Published on March 12, 2015 by Carol
Treaty of Big Tree was a formal treaty, held from August 20, 1797, until September 16, 1797, between the Seneca nation and the United States. The delegates for both parties met at the residence of William Wadsworth, an early pioneer of the area and Captain of the local militia, in what is now Geneseo, New York. A meadow between Wadsworth’s cabin at Big Tree and the gigantic oak by the river, which gave the place its name, was the site of the conference.
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In attendance were nearly three thousand Seneca and other prominent members of the Six Nations of the Iroquois. Representing them were their hoyaneh chiefs: Cornplanter, Red Jacket, Young King, Little Billy, Farmer’s Brother, Handsome Lake, Tall Chief, Little Beard and others; the clan mothers of the nation; and Mary Jemison. Those in attendance representing the United States were: Colonel Jeremiah Wadsworth, Commissioner, assigned by President George Washington to represent the United States government; Captain Charles Williamson and Thomas Morris, representing his father; Robert Morris; General William Shepard, representing Massachusetts; William Bayard, representing New York; Theophilus Cazenove and Paolo Busti, representatives for the Holland Land Company; Captain Israel Chapin, representing the Department of Indian Affairs; Joseph Ellicott, land surveyor; and James Rees as acting secretary. The official interpreters were Horatio Jones and Jasper Parish.
All of the treaty delegates for the United States were housed in William’s log cabin and new cobblestone house. A council house was erected by the Seneca and the proceedings were held there. The treaty was signed on September 15, 1797, after nearly a month of, at times heated, back-and-forth negotiations. This treaty is substantial as it opened up the rest of the territory west of the Genesee River for settlement and established ten reservations, perpetual annuities and hunting and fishing rights for the Seneca in Western New York.