John Corcoran was born in Rochester, NY at a very early age and claims he advanced much too rapidly to his current decrepit state of elderliness. Along the way he has learned a few things and is always pleased to share some of them with others. Local and New York State history is at the top of that list. The thrill of seeing “Indian” Allen’s millstone in the Monroe County Office Building, or visiting the grave and wonderful statue of Mary Jemison in Letchworth State Park never fades.
An Arch Merrill book received as a gift many years ago struck a chord with this young man and launched a life-long love of Merrill’s work. Many a Sunday drive with his family was spent visiting places cited in a Merrill book. John would then impart to his very patient wife and children just what had transpired in that old building or on this very plot of land. His family was always pleased to go on these jaunts leading John to revel in his role as teacher and guide. Or it may have been the regular stops for ice cream during those rides that accounted for their enthusiasm.
John Corcoran has been a resident of Hilton, NY since 1971. He soon discovered Elizabeth Keller’s wonderful 1959 book, The Hilton Story in the village library . Now here was local history he and his family could walk to, and in a sense share ownership with, since it was all right here in “our village.”
Mr. Corcoran strongly believes that young folks need to have a sense of who and where they come from. Their town, city, state, and family all have a long history pre-dating their own arrival on the scene. Many important lessons from history are lost to those who aren’t interested in anything older than themselves.
John Corcoran is a member of the Parma Hilton Historical Society and has always enjoyed their interesting monthly lectures. After pondering the idea of writing his own on a favorite topic, Arch Merrill — author of twenty-three books on western New York State history, John proceeded to do so. It was well received by the Society and he has subsequently presented to several other groups as well.
After the Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York) published an article on March 15, 2019, about George Washington’s gift to famed Iroquois Chief returned to Seneca’s 227 years later, Mr. Corcoran wrote a letter to the editor in response to the publication.
The 1779 Sullivan Campaign was not genocidal
I am concerned with the term “genocidal” in an article by Justin Murphy in the March 16th Democrat & Chronicle: Special pipe-tomahawk gift returns to Senecas after 227 years. I also welcome the opportunity to say a few words about a special love of mine – local history.
The purpose of the 1779 Sullivan Expedition was to demoralize the Senecas, Cayugas and their Tory supporters for their bloody frontier raids in New York and Pennsylvania in 1778. It was also intended to take prisoners for bargaining back the many captives taken by the raiders. Any term resembling genocide is absent from Washington’s orders to General Sullivan.
The purpose was to destroy villages and food supplies, take prisoners, and flush the natives out of their homeland. This would at least temporarily halt the frontier massacres. It would also impress upon the Indian Nations and their Tory instigators the long reach of the Continental Army.
Only one significant battle was fought during the entire campaign, the Battle at Newtown near today’s Elmira, on August 29, 1779. Sullivan’s troops completely overpowered the Indian forces and their British loyalist ringleaders, destroying their morale and taste for fighting.
There was no genocide; some natives hid in the swamps and forests as Sullivan passed through but most fled west to British Fort Niagara and Canada. Mary Jemison (The White Woman of the Genesee) hid with her children in swamps near today’s Geneseo when Sullivan approached. She and her childhood family had suffered a frontier raid during the French and Indian War in 1758.
The Genesee River was the western terminus of the Sullivan Expedition as its main purpose had been fulfilled and provisions for the men were in short supply. Moses VanCampen, a noted New York State frontiersman and leading citizen of Allegany County in post-revolution years was General Sullivan’s quartermaster on this campaign.
Sullivan’s men destroyed over forty villages, burned acres of field crops, and girdled many orchards of fruit trees. In the end, the Sullivan Expedition caused little more than a year’s famine and the scattering of the native people.
Many soldiers noted the fertile fields and forests of the Finger Lakes region, and especially the rich Genesee River flats. Some of them were farmers from rocky New England farms and vowed to return to this lush area after the war.
John B. Corcoran
Essay to the D & C submitted 3/16/19
Presentations by Mr. Corcoran
Newspaperman and author of twenty-three books on the regional history of western and central New York State.
John Corcoran contrasts Merrill’s tough cigar-chomping city editor persona with his easy going and lyrical style of writing as well as presenting many fascinating highlights from his favorite Merrill books. These volumes were all published between 1943 and 1974 and are still in print today. Mr. Corcoran recommends these as primers for anyone interested in their local New York State history.
Native American Woodland Indians
Featuring the Indian Heritage of Hilton and Parma
This is the expanded version of the Native American program presented annually to the Hilton School District fourth graders. Hands-on examination of weapons, furs, and other artifacts is encouraged. This program is normally conducted by a team of four members of the Parma Hilton Historical Society. John Corcoran is the program coordinator.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE VILLAGE OF HILTON, NEW YORK
With an emphasis on how the first settlers came to this site
In American Colonial times all the territory north of today’s Route 104 between Lewiston and Oswego was known as the Black North. This was a dangerous and foreboding place. John Corcoran tells the hows and whys of early settlement in the Hilton/Parma area.
The Hilton site was once a mere intersection of two Indian trails but grew to be the hub of a highly successful farming community. Included is the story of entrepreneurs and tradesmen who kept Hilton apace of 20th Century advances in technology.