shopify analytics ecommerce

Legends, Traditions, and Laws of the Iroquois, or Six Nations, and History of the Tuscarora Indians



The church in the Tuscarora Reservation was organized in the year 1805, embracing six members only, under the care of the New York Missionary Society.

Rev. Elkanah Holmes, first missionary, from 1805 to 1808.

Members of the Church—Sacarissa, a Sachem, and his wife; Nicholas Cusick, an interpreter, and his wife; Apollas Jacobs and Mary Pempleton.

Rev. Mr. Gray, second missionary, from 1808 to 1813. At first the Indians converted their Council House into one for public worship, and also for school operations, and in time they built a convenient chapel, which was painted red, and was destined to share the same fate as their dwelling houses at the hands of the British Indians in the war of 1812.

It was on December 20th, 1813, when they were burned to the ground, in consequence of which the operations of the mission were suspended from 1813 to 1817, when Rev. James C. Crane took charge of the mission until the end of the year 1826.

In the year 1821 this mission was transferred from the New York Missionary Society to the United Foreign Mission Society.

Rev. Joseph B. Lane, the fourth missionary, took charge of the mission from January 3, 1827, to June 8, 1827.

Rev. John Elliot, the fifth missionary, also labored among these Indians from June 22, 1827, to May 7, 1833, when he left the mission by his own request, being dismissed from the service of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, to which this mission was transferred from the United Foreign Mission Society in the year 1826. Rev. Joel Wood also labored in this mission from October 15, 1833, to October, 1834.

Rev. William Williams also labored among them from October 26, 1834, to August 29, 1837.

Mr. Gilbert Rockwood, arrived and took charge of the station as teacher and overseer of the affairs of the church, and was afterwards ordained to the ministry.

Before he was ordained he would summon to his aid in the discipline and ordinances of the Church, at different times, Brother Asher Wright, and Mr. Bliss, of Cattaraugus Reservation, and Rev. J. Elliott, of Youngstown.

Ordained at Tuscarora Mission, July 3rd, 1839, Rev. Gilbert Rockwood as a missionary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, to labor among the Tuscarora Indians. Invocation and reading of the Scriptures were performed by Rev. Lemuel Clark, of Lewiston; first prayer by Rev. John Elliott, of Youngstown, and former missionary at Tuscarora; sermon by Rev. E. Parmely, of Jamestown, consecrating prayer by the Rev. Asher Wright, of the Seneca mission; charge by Rev. Asher Bliss, of Cattaraugus mission; right hand of fellowship by Rev. A. Wright; address to the Church and people by Rev. John Elliott; concluding prayer by Rev. Elisha B. Sherrod, of Wilson; benediction by Rev. Gilbert Rockwood.

The exercises were listened to by an attentive audience of Indians, who probably never witnessed anything of the kind before. The ceremonies were solemn and interesting to the people to the very close, although considerably protracted by passing through an interpreter.

What added to the Interest of the occasion was the ordination of three native members as Deacons of the Church, at the close of the ordination. The Church has received a refreshing from on high during the last winter, which has added a number of members, and is still in a peaceful and prosperous condition.

Rev. G. Rockwood was a faithful missionary; he went in and out among the Indians, visited in their homes, and talked with them in their inroads, and was a great advocate in the cause of Temperance. He was a powerful preacher, and at times had great revivals: for instance, in the year 1852, when I was first awakened to concern for my soul’s welfare. It was then my soul was first filled with rejoicing in my newly found Saviour; it was then I first poured out my soul in fervent prayer.

On the 7th day of March, 1852, was held a communion season, and on that memorable day forty converts were admitted to the full communion of the Church. Old men of seventy winters and youths of fourteen bowed down together to receive the ordinance of baptism, of whom I was one of the number, at the age of fifteen. It was a scene that angels might rejoice to behold. The whole number admitted to the Church that winter were fifty converts.

Rev. G. Rockwood finished his work among the Tuscarora Indians on the first day of January, 1861. Thus it is claimed that Rev. G. Rockwood spent the longest term of ministerial service at one installation in Niagara county but one, which was Rev. W. C. Wisner of the First Presbyterian church, Lockport, N.Y.

The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, when they withdrew Rev. Rockwood from this mission, also withdrew their supplies, when the Tuscaroras were thrown upon their own resources. In October following the church appointed as delegates Mr. John Mt. Pleasant, a Sachem; Dea. Samuel Jacobs and Elias Johnson, interpreter, to attend a meeting of the Niagara Presbytery at Yates, to make an application that this mission might come under the care of that body, which was granted them on October 29, 1861. The Presbytery appointed as Committee on Supplies, Rev. Joshua Cook, of Lewiston, and H. E. Niles. In January, 1862, Rev. Charles A. Keeler was sent to take charge of the mission, who labored among them until 1863, after which the preaching was supplied by some of the members of the church, and more particularly by Dea. S. Jacobs.

