Letter from Frederick Follet to Henry R. Schoolcraft
Batavia, Oct. 25, 1845.
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My private and public duties together prevented my making a visit to “Fort Hill,” until the 22d inst. and I proceed to give you my ideas of that formation.
The ground known as “Fort Hill” is situated about three miles north of the village of Le Roy, and ten or twelve miles northeast from Batavia, the capitol of Genesee county. The better view of “Fort Hill” is had to the north of it, about a quarter of a mile, on the road leading from Bergen to Le Roy. From this point of observation it needs little aid of the imagination to conceive that it was erected as a fortification by a large and powerful army, looking for a permanent and almost inaccessible bulwark of defense. From the center of the “Hill,” in the northwesterly course, the country lies quite flat immediately north, and inclining to the east, the land is also level for one hundred rods, when it rises nearly as high as the “Hill,” and continues for several miles quite elevated. In approaching the “Hill” from the north it stands very prominently before you, rising rather abruptly, though not perpendicularly, to the height of eighty or ninety feet, extending about forty rods on a line east and west, the corners being round or truncated, and continuing to the south on the west side for some sixty rods, and on the east side for about half a mile, maintaining about the same elevation at the sides as in front; beyond which distance the line of the “Hill” is that of the land around.
“Fort Hill,” however, is not a work of art. The geological character of it shows it to be the result of natural causes. Nevertheless, there are undoubted evidences of its once having been resorted to as a fortification, and of its having constituted a valuable point of defence to a rude and half-civilized people.
It is probable that at a period of time very far distant, the ground about “Fort Hill” was, for some considerable distance around, entirely of the same level, and that by the action of water, a change took place, which brought about the present condition. The low land immediately in front to the north, is only the remains of a water course, which was made up of a stream coming down the gorge of the west side, and the present ” Allen s creek,” which flows through a portion of the gorge of the east side, the stream of the west having been a branch of that of the east side. Through the west gorge now flows, in the wet season, a moderate stream, coming from the lands above the gorge, and having an interrupted fall of some forty or fifty feet; while Allen s creek” occupies a portion of the eastern gorge, much broader, at the extremity of which, some half a mile from the “Hill,” there is a beautiful fall of eighty feet perpendicularly. The structure of the “Hill” bears out this construction; it being composed of the same rock with the exception of the upper strata as the falls. At the falls the upper strata of rock and that which forms the bed of the creek for some two miles or more east, is the coniferous limestone underlying which are hydraulic and Onondaga limestones. The two latter are only seen at “Fort Hill,” covered by a few feet of soil and several small masses of stone, a part out of place, among which are a few of Medina sandstone. The strata are, therefore continuous from the falls, and at some former periods, extended over the gorges, and formed a regular and nearly level surface, the action of water having removed, which has left the broad and conspicuous point of “Fort Hill,” as memorable monuments of the earlier condition of the country.
When “Fort Hill” was used as a fortification the summit was en trenched. Forty years ago an entrenchment, ten feet deep and some twelve or fifteen wide, extended from the west to the east end, along the north or front part, and continued up each side about twenty rods, where it crossed over and joining, made the circuit of entrenchment complete. At this day a portion of this entrenchment is easily perceived for fifteen rods along the extreme western half of the north or front part, the cultivation of the soil, with other causes, having nearly obliterated all other portions. It would seem that this fortification was arranged more for protection against invasion from the north than from any other quarter, this direction evidently being its most commanding position. Near the northwest corner have, at different times, been found collections of rounded stones of hard consistence, which are supposed to have been used as weapons of defense by the besieged against the besiegers.
Arrowheads, made of flint or horn-stone, gouges, pestles, hatchets, and other weapons formed from stone, have been found about the “Hill” and throughout this section. Of the rarer articles, are pipes and beads, a few of the latter of which I have been able to obtain. The gouges, pestles and hatchets, are, I think, frequently made of compact limestone, probably what is now known in Mr. Hall’s State report as the one foot limestone at LeRoy, though many of them seem to be formed of primitive rock, and very likely were worked out from boulders scattered about the country.
Skeletons found about “Fort Hill” and its vicinity sustain the impression that the former occupants of this “military station” were of a larger and more powerful race of men than ourselves. I learned that the skeletons generally indicated a stouter and larger frame. Anhuraerus or shoulder bone of which preserved may safely be said to be one-third larger or stouter than any now swung by the living. A resident of Batavia, Thomas T. Everett, M. D., has in his cabinet a portion of a lower jaw bone full one-third larger than any possessed by the present race of men, which was found in a hill near LeRoy, some two years since. From the same hill arrowheads and other articles have been removed for many years.
The articles I send you are as follows: No. 1, an Indian gouge, made of very hard stone, found at “Fort Hill;” No. 3, arrow heads, of flint; No. 4, beads; No. 5, a bead, evidently formed from a tooth, as the enamel and other distinctive marks indicate; No. 6, a bead, apparently of bone.
No. 2 is a stone tomahawk, presented to me by Jerome A. Clark, Esq., of this village. It was found on his premises half a mile south of this place. I herewith present it to you.
These articles I have sent today by a friend, and you will find them by calling at Tammany Hall. I have not yet been able to visit Tonawanda, but am in hopes to do so in a day or two.
Your ob’t serv’t,