Rain and revelations revealed while Randy treks north
(The third in a series of reports following the times and trials of hiker Randy Watts. From Fort Freeland, the local historian is retracing the path taken 239 years ago when his relatives were captured by the British and Native Americans, then marched northward to Fort Niagara in upstate New York).
TURBOTVILLE Ducking into a dugout, Randy Watts found protection from the rain which came often during his trek. On Aug 9, the hiker phoned in while sitting in a dugout in the New York town of Geneseo. “I’m at the ‘Home of the Devils,’ the name of the high school’s mascot for its soccer team I’m watching as they practice in the rain,” he said.
A perk in the place he noticed and reported was, “The dugout has a place for phone hook ups, so I’m taking time to check in with folks. I’m on schedule and expect to reach my destination in four or five days,” Randy reasoned.
In 1779, nether the British, Native Americans nor their prisoners had cell phones. However, on this and all days, the fast-talking Randy often glossed over details of the people and places he noted. This was to save the batteries on his phone. We were insured a more lengthy and accurate account is being kept when he said, “I’m on my third journal.”
More information was needed to understand the importance of last week’s notation of Randy’s sleeping on the Benjamin Patterson bedroom. To that end, we contacted Leon Golder, a volunteer at the Heritage Village Museum in Corning. The explanation connects Patterson to the Central Susquehanna Valley during the time of the Battle of Fort Freeland.
Golder said, “When the fort was attacked, word was sent to Fort Boone (north of Milton) for the militia to come rescue settlers at the besieged fort. The fight was over by the time the thirty-seven militia men arrived.” Ben Patterson was among the militia and our informant expanded a bit on the man’s early life. “Patterson’s mother was a first cousin to Daniel Boone. After being widowed in Clarks Ferry, Juanita County, the mother was left with two young boys, Ben and Robert,” Golder said.
Some historic events for which the adult Patterson is noted is; cleaning up after the Wyoming Massacre and blazing a path to Mansfield, the latter done having been hired by Charles Williamson.
After Patterson’s first two wives died, he married a third time. A tavern named for the pioneer still stands. Originally built near Painted Post, it had since been moved to the grounds at Heritage Village, becoming one of several building there. It was in the Patterson bedroom Randy spent one of his few nights indoors, made special as the present-day hiker is aware of the early patriot’s contributions to lives of settlers on both branches of the Susquehanna.
Recounting his steps Randy was later at Dansville along Route 36 which runs parallel to Route 390. “I veered off the main road to go through the town,” he said. Located in Dansville, he ate at McDonalds which overlooks a small airport. The few planes parked near the runway was in stark contrast to Randy’s mode of travel, that of shoe leather express.
The hiker had also passed Conesus Lake. Then on to Mt. Morris where Letchworth State Park borders the village. The 17-mile long grounds stretch along the gorge and several waterfalls of the Genesee River.
The park is known as the home of Mary Jameson, referred to as ‘The White Women of the Genesee.’ Jamison’s story closely resembles that of the Fort Freeland prisoners, however she was captured in 1755, a little more than 20 years earlier. During Mary’s teens, the Shawnee took the Jamison family from their home in Adams County, PA. Mary was given to the Seneca’s who adopted her. She wed first, then second, Native American husbands birthing seven children.
The march north of the Fort Freeland settlers coincided with the time Mary Jamison resided in what became her permanent home near Mt. Morris. Just seven years earlier, she was the negotiator in land settlements between the Native Americans and the Europeans.
For his next destination on the way to Fort Niagara, Randy sat his sights on Brockport along the canal. Randy says, “Walking is brain therapy. I talk to people, observe what I see, and my walking is productive.” Perhaps the hiker’s reference to productive is money he picks up along the road. “It’s not much, people don’t throw their money out the car window, but I’ve found a few coins.”
Many unanswered questions remain. One is the total amount of the coins? Will he be allowed his wish to sleep in the blockhouse at Fort Niagara? And in what manner will the historian return to Turbotville? Learn more in The Luminary’s next issue, the final episode of Randy Watt’s trek north.