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Chief Cornplanter

The Last War Chief of the Senecas

Chief Cornplanter, or "the corn planter" to the Senecas, was born in the little town of Conewaugus on the Genessee River in New York state. Although the exact date of his birth is not known, it was somewhere between the years 1732 and 1740. Cornplanter was a half breed, the son of a white man and an Indian royaneh, a memeber of a Seneca noble family and a hereditary matron of the Wolf clan. There has always been some question as to whether his father was an Englishman, John O'Bail, or a Dutch trader, John O'beel or Abeel. It is most probable that the latter is correct. At any rate, his father hailed from the Mohawk Valley.

Cornplanter's English name came down as John O'Bail. He was the earliest settler in Warren County, Pennsylvania, and a contemporary of George Washington. They became close friends during the Revolutionary War. Cornplanter was often referred to as one of the most valiant warriors of his tribe, of superior sagacity and eloquence. He first fought with the British during the war as chief of the Seneca Nation, but when his people were deserted by their British allies he took part in Indian treaties with the American government. For his help during the ensuing Indian war he was given land in several locations.

In 1789 the recommendation was made that Chief Cornplanter be given a grant of 1500 acres of land in western Pennsylvania. By act of the Pennsylvania assembly passed February 1, 1791, he was granted lands for which the patents were issued March 16, 1796. The final gift, an area of about 700 acres, was the Cornplanter Grant, located in Warren County about three miles below the southern boundary of New York state. There were three separate units in this grant, Planter's Field and the town of Jennesedaga on the mainland along the Allegheny River, and two adjacent islands, Liberality and Donation. This land was a partial recognition to Cornplanter for his services to the state, and he settled on the grant with his family, remaining there until his death in 1836. Chief Cornplanter was awarded the distinction of a biography in the "Encyclopedia Britanica" as one of Warren County's two most famous men.

Above information from Quo Vadis Bed and Breakfast in Franklin, PA
who have a Chief Corn Planter Room!

"In the summer of 1779, Brant along with Butler's Rangers, units of the British Army from Ft. Niagara, and war parties from the Seneca, Mohawk, Onondaga, and Mingos attempted to stop the rebel Brigadier General Sullivan. Sullivan had been sent to destroy Iroquois villages by General Washington as reprisal for Indian and Loyalist raids. Unable to stop this army of 5000 men Brant, Old Smoke, Corn Planter and Lt. Colonel John Butler fought a desperate delaying action in order to allow the escape of many refugees, both Native and non-Native."

Historical Reenactent Brants Volunteers

The First signature on the DEED from the six nations of indians to the state of Pennsylvania, January 9, 1789, is:

Senecas:       Gyantwachia, or the Corn-planter,

and again, on ARTICLES OF AGREEMENT between the chiefs, etc., of the six nations of indians and the commissioners of Pennsylvania, January 9, 1789, the First signature is

Senecas:       Gyantwachia, or the Corn-planter

Cornplanter Forest District in Forest County, PA, is "named in honor of Chief Corn Planter, a famous Indian Chief of the Seneca tribe. He was instrumental in maintaining peace between the new American government and the League of the Iroquois between 1784 and 1812."

And a final bit of curious information: A "Sterling Berry Spoon" with Chief Corn Planter's image engraved thereon sold for $135.00 on 2 March 2001, at Chadwick Bay Auction House.

Iroquois Confederacy and the US Constitution

Chief Corn Planter, Seneca Chief

John Abeel (ca. 1752 - February 18, 1836), known as Gaiant'wake (Gyantwachia - "the planter") or Kaiiontwa'kon (Kaintwakon - "By What One Plants") in the Seneca language and thus generally known as Cornplanter, was a Seneca war chief and diplomat. As a chief warrior, Cornplanter fought in the French and Indian War and the American Revolutionary War. In both wars, the Seneca and three other Iroquois nations were allied with the British. After the war Cornplanter led negotiations with the United States and was a signatory of the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1784). He helped gain Iroquois neutrality during the Northwest Indian War.

In the postwar years, he worked to learn more about European-American ways and invited Quakers to establish schools in Seneca territory. Disillusioned by his people's poor reaction to European-American society, he had the schools closed and followed his half-brother Handsome Lake's movement returning to traditional Seneca way. The United States government granted him about 1500 acres of former Seneca territory in Pennsylvania in 1796 for "him and his heirs forever", which became known as the Cornplanter Tract. It was flooded in 1965 by the Kinzua Dam, and most of the remaining residents were relocated to the Allegany Reservation of the federally recognized Seneca Nation of New York.

Indigenous Peoples' Literature Return to Indigenous Peoples' Literature

Compiled by: Glenn Welker

Copyright @ 1993-2016

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