A Most ODD History at the Tavern
Eli Bruce first arrived at the Forsyth Tavern (then Warren's Tavern) in 1816. He had ridden in on the stagecoach line along with the brother to the Corners' first Physician, Calvin Baker.
With no family to stay with and no money to afford a bed, Eli found himself working at the Tavern where he reportedly corded wood for Mr. Warren.
Then he turns up again in 1823, a schoolteacher and tax collector for the Village of Lewiston. He received word that Mr. Eliakam Hammond had discovered something most gruesome on his farm on upper mountain road just south of the Tavern back in Cambria. This of course was the infamous PIT.
If you don't know, the pit lying between upper and lower mountain roads was what was left of the 14th century native American civilization that once resided there. They were a colossal nation atop the hill, consisting of thousands of men, woman and children reduced to a pit of skeletons. It was a massacre of profound depth.
… and of course, Mr. Hammond and Mr. Bruce opened the farm up as a tourist attraction for 10cents a piece. It is said that some 150 people a day visited the site and left with a bone souvenir each. For this reason, the site has vanished; leaving only the mansion which Mr. Hammond built with his fine earnings. Today we who know of it call it the BONE HOUSE.
Eli also became quite wealthy and also quite popular. So much in fact that he was soon elected Sheriff by his townspeople.
Charged as one of the abductors of Morgan was Eli Bruce. This would lose him his title as Sheriff and cost him 28 months in jail.
Eli Bruce died shortly after that; a victim of the Cholera Epidemic in 1832.
Mrs. Warren, (formerly Mrs. Forsyth,) now residing on Ridge road, in Cambria, is daughter of Capt. Ganson. Few have seen more of pioneer life -– and that, principally, upon the Holland Purchase. She has obligingly given the author some interesting reminiscences of early times: -
Soon after my father had come on west of the river, and opened a public house, other settlers began to come in. There was nothing on the road to Batavia, until Mr. Ellicott’s surveyors made their head quarters at Stafford. The Indians were frequent visitors at my father. I used to see them often, the chiefs, Hot Bread, Jack Berry, Red Jacket, and Little Beard. Sometimes the Indians were turbulent; they would become a terror to the new settlers. My father was a stout athletic man; had great influence over them; would quell them in their worst drunken frolics.
----Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York, by O. Turner, 184
Mary and John bought land in the western frontier after the loss of their first born child at one year of age. When they left for their new property they have another child one year of age and their third still in Mary’s womb.
The second year of their abode Mrs. Forsyth laid one of her small children on the floor on an improvised bed to take its usual mid-day nap. As she went to look to its welfare what was her surprise and horror to see a large rattlesnake that had unceremoniously crawled in the open doorway and lay snugly coiled up on the quilt near the child. With a rare presence of mind she quietly stepped out, got an axe and returned and with a sure blow severed the head of the reptile from its body, thus saving the life of her child.
Her and John Forsyth had four children when John died of unknown circumstances in the year 1812. He was only 31 years old. Mary buried him on a knoll behind their Tavern.
A few weeks later President James Madison declared war against Great Britain.
For more than a year Mary managed her tavern and farm with her four young children. Neighbors were yet scares in those day and the frontier was still rough and dangerous. She prevailed none the less.
In December of 1813 the United States invaded Canada in a brutal and futile battle against the United Kingdom and their native allies. The retaliation that followed was thrice as brutal----
When Ezra returned to Mary, her children and her Tavern, he quickly wed her in July of 1813. Together they reared an additional seven children.
In all she had twelve children in her long and lustrous life. They are as follows,
She herself passed away February 23rd in the year 1857 at seventy-one years, five months and twenty-five days of age. She was buried between her two husbands on the knoll behind her Tavern.
THE FRONTIER FUGITIVES had such short notice of the attack of the English and Indians that they had left most of their possessions behind. In some cases the women tied their silver and other small treasures in bags and dropped them in the well or hid them in the nearby underbrush.
The best account of this tragedy was written by Orsamus Turner, Historian and editor of Lockport’s first newspaper.
His account follows: “There was little warning, the Indians preceding the English soldiers swarmed out of the weeds and commenced an indiscriminate shooting down of the fleeing citizens plundering and burning their log homes. Six or seven men and boys were killed and scalped.”
On that day of December 19, 1813, the Ridge road section of the Lewiston Trail presented some of the harshest features of war and invasion. The inhabitants on the frontier were retreating eastward, the Tuscarora Indians having a prominent position in the fight. There was a small arsenal west of Howell’s Creek were a few of the Tuscaroras and settlers stopped and drove the invaders back.
At FORSYTH CORNERS they stopped long enough to decide whether to take the Ridge road to Gaines where there was arsenal, or the Lewiston Trail to Batavia where there was also an arsenal.
