Cemeteries Flooded by the Kinzua Dam
The dam and reservoir are located in Warren and McKean counties,
Pennsylvania, and Cattaraugus County, New York. In Pennsylvania,
the Allegheny Reservoir is completely surrounded by the Allegheny
National Forest. In New York it is surrounded by the Allegany State
Park and the Allegany Indian Reservation of the Seneca Nation.
Kinzua, “fish on a spear” in the Seneca-Iroquois language,
is renowned for its recreational opportunities. The sparkling lake
is surrounded by lush forest. The area offers a wide range of activities,
such as boating, canoeing, water-skiing, swimming, camping, fishing,
sightseeing, scenic drives, hiking, cross country skiing, snowmobiling
and much more.
Dam Construction and a Broken Treaty
Although the dam’s construction had been proposed as early as
1908, it wasn’t until the early 1960s that the Corps received authorization
from Congress to build the dam and reservoir. In 1965 the Corps
of Engineers completed Kinzu.
Prior to its being built, the Seneca Nation sought an injunction
to prevent construction citing the Canandaigua Treaty of 1794 between
the United States and the Iroquois, which guaranteed Seneca rights
to the land. The treaty, signed by both George Washington's representative
and Chief Cornplanter, guaranteed that the United States would never
take the Seneca's land. This treaty states:
Now the United States acknowledges all the land within the aforementioned
boundaries, to be the property of the Seneca Nation, and the United
States will never claim the same, nor disturb the Seneca Nation.
The United States confiscated the Seneca's land by right of eminent
domain. Although the descendants of Cornplanter lost their suit
in federal court, Congress compensated the Seneca Nation with $15
million for direct and indirect damages and to fund a rehabilitation
With the dam completed, the rising water inundated all the habitable
land of Cornplanter's Grant, the last tribal lands in Pennsylvania,
along with about 10,000 acres of the Seneca's Allegany Reservation
in New York. It also destroyed the Seneca’s spiritual center, the
Cold Spring Longhouse, and forced the relocation of 130 Native American
families. Numerous family grave sites and cemeteries were also relocated.
Numerous cemeteries were relocated during the construction of Kinzua
Dam and Allegheny Reservoir in the early 1960s by the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District.
Remains in Kinzua Cemetery, which contained approximately 1,336
graves, and Morrison Run Cemetery, which contained approximately
62 graves (another record said 89), were relocated to Willow Dale
Cemetery in Bradford, Pennsylvania. According to Pittsburgh District
records, 1467 remains were removed from both cemeteries. "Re-interment
of 40 of the remains was made in alternative cemeteries." (Those
alternative cemeteries were not identified.)
Other cemeteries which were relocated were Riverview, Corydon
and Cornplanter. The Cornplanter Cemetery and the Cornplanter Monument
were relocated to the Riverview-Corydon Cemetery.
Three smaller cemeteries were identified in district records as:
Greenwood (451 graves); Stryker (21); and Moore (13). The three
cemeteries were located in Cattaraugus County, New York. Almost
all of the remains (483) were re-interred in a new addition to the
existing Steamburg Cemetery, Cattaraugus County, New York. The other
remains were interred in "certain other alternative cemeteries"
which were not named in the Corps’ Pittsburgh District records.
In addition, to the previously named cemeteries, the following
family and community cemeteries located in the Seneca Nation on
the Allegany Indian Reservation in Cattaraugus County, New York
were relocated. Most of the re-internment sites were either at the
Hillside Haven Cemetery (1757 graves) or Memorial Heights in Red
House, New York (1294). The following are the cemeteries listed
in district records that were located on Seneca Nation lands: Alfred
Jones Cemetery, Blacksnake Cemetery, Christobel Pierce Cemetery,
Clark Residence Cemetery, Cooper Family Cemetery, Crouse-Patterson
Cemetery, Halftown Cemetery, Henry Redeye Cemetery, Jacob Logan
Cemetery, Jerome Snow Cemetery, Jimerson Family Cemetery, Old Town
Cemetery, Onoville Cemetery, Oscar Nephew Cemetery, Phillip Fatty
Cemetery, Quaker Bridge Community Cemetery, Red House Cemetery,
Shongo Cemetery, Watt Cemetery
I would like to thank Pittsburgh District Corps of Engineers’ retiree
George Plesko for making available his records and maps on the Kinzua
cemetery re-interments. -Liane Freedman
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