Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Yates County Chronicle Nov 27, 1879
The following article was written by Berlin for the Yates County Chronicle.
In the spring of 1880 while making a geological survey of Yates county, in the company of my father, Samuel Hart promontory, known as Bluff Point, extending into Lake Keuka and separating the East from the West branches of that lake. The highway from Branchport and Bluff Point post office to the end of the points cuts through the middle of the site which is at an elevation of approximately 600 feet above the lake.
The original ruin covered some 14 acres, according to the owner of the property, Howard Hemphill, who had lived there 50 years. The portion of the ruins east of the road was a cultivated field at the time of our survey, but the locations of continuations of the walls still standing on the west side, could be easily followed in the plowed ground. Mr. Hemphill said he had dug out the stones that had been in the walls east of the road to use in building his house and some of the larger slabs had been hauled to the end of the point for the great Wagener house. This fact was letter confirmed in a conversation which the writer had with its builder, Mr. Sullivan, in Florida in 1883.
Mr. Hemphill was an aged man at the time of our survey, though his mind was clear. He said he came to the farm as a young man when the Indians were all about. In answer to a question put to one of the old Sachems as to the origin and use of the ancient ruins, he had been informed that it was there when their earliest tribesman first came to this region. No tradition as to its origin had been handed down from the earliest generations of their tribe and we must credit the Indians with keeping alive their historical matters of interest in this way with great fidelity, having no other method of recording events of importance.
We surveyed the ruin and are here showing a ground plan of walls and special groups. At that time an earnest plea was made to stated authorities for the preservation of this unique remnant of a great aboriginal structure. However, nothing came of it, and all is gone.
The remains of the ancient structure consisted of the foundations of walls, in the form of graded ways three to eight feet wide and one to two feet high, bordered with a vast number of large, flat stones set in the ground edgeways, these stones leaning inward toward the centers of the ways. At points of the intersection of some of the walls, depressions indicated post had been standing there at one time, evidently supporting a roof.
The size of the compartments or rooms seemed to have been in proportion to the amount of soil available for their interiors for building the partitions, and these dividing foundations were also wide or narrow according to the amount of dirt at and (?). Where the soil was deep, the rooms were large and walls wide, the dimensions of structure, some of which were over 500 feet long, were laid out with al (missing text) squares and some in arcs, reminding one of the Stone Henge of England, also of unknown origin. At the northwest corner was a huge monolith standing as a lone sentinel guarding the community. This great slab, pointed at the top and about three and a half feet wide at the base, was fully eight feet high. All about among the standing slabs were prostrate ones, more or less covered by soil.
Find Early Food Cache
In one room we found a pile of boulders and upon removing them we came to the bedrock of Portage sandstone. There we found a quantity of charred maize, remnants of an old food supply. The superstructure of the building had evidently burned, as ashes were still to be seen mixed in with the corn. The kernels found in this cache were rather small and pointed, similar to those native to Florida where it, Zen Mays, was a staple article of cultivation by Indians at the time of the Spaniards. We took some of the maize home with us but it soon crumbled. However a few kernels were preserved in a sealed glass vial, but are now lost.
The Hemphill farm was later divided and the site of the ancient ruin is now owned by D.W. Bennett and G. W. Tubbs. The location is four miles from the Bluff Point post office, just south of the old Fitzwater road, as shown on the east side of the road which turns off to the west. It can be further identified by a marker on the lot line on the east side of the road, as shown on the bend in the highway. No remains of the walls or pillars are now visible other than pile of large stone slabs in the hedge-row west of the marker.
Now as to proof, if any more is needed, that this communal home of a great people was not the work of the Indians: The Red men were all nomadic and as soon as wild game grew scare or local conditions became unfavorable, they would pull down their skin tepees, load their dunnage and patient squaws would tote their belongs to a new location. The lordly braves would not demean themselves by such menial labor. With the bucks abhorring routine work and squaws with household duties, it is inconceivable that the Indians could have built this structure covering 14 acres.
Also, in no instance do we know of stone being used by the Indians in building their council houses. The Great House at the mouth of Kashong creek on Seneca Lake, which was destroyed by General Sullivan in the punitive war upon the Indians, was all logs, though all magnificent slabs of stones.
Reflects Work of Mayas
Easily might the builders of the Bluff Point structure have been descendent of the oldest and most patient artisans of the American continent, the Mayas, whose dispersion from southern Mexico and Central America took place in pre-Columbian times.
From the larger pillar mentioned in the preceding paragraph was plainly visible an ancient ruin some ten mile north, known as “Old Fort”. This fortification had been built in (missing text) which marks the early home of the Universal Friend, Jemima Wilkinson. Two of the followers of the Universal Friend, old residents, informed me that the Indians in that vicinity reported the ruins as being there long before their arrival in this region.
The Old Fort was circular, covering about ten acres and enclosed by high dirt embankments with a fine spring of water inside its lines. At the time of our visit some 40 years ago portions of the ancient walls remained four feet high and ten feet across, with great forest trees growing on their tops and side. The trunk of one oak was over three feet in diameter, There several openings in the banks or walls in which gates of timber had evidently stood.
Old Fort “Communication” System
Near the fort is a tall hill, or “pinnacle”, with very steep sides, from the top which smoke signals or a fire would be visible at the Bluff Point ruin. Perhaps the two were inhabited at the same time.
We obtained from one of the early settlers near the Fort several relics which had been found on the site of the ruin. One of these was a kneading board of fine, compact sand formation found in that region. The stone was about two, and a half inches thick and had slightly concave surfaces, an exact replica of the Mexican kneading board.
It is unfortunate that the great ruin on Bluff Point should have been destroyed. The prime object of this article is to enable the Yates County Historical Society to preserve a record of it.
Yates County Chronicle: Thursday Nov, 27 1879