The Majority took the Lewiston Trail. All kinds of vehicles were used in this motley throng fleeing from the torch and the tomahawk of an invading foe.
THE TUSCARORA INDIANS effectually aided the flight of the citizens of Lewiston by firing at the Indians who were following them. Twice they made a stand against the foe. Their first stand was just before the invaders ascended the road to the Reservation. They gathered the whole nation, men, women and children on the escarpment above the ascending road. The men had all the guns, the women each with a round stick looking like a gun barrel from below and a horn for every boy and would join them. However she was determined to stay behind and take her and girl. It was a big bluff but it held up the invaders for some time.
When the fugitives from the Niagara Frontier reached Warrens Corners they halted momentarily at the FORSYTH TAVERN (later Warrens Corners) expecting that WIDOW FORSYTH and her two children would join them. However she was determined to stay behind and take her chances of the raiders getting that far. As it happened she made a wise choice because in a matter of a few weeks Militia from Batavia established a garrison of some 500 soldiers near Dickersonville, and her tavern was chosen to prepare rations for the garrison.
About the same time Sergeant EZRA WARREN and two privates were stationed there. As we have seen the British and Indians stopped at Church Street, west of Streeter’s Corners. However on or about July 5, 1814 the Barracks at Hardscrabble (later Dickersonville) were burned by the enemy.
It is interesting to note that after the war, Sergeant Warren and MRS. FORSYTH were married and the tavern became WARREN’S TAVERN and as the area began to attract settlers it became known as WARRENS CORNERS.”
1813 INVASION BY BRITISH, INDIANS CAUSED
AGONIZING HARDSHIPS ON NIAGARA FRONTIER.
(Union Sun & Journal, Lockport, N.Y.,
Thursday, October 2, 1969, Page 12).
By CLARENCE O. LEWIS Niagara County Historian
Our projects have slowed a bit with these seemingly endless rain but if you have passed by lately you may have noticed the beginning of our primitive Virginia Worm Fences. Early settlers constructed these fences from scrap wood and local rocks as we have done as well. These fences will make their way all across the historic farm as we restore the property back to its former glory.
The word ' tavern' meant something completely different to people living in colonial times than it does today. In those days, the tavern was a place for both local and townsfolk and travelers alike to apply for lodging, meals, recreation and dancing.
- By George Rice, Homestead Publications
The Town of Cambria’s website touts its commitment to progress without losing its personal touch… I guess, like too many people in power these days, the individuals who are supposed to work for the people, forgot their promises as well as the people who were promised.
While we complain that the younger generation has forgotten the art of communication, the Town of Cambria exemplifies its demise. Given the opportunity, most people will pay the cost for permits and even jump through the unnecessary hoops the town throws up, chalking it up to small town politics. But to hide behind mailed letters, in a small town where everyone should know everyone, well that’s just cowardly and mean. Cambria government has forgotten its charge.
Go to the town of Cambria’s spring newsletter. The town supervisor writes about creating memories. Nice words… but actions always speak louder.
Is the role of government to help its citizens? To create solutions? Are rules to inform and protect people? The actions of Cambria official indicate the answer is a resounding “No; Not in our town”. It seems the Town of Cambria applies rules to hinder and hurt. IF there was a problem or a complaint, was there any reason why both parties could not have been brought together to create a solution? Isn’t government for all the people? Not a select few who are in power or personally know those who are?
While we are at it, take a look at the planning board’s page on the website, specifically rule #6. It says anyone who wants anything from the board has to do whatever the board asks… So pay your fees and bring me the broom stick of the wicked witch of the west and you can have your permit… You may think that is ridiculous… but is it?
“Applicant and owner must agree to Planning Board conditions or no approval will exist.”
That sounds like absolute power to me, and absolute power corrupts absolutely…
So think again if you believe this article is just about some farmer who didn’t apply for the right permits… It is a perfect example of a town without courage to talk to its citizens, without heart to help them and without brains to know that people will remain quiet and passive for only so long.
The citizens of Cambria deserve better treatment. They deserve collaborative leadership. This is still small town America, where sunflowers and small business will not cease and good citizens will not desist just because someone who hides behind their title sent a letter. Cambria townspeople: It time to pull back the wizard’s curtain and find a way for all of us to live and WORK together.
It has been a little bit over a year now since we began the restoration process at the historic Forsyth Tavern and a very limited number of people have been able to see the work that we have done so far.
For this reason, here is a little update on what has been going on behind the scenes at the Tavern---
Currently the Dominick family is working hard to preserve and restore our barn complex which was in terrible shape when we took over the property.
When finished, we hope that a portion on the barn complex will be open to the public as part of Jay Bird Antiques. We are also currently working on obtaining the permits for this great little antique shop to open in our beautiful little hamlet of Warren's Corners.
