Thursday, November 1, 2012
Freeville History: Pre-History
I started the Freeville history series by looking at its beginnings as a village, using the history section of the Freeville website as a reference, but I've now come across a more complete resource - a book (unpublished, I believe) written by an historian who lived in Freeville. So now I can fill in some of the blanks. I'll start by back-tracking in the history to the time of the Indians - the Cayuga, the Onondaga, the Oneida, and others...the tribes collectively known as the Iriquois.
Of course, "Iriquois" is a name bestowed on them by their enemies, the Algonquins (the Algonkin word was "Irinakhoiw", meaning "real adders"...an adder is a poisonous snake), and the name was mutated (or is that mutilated?) by the French modifying the word to fit their language ("Iriqu") and adding the ending -ois, hence the name "Iriquois". But those tribes comprising the Iriquois - the Caygua, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, and, after 1722, the Tuscarora - referred to themselves as the "Haudenosaunee", or "people of the long house". They did, after all, live in long houses, which in rare instances measured more than the length of a football field! I'll save the history of the Iriquois for another winter and stick to the history as it related to Freeville for now.
Freeville sits in a valley (hence the two creeks), and this valley marked the boundary between the Cayugas and the Onondagas. It was a boundary that extended from Lake Ontario in the north to the site of the present-day city of Owego in the south. The Freeville area is not thought to have been a residential area for either tribe, as the artifacts found here - such as arrowheads, ornaments, and utensils - suggest that the Indians merely passed through, using the area as a hunting ground and a passage between settlements. Today, two significant regional roads meet in Freeville. Route 366 runs from Ithaca towards the northeast to Freeville, and Route 38 runs approximately east-west near Freeville, where it meets Route 366 at the main four-way stop in town. Similarly, the Freeville area was the site of the meeting of a significant east-west Indian trail with a significant north-south Indian trail.
The early appeal of the Freeville area was as a center for the fur trade. Fall Creek - known as No-Ga-Ene or Neguena to the Cayuga, is the largest creek in the area, which made it an excellent site for beaver dams (and later for mills). Both the English and the French strove to control this fur trade, which to them meant control of the land. The English won that battle after winning the French and Indian war, and after the Revolution it was the Americans who set their eyes on Central New York. This set the stage for Daniel White and the first true occupants of the town that was to become Freeville.
Freeville History - Origins
Genung's History of Freeville