesse, is born at Gardeau.      

Sometime after the Revolution, Kau-jises-tau-ge-au moves to Canada. Before he goes, he promises his sister that he would make arrangements for the Chiefs at Buffalo Creek to convey to her a tract of land. She recalled that he told her that "I should have a piece of land that I could call my own, where I could live unmolested. and have something at my decease to leave for the benefit of my children...."  Treaty of Hartford establishes the Pre-Emption Line @ 50 miles east of the Genesee. This agreement between New York and Massachusetts mark an early step to settle Central and Western NY    Seaver:93

 Kau-jises-tau-ge-au dies soon after arriving along the Grand River in Canada. The exact year is not known. Dehgewanus said that " I mourned his loss as that of a tender brother, and shall recollect him through life with emotions of friendship and gratitude...."  6 million acres of land west of the Pre-Emption is sold to land speculators Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham. They begin process of negotiating with Seneca to extinguish Indian title to the lands so they can be opened to settlement. A treaty signed in July opened up lands to the east of the Genesee. Gardeau and other Genesee Villages still held by the Seneca.  

(see treaty page)


    George Washington, known to the Seneca as "Hanodaga:nyas" or "The Town Destroyer" becomes the first President under the new Constitution.    



Detail of the Medals given to Seneca leaders by George Washington. Note the implications - peace and friendship to the native tribes if they drop the hatchet and assume the white man ways shown in the background. This was Washington's "Civilization Policy"

Cornplanter and other Seneca leaders, including those from the Genesee Villages, visit the new President. They reminded Washington that "you promised to secure us in the possession of our lands. Do this, and so long as the lands shall remain... (your) beloved name will live in the heart of ever Seneca."    Ketchum:398

Col Thomas Procter passes through the Genesee Valley on a mission from Secretary of War, Henry Knox. He writes in his journal: "April 2nd...halted for the night at the hut of a white woman who had been with the savages from her infancy, and had borne to one of them nine children, all of who were living. Two of her daughters I have seen , possessing fair features, bearing the bloom upon their cheeks, and including to the side of beauty; and her second son had lately been adopted a sachem and styled the promoter of peace...." Josiah Letchworth, the father of William Pryor Letchworth is born in Philadelphia. Procter indicates in his journal that he had traveled eight miles south from Squawkie Hill, heading toward Caneadea when he stopped at the village called "Nondas", where he found the hut of the white woman. It is likely that he was at Gardeau and the description of April 2nd was of the Jemison Family. Ketchum: 416



It is likely that Dehgewanus' son Thomas was at the council fire which led to the Pickering Treaty. There are several names which are similar to his name as identified in the Big Tree Treaty

 Pickering Treaty signed in Canandaigua NY between the Six Nations and the United States. The Treaty stated that "Peace and Friendship are hereby firmly established, and shall be perpetual, between the United States and the Six Nations" and that the tribes were guarenteed the "free use and enjoyment" of their lands.

Ann Hance, William Pryor Letchworth's mother, is born in New Jersey.

 Iroquois and supports still gather in Canandaigua every November 11th and hold a march and speeches to remind the United States of its obligations under this still binding treaty.  (see treaty page)

Grandson "Buffalo" Tom Jemison born at Squawkie Hill either sometime during the winter of 1794-95, Cayugas sell the remainder of their NY lands, some settle among the Seneca, others head further west.


Buffalo Tom was the son of Mary's oldest son Thomas. His mother was thought to be one of Indian Allen's daughters. Buffalo Tom was an important link to the Mary Jemison story in Mr. Letchworth's Time.

 Abrams:48; Seaver:202

  "I lived undisturbed, without hearing a word on the subject of my land, till the great Council was held at Big Tree...when Farmer's Brother...sent for me to attend the council. When I got there, he told me that my brother had spoken to him to see that I had a piece of land reserved for my use; and that then was the time for me to receive it...."  The Big Tree Treaty was signed near Geneseo NY in September. The Seneca sold their lands for $100,000, reserving several tracts of land, including those at Gardeau. Two of the Mary's sons - Thomas and John, signed the treaty. Although her claim was opposed by Red Jacket, Farmer's Brother "insisted upon the necessity, propriety and expediency of his proposition, and got the land granted."  Seaver:94-95

 Surveyors arrive to establish the boundaries of the new Gardeau Reservation. A map is completed on September 10th.




The reservation, which was thought to be about two square miles, ends up being the largest on the Genesee River at 16,927 acres! See Joseph Ellicott's report.  



Part of Gardeau Reservation Survey Map
 The population of Ontario County, which stretches from Lake Erie to the Pre-Emption Line now reached 15, 218. Four years earlier the Seneca population was estimated at 1,780    Mau:449;


Holland Land Company advertises 3 million acres of New York land for sale west of the Genesee Valley

First of the Genesee Reservations were sold by the Seneca. Little Beard's Town, where Dehgewanus lived from the time she came to the Valley to 1779, was sold for $1200.