Back inside of the Tavern we are currently working on installing a Unico heat and air system which will help keep this beautiful structure comfortable in both summer and winter which we think that both our guests and the house will appreciate as fall comes racing towards us.
As always, thank you for checking in on us and we truly hope to see you all soon. Until then we hope that you enjoy watching our progress and don't be afraid to reach out, ask questions, show your support or share with us anything that you think we might find interesting!
Looking to see who owned your Niagara County historic home?
Click the link below to download a full sized version of this map to aid in your research.
The Forsyth will be opening its doors this coming weekend during the Cambria Town Wide Yard Sale. Stop by to see our progress on our historic restoration of the property or to shop in our little antique shop currently set up just in front of our barn. We would love to see all of our neighbors and friends at this once a year town event!
Early Settlement Warrens Corners
Beaver Dams Ruin Land
Forsyth First Settler
Wild Animals In Abundance
Tavern Erected in 1806
Indian Invasion Repulsed
Brave Women Rewarded
Romance Named Hamlet
Beach Family Arrives
The Steadman’s Settle
Haner’s Commodious Loghouse
The Carleton Family
Col. Sutherland Arrives
The First Sawmill
Carlton’s First Cidermill
Capen and Sabins Arrive
The First Physician Arrives
Adam’s Blacksmith Shop
Mrs. Taylor’s Sudden Death
Talbert Opens Tavern
Cleared Parker Farm
Freer Antecedents Settle
Crocker Homestead Built
Fowler Traded Farms
Samuel Adams Arrives
Freeman Builds Sawmill
Tailor in 1819
Beasts Drive Gunn Away
First Negro Arrives
Physicians were Numerous
Cooley Migrated West
First School Opened
Methodist Church in 1825
Brick Church Built 1858
Early School Life
Black Famine in 1816
Stage Coach Days
Plows and Harrows
One Horse Wagon
Boot and Shoe Industry
The proposition was favorable considered by two of the commissioners, but previous to their final decision, Wm. Brittan died, and the remaining two differed in their opinion as to the location, so it became necessary to appoint another commission, which occurred in 1822. When they were qualified, and ready to act in their official capacity the Erie canal had been surveyed and its location determined upon. Therefore they selected Lockport. The wisdom of their choice has made itself manifest as years continue to multiply.
Beaver Dams Ruin Land.
Forsyth First Settler.
John Forsyth sojourned in Genesee County. N. Y., two years. There he became acquainted with and married Miss Mary Ganson, a young lady connected with a family of prominence in that county, many of whom have since help responsible and honored positions in Western New York.
Wild Animals In Abundance.
Tavern Erected in 1806.
Indian Invasion Repulsed.
Brave Women Rewarded.
Romance Named Hamlet.
Repercussions of what people called “eighteen hundred and froze to death” were widespread. The overall harvest was half of what it normally should be and only half was edible, leaving people and livestock only a quarter of the crop yield to consume. Crop prices rose while livestock prices dropped as farmers sold off livestock they could not feed. The prices remained in this pattern throughout 1817 and did not return to normal until after 1820. The opening of short sections of the Erie Canal helped stabilize prices. By the 1820s prosperity had returned to the area.
In 1816 Western New York was still very much a wilderness. Most of the information on that summer comes from accounts in New England newspapers and correspondence. However, in the 1849 “History of the Holland Land Purchase,” Oramus Turner wrote of Western New York, “In 1816 and 1817, the seasons were unpropitious (unfavorable)…after a long period of gloom and depression, struggling against formidable difficulties, the courage of the new settlers was revived.”
What caused the summer of 1816 to be so unusual? At the time there was much speculation about why the skies were wreaking havoc. It was later determined that volcanic eruptions in Indonesia between 1812 and 1815 spewed so much dust into the atmosphere that it affected weather conditions for several years around the world. The eruption of Tambora in 1815 is believed to be the worst ever recorded in human history resulting in that memorable year without a summer.
Douglas Farley, Director
Ann Marie Linnabery
Erie Canal Discover Center
24 Church St.
Lockport NY 14094
April 15th 2018
November 18th 1789 - November 12th 1879
1800 And Froze To Death
Animals Over The Falls
Behind The Walls
Captian John Ganson
Come And Get Your Drunken Pigs
DeWitt Clinton Visits Tavern
Early Settlement Of Warren's Corners
Ezra Warren Becomes A Temperance Leader
Ezra Warren's Obituary And Life
Former Tavern Keeper Gave Name To Warrens Corners
Landmark Preservation Needed
Mary And The Invasion Of Lewiston
Small Town News
Tavern As County Seat
War Of 1812
Warren's Corners 1938-2017
Warren's Store And Grange Hall