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Indian Alliances At the outset of the American Revolution, both sides officially urged the various tribes of the Iroquois confederation to remain neutral while privately urging their assistance. At last, the British made an open appeal to the Iroquois to declare war against the Americans, using bribes of rum and goods so generous that the occasion was remembered for years. The last to hold out for neutrality were the Chenussio Senecas of the Genesee and upper Allegheny rivers, who acquiesced in a decision made at Oswego, NY in July, 1777, after which they joined in the attack of the American Fort Stanwix at Rome, NY.

One of the leaders of this group of Senecas was Cornplanter, who fought as a “captain” of Indians throughout the war, mostly in the New York theater. Many historical accounts indicate that Cornplanter was frequently the leader in bloody raids on the Pennsylvania frontier. The evidence strongly suggests that the Indians that abducted Catharine Elizabeth and her sister were under the leadership of Cornplanter.

Cornplanter was born to his Seneca mother and Dutch father, John Abeel, originally of Albany, about 1750 near Avon, NY. White people knew him as John Abeel (or Obail). He emerged from the Revolution as a chief of the Senecas. After the peace treaty between Great Britain and the United States, he realized that the British, despite their promises, had neglected their Indian allies and had effectively abandoned them to the former colonists. From that time on he cast his lot with the United States, believing that to be the wisest course for his people. Cornplanter, a Seneca Chief, 1796

Cornplanter was instrumental in negotiating treaties to settle land problems and Indian relations. During 1790 and 1791, he earned the gratitude of Pennsylvania by his heroic effort to check the development of a threatening alliance between eastern and Ohio Indians. In recognition of this effort, a grant of land, known as the Cornplanter Tract, was made to him and his heirs by the Pennsylvania general Assembly in 1791. After 1812, Cornplanter became disillusioned with the Americans because of their shabby treatment of his people. He died at his home on the Cornplanter Tract on February 18, 1836. His descendants and other Indians continued to live on the tract, in Warren County, northwest Pennsylvania, until 1964 when the newly constructed Kinzua Dam was completed, flooding the Allegheny Reservoir and submerging the community’s physical remains.


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