When Mary was interviewed in 1823 by James Seaver for a narrative
on her life in captivity,** she vividly described the impact the
devastation of the Genesee Valley area by Sullivan's army on the
lives of the Seneca Nation. Some of her recollections conflicted
with soldier's journals, yet the memoirs provide invaluable insight
into the way of life of the Indians during the mid-18th and early
19th century in this area. The story of her captivity led to national
has increased over time. After the death of her first husband,
Mary married another Seneca and had several more children. Despite
repeated opportunities to leave the Seneca way of life, Mary choose
to remain where she considered her home, farming the Gardeau flats.***
twenty years after Sullivan's Campaign, Mary was present at yet
another pivotal moment in the history of Livingston County. In
1797 negotiations between white developers and the Senecas for
the sale of more than three million acres of land west of the
Genesee River, resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Big Tree
at Geneseo. Mary was able to secure title to nearly 18,000 acres
of excellent quality land. In the 1820s she sold most of the tract
and was still actively tilling the soil and raising crops on a
two-acre parcel at nearly ninety years old. She finally decided
it was time to sell the remainder of the reservation in 1831 and
move to the Buffalo Creek Reservation.*** Two years afterwards,
Mary Jemison died.
years later the "White Woman of the Genesee" returned
to her Valley. The Buffalo Creek Reservation had been sold, and
the old burying ground was threatened. Her grandchildren approached
William Letchworth,**** who had purchased most of the original
Gardeau tract. In March of 1874, the remains of "Deh-he-wa-mis"
were removed back to her former home by train. In ceremonies held
in the ancient Council House that blended both the Seneca and
Christian ways, she was re-interred on the bluff above the Middle
Falls in Letchworth Park, where a monument still stands today.
from the Livingston County Historian's collection.
**James E. Seaver's, A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison
was originally published in 1824, more than 30 editions have been
published since that time.
***For location of the Gardeau and Buffalo Creek Reservations,
see map on page 35 of Sullivan Campaign of the Revolutionary War:
The Impact on Livingston County.
****For more information on the life of William Pryor Letchworth
see page 63 of Sullivan Campaign of the Revolutionary War: The
Impact on Livingston County.
Campaign of the Revolutionary War: The Impact on Livingston County,