Gardening – History Surrounds Us, Part One

The grass was green at 6 a.m. this morning with a light snow just beginning to fall. My dog Taz and I took a walk along the Conewango creek that borders our property line. It’s a 1/3 of a mile walk with one end leading into a swamp.

The creek has a lot of historical significance. George Washington used this waterway on his way to Warren, Pa to meet with Chief Cornplanter to discuss a treaty. The treaty they signed helped create peace in this area for many years and was one of the longest American/Indian treaties to be honored.

Unfortunately that treaty was broke in 1959 when the Kinzua Dam project was started. Research indicated that a dam was needed to protect the Conewango creek, Allegheny River and towns near the waterways from the devastating floods that happened each spring. The dam would help areas as far north as Salamanca, NY and as far south as Pittsburgh, Pa. It took until 1965 to relocate people and finish the building of the Dam.

During this time the Indian Reservation was moved to Salamanca New York, about 40 miles north and many towns were evacuated and ceased to exist. There are parts of the old reservation and towns that still remain, in sad disrepair. The rest of the areas sit under water.

It was a sad time for those who lived there, for the history of the towns and reservation and for the breaking of the oldest treaty.

Chief Cornplanter was an amazing person. His wisdom and way of life was an example for all. The treaty helped to bring a balance to the area. There were still bad feelings but the people could try to work together and help each other.

My family and three generations lived in Kinzua before the dam was built. My mother and father were the first to sell their house to the government. They were building on at the time and were allowed to repurchase the house to use or sell the new materials. We moves about 30 miles north and still own the property bought from the selling of the Kinzua home.

Many others moved their houses from Kinzua onto Route 59, which leads to the dam. The road was small and winding and houses were moved as far as three and four miles. My Aunts and Uncles still live in some of these houses.

The creek always reminds me of the history of Kinzua and Chief Cornplanter. One reason is the natural beauty of the creek and the other reason is there in an old Indian trail that runs along the creek bed.

About every 200 feet there is a tree with one limb that was trained to point directly down, a natural marking of the path. It’s been many years since the Indian culture used this area but for some reason the trail by the creek stays clear.

It has snowed since morning and there is a peaceful 4-inch blanket of snow on the ground. Soon I will walk the dog again and both of use will use the path and enjoy the beauty of the Conewango. The trees will again remind me of the history of the land and people who lived here before me.

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