Countless Hamilton students, faculty, staff, parents and area residents have driven, walked, and jogged past that granite marker on the north side of College Hill Road just west of State Route 233.
But, what is it and why is it there?
This bit of local history began with the encroachment of white settlers into Iroquois Indian lands in the mid-1700’s here in the Colony of New York.
British Crown Indian Agent and Superintendent Sir William Johnson tried unsuccessfully to get the Indians to agree to a boundary line that would clearly mark lands open to English settlement and those set aside for the Six Nations and their allies south. This first attempt occurred at a council held at German Flatts in 1765.
“The Indians were exasperated and defiant, and the colonists were apprehensive of a general declaration of war,” in an account in the Clinton Courier of July 7, 1885.
Determined to settle this issue Johnson persisted and called another council for Fort Stanwix in today’s Rome for September 1768. He arrived on the 19th accompanied by his deputies Guy Johnson, Daniel Claus, and George Croghan. Other notables there were William Franklin, colonial governor of New Jersey and two other New Jersey officials and a representative from Pennsylvania.
As was customary in dealing with the Indians Johnson and party arrived with 20 large bateaux loaded with presents to “propitiate the Indians.” By the first of October 800 Indians representing Iroquois, Delawares, Shawnees, and other tribes had gathered causing anxiety that supplies sent would be exhausted.
The congress or council finally convened on October 3rd after 3200 Indians had arrived. The Clinton Courier article called this a “large and momentous gathering” and that there was “no assemblage of equal importance to the future of the country.”
Two full days were devoted to condoling with the Indians on their losses in a recent Canadian war. Sir William Johnson told the Indians that the King had instructed him to “terminate forever the grievances by the definite establishment of a boundary line.”
This agreed-to line began at the mouth of the Tennessee River, ran up the Ohio River to Pittsburgh, across the Alleghany Mountains to the east branch of the Owego and Delaware rivers, up the Delaware to the west branch of the Unadilla River to its head and then in a straight line to the carrying place between Wood Creek and the Mohawk River.
Called the Line of Property or sometimes the Fort Stanwix Treaty of 1768 Line of Property, it ran southeast to northwest through the Town of Kirkland. Hamilton College is west of the line or in then Indian territory.
But back to the marker and the exact connection to Hamilton College. For this we turn to an issue of the Hamilton Literary Monthly in 1885.
The US government had assigned Army and Navy officers to a few colleges in the nation, and Hamilton got Lt. Robert Gracey Denig, a member of the Corps of Engineers, US Navy. Lt. Denig instructed in applied mathematics, field surveying, mechanical drawing, and engineering. Sophomores were required to take his class and juniors could elect one.
The May 1885 Hamilton Literary Monthly reported that Lt. Denig “took pains to find the correct bearing of the line of property and with the aid of students resurveyed it.
Denig suggested that the line be appropriately marked by a monument where it entered college property.
The sophomore class of 1887 took on the project, and Professor North aided in an inscription; the stone was erected on sophomore hill by the Psi Upsilon house in late June 1885.
The Clinton Courier of June 3, 1885 said that the scheme of marking the line had been a favorite one of Professor Oren Root, Jr for a number of years, but until the Class of 1887 took the matter in hand, no class seemed “patriotic enough to comply with the suggestion.”
The four sides read:
*The Line of Property Between the American Colonies and the Six Nations Fixed by Treaty at Fort Stanwix Nov. 5, 1768
*Witnessed by Sir William Johnson agent for the Crown Resurveyed June 1885 by Lieut. R.G. Denig, U.S. Navy
*Erected by the Class of 1887 Hamilton College and then the Greek phrase: “Wisdom is the first thing”
* Signed with six symbols top to bottom Mohawk, Oneida, Tuscarora, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca
Although thought by some to finalize the land settlement and ownership in the colonies, the 1768 treaty line hardly slowed or stopped the New England settlers from moving west. This line remains on more recent atlases such as the 1907 New Century Atlas of Oneida County.
For 122 years this granite monument has marked the historic treaty line and although the line was a failure in Indian policy, this stone can remind us of the New York colonial period every time we pass it.
Information in this article is as correct and factually accurate as possible. If you notice a fact that you believe is incorrect, please let us know. Comments are always welcome.