Gaiänt’wakê, or Cornplanter, was born in 1740 to a Seneca mother and a Dutch fur trader but was raised by his mother. Cornplanter over the years protested the treatment of his people by the government, and even though he was a great war hero during the Revolutionary War he buried his uniform, destroyed his medals and broke his sword. In time he tried to diplomatically resolve the issues of his people and in 1796 was given 1500 acres of land by Pennsylvania. Known as the Cornplanter tract this acreage was to be his and his heirs forever. About three miles south of the New York State border this tract of land was flooded by the Kinzua Dam project in 1965.
Over the years a few rumors cropped up about a cave that Cornplanter found in his youth. The legend goes that while hunting he wounded a deer and followed it to the mouth of a cave. With three distinct rooms and even mention of and underground lake this soon became a major place in Cornplanter’s life. Over the years he had used it as a meeting place where, sitting around a fire ring, he and his council members discussed war plans. It is unknown exactly where this cave is to this day but stories have been told of people stumbling upon it from time to time. Shrouded in mystery this cave has stories about a lake filled with blind fish and that it became the final resting place of a Cornplanter himself. In 1836 Cornplanter having enjoyed a long life finally succumbed to old age. He was buried on the tract of land that was given to him but was later interred on higher ground before the tract of land that was his, and that he called home was flooded in 1965. In 1966 the State of Pennsylvania erected a marker in his honor.
Chief of the Seneca tribe and a principal chief of the 6 nations from the period of the Revolutionary War to the time of his death distinguished for his talents, courage, eloquence, sobriety, and love for his tribe and race to whose welfare he devoted his time and energy and his means during a long and eventful life.
Overlooking the pristine surface of the lake that was his tract of land high atop the hill may seem to be the perfect resting place for Cornplanter. However, the story persists that he was dug up and moved to his cave, a place that he knew and loved. A fitting tomb for a great Chief of the Seneca’s and once entombed the cave was sealed off permanently never to be discovered again. Cornplanter, high atop a hill, overlooking the lands of his people resting peacefully within his cave seems to be a fitting end to such an important man. If ever you have cause to be in the woods overlooking the Cornplanter tract and you stumble across a partially sealed cave think twice before entering so as not to disturb the rest of Gaiänt’wakê known as Cornplanter.
It is not clear if this story is true but some say it is the case. No one that I asked who grew up within walking distance of the site even knew it existed. Possibly, some unknown force wanted the land back wiping it clean of all evidence that man had once tried to build upon its dusty knolls. One thing is for sure that whatever happened the story of Waterboro will always be told.
A Friend Among Senecas