   Doty: 285; also see treaty page

Surrounded by a growing number of pioneers, Dehgewanus begins to rent portions of the Gardeau Reservation to them. "My flats were extremely fertile; but need more labor than my daughters and myself were able to perform....In order that we might live more easy, Mr. Parrish (Indian Agent), with the consent of the chiefs, gave me liberty to lease or let my land to white people to till on shares....which makes my task les burdensome, while at the same time I am more comfortably supplied with the means of support.  "The Old White Woman" becomes well known to her white neighbors. Click here to see some of their descriptions of her.    Seaver:96

 Dehgewanus is informed that a "cousin" was living in poverty in nearby Leicester. "My Indian friends were pleased to hear that one of my relatives was so near, and also advised me to send for him and his family immediately. I accordingly had him and his family moved into one of my houses, in the month of March, 1810.... I received him as a kinsman , and treated him with every degree of friendship which his situation demanded...."    George Jemison proved to be trouble for the next several years. Working with a trusted friend of Mary's, Jemison talked her into signing some land to him. The agreement was, she was told for 40 acres. It proved to be actually 400 acres, half of which went to her friend. She recovered some of the land, and eventually evicted George. She came to believe that he wasn't really her relative.  Seaver:122-125

Tragedy strikes twice at Gardeau. In July Dehgewanus' oldest son Thomas is killed during a drunken brawl by his brother John. In November her husband Hiokatoo dies of consumption and is buried at Gardeau.   Council is held to decide John's fate. The Seneca"...seriously examined the matter according to their laws, justified his conduct, and acquitted him...." Seaver:100

 John and Jesse Jemison are hired to work by Robert Whaley sliding logs near Wolf Creek in May 1812. The brothers get into a fight at the end of the workday - Jesse is killed by John. Dehgewanus sees the body of her youngest son the next day. War of 1812 breaks out. Seneca leaders from the Genesee Reservations pledge to support American efforts in Western NY.  "I was overcome with grief at the sight of my murdered son, and so far lost the command of my self as to be almost frantic; and those that were present were obliged to hold me from going near him." "My darling son, my youngest child, him on whom I depended, was dead; and I in my old age left destitute of a helping hand!"  Seaver:119-121; Benn:132

   British invade along the Niagara Frontier and burn Buffalo and Black Rock in December.  Annuities to Seneca in Western NY total $14,592; the Jemisons would have shared in this.  

Micah Brooks, with the help of the Clute brothers, begin attempts to obtain Gardeau lands.    " Mr. Brooks...came to my house and informed me that he was disposed to assist me in regard to my land, by procuring a legislative act that would invest me with full power to dispose of it for my own benefit...upon condition that, in reward for his services, I would give him the other half (of the Gardeau lands)."  Seaver:134-135


A great landslide takes place above the Jemison's cabins along the western bank at Gardeau in the spring. It proves to be an omen.

Soon Dehgewanus' last son John is killed in a brawl with two Seneca from Squawkie Hill. "I had now buried my three sons, who had been snatched from me by the hands of violence, when I least expected it."

Brooks gets the New York State Legislature to pass an act which he hoped would naturalize Mary Jemison, giving her full title to her lands (and the right to transfer them to Brooks.

   Mary Jemison signs a deed for 700 acres east of the picket line (on the hill east of the Valley) to Micah Brooks and Jellis Clute. A few months later she leased the remainder of the reservation to them, keeping only 4000 acres of the original 17,000.  Seaver:137



Red Jacket wearing the Peace Medal presented by George
  Conditions on the Reservations continue to worsen. In a letter to New York Governor De Witt Clinton, the Seneca Red Jacket complained of the constant troubles caused by the New Yorkers, writing that "The greatest source of all our grievances is, that the white men are among us."    Armstrong:52


A Council is held in early September at Moscow (present day Leicester) at which the Seneca sold most of the Gardeau Reservation to speculators John Greig and Henry Gibson. Twelve hundred acres remain in Seneca hands. One of the "X" on the treaty was the signature of "Mary Jamieson".

After the end of the Council Mary Jemison completes her will, giving her children parts of the mortgage she holds on lands sold to Brooks and Clute. Jellis Clute is named executor.

In the fall Dehgewanus goes to Whaley's Tavern in nearby Castile to tell her life story to James Seaver.

  William Pryor Letchworth is born in Brownsville, NY.  " In the winter of 1822-23, I agreed with them, that if they would get the chief of our nation, and a United State Commissioner of Lands, to meet in council...and there concur in my agreement...I would sell to them all my right and title to the Gardow reservation, with the exception of tract for my own benefit.... The bargain was assented to unanimously, and a deed given to H.B. Gibson, Micah Brooks and Jellis Clute...."

Seaver:137-138; ix,x

also see treaty page

 A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison... by James E Seaver was published in Canandaigua by J. D. Bemis and Company.  This remarkable work has gone through numerous reprintings and editions and is readily available today.  Seaver wrote in his preface, "The following is a piece of biography, that shows what changes may be affected in the animal and mental constitution of man; what trials may be surmounted; what cruelties perpetrated, and what pain endured when stern necessity holds the reins, and drives the car of fate...."  Seaver:iv-v;

 Remainder of the Genesee Reservations are sold in council. The Jemison family are living on the last Seneca land in the Valley.



    see treaty page

  Jemison Family sell the remaining Gardeau lands and moves to Buffalo Creek  


Dehgewanus, as she might have looked shortly before she left the Valley

  Mary Jemison, known as Dehgewanus to her people, dies in September.  

 Go to Part I

Tom Breslin

Tom Cook

 For more information, see our Glimpse of Mary Jemison, and other material on her life in found in the Mary Jemison section our "Pieces of the Past."


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