Rev. George Ford supplied the Church with preaching every fourth Sabbath, and was succeeded by Rev. Wm. Hall, and he by Rev. W. P. Barker, who began his labors among us in Oct., 1877, and was formerly a missionary in India.

A letter by James Cusick, concerning the Baptist mission at Tuscarora, to wit:

“In 1836, a portion of the Tuscarora Nation thought it expedient to become Baptists, according to the dictates of their own conscience and free enjoyment of their religion in this Republican government. Consequently a Baptist church was built and organized among the Tuscaroras, and they were called in council with several Baptist churches in this county. In 1838 they were admitted into the Niagara Baptist Association at Shalby.

“In a ministerial council June 14th, 1838, Mr. James Cusick was examined touching his Christian experience, and called to preach the Gospel by Providence and the council. They decided on that question, and gave him ordination as a native preacher, deciding that he was well qualified by a knowledge of theology; and now he has labored among several tribes of the Six Nations.”

The first Baptist Church at Tuscarora was broken up in the spring of 1846, on account of an emigration to the Indian Territory, under the influence of Rev. James Cusick, the party being composed mostly of the members of that Church, which caused its overthrow. The next year, after about one-third of the emigration party had died in the Indian Territory, the remainder came home among the Tuscaroras, but Rev. Mr. Cusick removed into Canada and labored among the Six Nations at Grand river.

In the year 1860 Rev. James Cusick began his labors again among the Tuscaroras, in the town of Lewiston, having been invited here by James Johnson, with the view of reorganizing the former Baptist Church.

On the fifteenth day of February, 1860, there was held a deliberative meeting at the house of James Johnson, Rev. James Cusick acting as moderator. There were present, William Green, of Grand River; James Johnson, Isaac N. Jack, Isaac Patterson, Joseph Williams, Adam Williams, Sr.

The church was organized on March 21, 1860, at the house of James Johnson, Rev. James Cusick, Moderator, and Isaac N. Jack, Clerk.

A council of delegates from Wilson and Ransomville was invited by the reorganized Baptist church to meet on the 26th day of April, 1860, for recognition, which duly met, Rev. William Sawyer, Chairman: James Bullock, Clerk. Introductory prayer by Rev. L. C. Pattengill: hand of fellowship by Rev. Wm. Sawyer; address by Rev. L. C. Pattengill, including prayer and benediction by Rev. Wm. Sawyer. The following delegates were present, to-wit:

From Wilson—Rev. L. C. Pattengill, Dea. R. Robinson, Dea. A. Chapin.

From Ransomville—Rev. Wm. Sawyer, Dea. G. Hopkins, Dea. J. Bullock.

They were received into fellowship of the Niagara Baptist Association June 14, 1860, held at Akron, Erie county, N. Y. James Johnson, the first deacon, was chosen April 13, 1860.

They finished an edifice of 30 x 40 feet, a convenient chapel, which was dedicated February 5, 1862. A sermon by Rev. L. C. Pattengill, prayer of dedication by Rev. Wm. Sawyer, report of building by J. C. Hopkins.

Rev. James Cusick was to have been their first installed pastor, but in the year 1861 death took him to his long rest. He was a powerful preacher, and we had great revivals under his ministrations.

Rev. Thomas Green, a native, was baptized Jan. 9th, 1861, and on the third day of Oct., 1863, was licensed to preach the Gospel of Christ, a helper for Rev. Nicholas Smith, and on Sept. 25th, 1867, was ordained to the ministry, and succeeded Rev. N. Smith as pastor of that Church, which office he faithfully filled, went in and out among them, with meek and humble spirit, ever faithful to his trust. He had the gift of natural oratory, and we had some powerful revivals under his preaching. It would seem to us that he was called away too soon, but the Omniscient Being knows best. God called him from his labors and trials in this vale of tears to weal in the pleasures of his presence and of his only Son, Jesus, of whom he had preached, and fought, as did Paul, the good fight of faith, and finished his course on Jan. 12, 1877, and has seen the crown of life which was lad up for him in Heaven.

Rev. Franklin P Mt. Pleasant, a native, began to preach the Gospel in the spring of 1877, by the invitation of Rev. T. Green, and was licensed on the 23d day of October, 1879, and has been their constant preacher.