By Missy Gelnette
The Seneca Indian Chief known as Cornplanter was known by many names but little else was known about this strange and complicated man. Cornplanter was also widely known by his Iroquois name, Garganwahagah ("By the one who plants"), or to whites as John O'Ball. He was born at Conewaugus on the Genesee River in New York. The exact date of his birth was not known.
His father was an English or Dutch trader named John O'Bail (or O'Beel) and his mother was a full-blooded Seneca Indian. Little is known about his youth. During the Revolutionary War he went over with his tribe to the English side and participated in some of the principal engagements of the Senecas against the colonists. At the conclusion of peace however, he became a good friend of the young republic and employed every means to cement good will between his people and the United States.
In 1784, he was present at the treaty of Fort Stanwix at Rome, New York, when the Iroquois ceded much Indian ground which made him unpopular with his tribe. A rival chief, Red Jacket, seized upon these friendly acts toward whites as an excuse to promote his own popularity, and for a time Cornplanter's life was in danger.
In 1790 he visited Philadelphia and presented the Indian's case to George Washington. Once peace was permanently established between the Iroquois and the United States, Cornplanter retired from public life to a tract of land on the Allegheny River granted him by Pennsylvania "for his many valuable services to the whites."
He died in Warren County on February 18, 1836 at the age of about 100.
Cornplanter was said to have married a Brookville girl but, because he was an Indian, no local church would marry the couple.
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