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Of this large area of land, embracing 42 square miles, only 2,948 acres are cultivated by Indians, and 2,175 are used as pasture. This is the land claimed as owned by individuals, and includes the small tracts leased to white people. The narrow belts along the valley are fairly fertile, but the soil is thin and soon wears out. Very few parts are loam or truly rich soil. Frequent floods, bearing sand and gravel over the bottoms and washing out much that has been gained by partial cultivation, have dispirited tenants, so that in the summer of 1890 14 houses were found vacated by the occupants, who took possession with a view to profitable farming. These were all eastward of Salamanca. The tillable land, however, embraces 11,000 acres, of which 7,000 may be properly classed as arable. The hills were stripped of their best timber during the period when rafting logs on the Allegany river and down the Ohio was profitable, bringing quick cash returns without the protracted, patient labor which would have attended clearing the land fully and engaging in agriculture for a livelihood. Hundreds of acres at the foot of the hills, and perfectly level, bear the stump marks of this bygone occupation, and thickly-set brush with small second growth timber show that the ability or disposition to utilize the land for farming purposes is wanting. In fact the soil does not invite farmers to invest largely, even if the Indians had both choice and freedom to sell, for it needs all the fertilization which an energetic farmer can save and use. The cultivated lands have been fairly fenced, but the fences are not kept up with care. Under the head “Farming " the subject will be again noticed. The supply of water from springs and innumerable mountain streams is adequate for all purposes.
OIL SPRING RESERVATION. Oil Spring reservation, in Cattaraugus county, New York, as indicated on the Allegany reservation map, contains 640 acres in 2 towns and counties. It was by oversight included in the treaty made at Big Tree, in the sale by the Seneca nation of 3,500,000 acres to Robert Morris, and passed with his title to the Holland Land Company. A suit for the recovery of this land was brought in 1856 by D. Sherman, for 13 years the efficient United States Indian agent, and resulted in favor of the Seneca nation. On the trial, Governor Blacksnake, as he was named by Washington when he visited the capital in company with Cornplanter, testified, at the advanced age of 107 years, to being present at the treaty of Big Tree in 1797, and that when the exception was missed upon the public reading of the treaty, Thomas Morris, attorney for Robert Morris, gave to Pleasant Lake, a prominent sachem of the Seneca nation, a separate paper, declaring that the Oil Spring tract was not included in the sale. Governor Blacksnake also produced a copy of the first map of the Holland land purchase, on which this reservation was distinctly marked as belonging to the Seneca Indians. An exhaustive report of Judge Sherman to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, dated Forestville, New York, October 9, 1877, contains the most succinct, accurate, and just statement of the titles and rights of the Six Nations that has been published. The land is under lease, and, in the language of Judge Sherman, “the Seneca nation own this reservation, unincumbered by any pre-emption right, and it is all the land they do so own”.
The place and date of birth of Governor Blacksnake (The Nephew) are unknown. He died at Cold Spring, in South Valley, on the Allegany reservation, December 26, 1859. His Indian name was “Tha-o-wa-nyuths". He was associated with John Halftown and John O'Bail (Cornplanter) in negotiations with Washington, and was greatly esteemed by him. The best estimate of his age is 117, although many have placed it as high as 125 and even 130. The famous trio were Senecas.
The following note, by Charles Aldrich, of Des Moines, Iowa, in the Magazine of American History for July, 1891, on Governor Blacksnake (The Nephew) is of great interest :
When I first began to hear of this notable Indian, and very soon afterward to see him occasionally, I was but 8 years old. This was in 1836. Governor Blacksnake was at that time head chief of the Senecas, living upon their reservation along the Allegany river, just north of the Pennsylvania line, in Cattaraugus county, New York. He may also have had some sort of headship relating to wider intertribal relations. His residence was 1 mile above the little village of Cold Spring, 10 miles or more from the southern boundary of the reservation. That he had been widely distinguished in “the olden time, long ago", was evidenced by the fact that he had received a beautiful silver medal from the hand of Washington. As I remember it, this medal contained from $3 to $4 worth of fine silver and bore upon one side the simple legend “Second Presidency of George Washington''. On the obverse was a simple domestic scene, representing a room, as it might be, in a settler's cabin. In the center of the farther side was an open chimney with a blazing fire, a babe lay in a cradle, a spinning-wheel stood in one corner, and two or three women seemed busied with indoor work. The old chieftain was very proud of this medal, generally wearing it suspended from his neck by a cord, for which a hole had been pierced. I often saw him in my boyhood, when he was pleased to hand me his Washington medal for inspection. He understood a little of our language but could not speak it.
The year of Governor Blacksnake's birth was conjectured to be 1736 or close to that time. He died December 26, 1859. If the first date is approximately correct he was not far from 120 years of age. In personal appearance he bore a striking resemblance to one of the portraits of Andrew Jackson in his old age. He was very tall, straight as an arrow, and his abundant hair was both white and long. He sometimes wore a blue overcoat, which came nearly to the ground, and I feel quite sure that it was thickly studded with smooth, old-fashioned brass buttons. His figure was at once striking and venerable. He was always kind and agreeable, genial and pleasant to all who approached him. The people of his tribe, as well as the white people, treated him with marked deference and respect.
Governor Blacksnake, in addition to being a man of authority in his tribe, was an orator to whom his people always listened with profound attention. I shall never forget hearing him, though I did not understand a word of his language. My father's farm adjoined the Indian reservation, half a mile from the river, and one of my Indian playmates “Little Johnny Watts”, had died from consumption, and I had frequently gone to the old cabin to see him during his long, wasting illness. One day as I peered into the room where he lay, his poor old mother was indulging in the wildest grief, talking to her poor boy, who was insensible and only gasping at long intervals. Presently the New York Engraving of Printing Co. GOVERNOR BLACKSNAKE, (Tha-o-na-wyuthe) or ("Tha-o-wa-nyuths," "The Nephew" (Seneca).