BOYD AND PARKER PARK IN CUYLERVILLE

This pocket-sized park has an immense history

Over the Genesee River in the hamlet of Cuylerville, in the town of Leicester, a small park has been witness to some of the most spectacular events in Livingston County. After the remains of Thomas Boyd and Michael Parker were removed during the elaborate 1841 Memorial Ceremony, the area remained under private ownership until 1927 when the Livingston County Historical Society obtained title to the property, "Rescuing from oblivion the celebrated Torture Tree and the burial mound of Scouts Boyd and Parker near Cuylerville in preparation for the sesquicentennial of the Sullivan Expedition in 1929," was a primary objective of the society.(1) The goal became a realty when the land was donated to the Society by the Honorable James W. Gerard, the former Ambassador to Germany.(2)

A bronze tablet unveiled in 1927 in memory of Boyd and Parker
A bronze tablet was unveiled in September, 1927 in
memory of Boyd and Parker by Mr. William Boyd (center), a relative of Thomas Boyd.

The timing of the acquisition was fortuitous. The University of the State of New York had allocated sizable resources and appointed a committee to organize events across the state to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Revolution. Funds were provided to place a boulder and bronze tablet at the burial mound of Boyd and Parker. On September 17, 1927 the monument to honor the soldiers was dedicated and a lavish historical parade coincided with the unveiling ceremony. Yet another local record was set this time the memorial event drew upwards of 20,000 spectators with the automobile as the preferred mode of transportation.


A parade of historic proportions
A parade of historic proportions, a mile and a half in length, took almost an hour to wind its way through Cuylerville. Dozens of floats, bands and organizations from all over Livingston County and Rochester participated.
Speakers included Dr. Arthur C. Parker and the Hon. James W. Wadsworth , Jr.
Speakers included Dr. Arthur C. Parker and the Hon. James W. Wadsworth, Jr. (pictured above).

Photos from the Livingston County Historian's collection.

The Wayside Shrine Grows

The year 1929 was perhaps one of the busiest years in the history of Leicester as preparations for the 150th anniversary of the Sullivan Campaign dominated the lives of most residents. In addition to a massive historical pageant.(3) a relatively quiet ceremony occurred the morning of September 14th. Another memorial was permanently installed and dedicated by the Livingston County Historical Society. After an extensive search, a ten ton granite boulder from a farm in Perry, New York was selected as a suitable monument. The logistics of pulling the enormous rock out of a tributary proved to be quite a challenge. After breaking several heavy chains and then transporting it more than seven miles, the boulder finally came to rest at Boyd and Parker Park.

Boyd-Parker Historical Marker


The park was also enlarged that same year when Mr. Richard Wheelock, an avid collector of Indian artifacts and one of the oldest residents of Cuylerville, donated a small tract of land adjoining the property. In gratitude he was made a life member of the society; unfortunately however, Wheelock passed away the following spring. After the Historical Society made substantial improvements, the park (along with Ambuscade Park) was deeded to the New York State Park Commission in 1930 to maintain as a historic site. By the early 1970s the State closed the park due to severe cuts in appropriations sparking community residents to circulate petitions demanding the shrine be reopened. Fortunately the town of Leicester was able to secure title to this hallowed spot. When the 200th anniversary ceremonies took place in 1979 the crowds were smaller but strong patriotic fervor was still readily apparent.(4)

Hon. Barber Conable and Judge Robert Houston were amont the notable speakers at the 200th commemoration ceremony
Hon. Barber Conable and Judge Robert Houston were among the notable speakers at the 200th commemoration ceremony in September of 1979. Both men were actively involved in preserving and sharing the history of the Sullivan Campaign
in Livingston County.



The Bicentennial event drew a sizable crowd for solemn observances in
Cuylerville following a ceremony at the Groveland Ambuscade. Veterans and
many others participated in a parade to the park and flowers were laid in
front of the boulder originally dedicated in 1929.
Photos from the Livingston County Historian's collection.


The Legend of the Torture Tree

The centerpiece of Boyd and Parker Park is an ancient bur oak, standing over 70 feet high and 24 feet in circumference and estimated to be at least 250 years. Known far and wide as the Torture Tree, local folklore comprised of nightmarish and grotesque tales involving the deaths of Thomas Boyd and Michael Parker have surrounded this tree for more than two centuries. A popular account perpetuated since the early 19th century tells of the captured soldiers bound to the tree, tied with their own intestines while they were brutally tortured and then "burned at the stake." No primary sources of the time period have collaborated this particular version of the story,(5) however journals kept by Sullivan's officers did describe the discovery of the beheaded and mutilated bodies as horrific.

Boyd-Parker Historical Marker


The noble giant is now a revered local landmark and as garnered recognition for historic significance from outside of the area. During a bicentennial observance in 1976 the age of the tree was officially substantiated by the International Society of Arboriculture and the National Arborist Association. In 1990 the Torture Tree was honored again as being among only eleven trees in the state placed on the New York State Registry of Trees.

Despite all odds, the Torture Tree has continued to flourish, providing the community with an enduring vision and a strong connection to Livingston County's cultural heritage.

1-Lockwood R. Doty, ed., "Report of the President," Boyd and Parker, Heroes of the American Revolution. (Livingston County Historical Society, 1928, 11.
2-See "Sullivan Campaign of the Revolutionary War: The Impact on Livingston County," page 63 of for biographical sketch of James W. Gerard.
3-See "Sullivan Campaign of the Revolutionary War: The Impact on Livingston County," pages 67-67 for more on the 150th Anniversary event.
4-See "Sullivan Campaign of the Revolutionary War: The Impact on Livingston County," pages 71-74 for more on the 200th Anniversary event.
5-The most likely origin of the story is contained in "The Narrative of the Life of Mary Jemison" by James E. Seaver, originally published in 1824.

 
(Sullivan Campaign of the Revolutionary War: The Impact on Livingston County, pages 59-61)

 

 

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