Legendary Colonial Frontierswoman. Known as "The White Woman of the Genesee." Born on the ship William and Mary en route from Northern Ireland to America, Mary was the daughter of Thomas and Jane Jemison. The family settled in Pennsylvania, near modern day Gettysburg. The French and Indian War shattered her world when, in the spring of 1758, a raiding party of Shawnee warriors and French soldiers raided the settlement. 15-year-old Mary and the rest of her family, except for two older brothers who managed to escape, were taken captive. En route to Fort Duquesne the captives were killed, but Mary and a young neighbor boy were spared. At the fort, Mary was sold to a party of Senecas. She was renamed De-Ge-Wa-Nis, or "Two Falling Voices", and taken down the Ohio River. Mary learned the ways of the Seneca, and was given in marrige to a Lenape (Delaware) brave named Sheninjee. In 1762 she gave birth to a son whom she named Thomas after her father. That summer, the couple began a remarkable walk of nearly 700 miles to the Genesee River valley, Sheninjee's homeland. Mary and her son arrived alone in the dead of winter, her husband having died during the journey. She was received with open arms by her husband's clan and settled to a happy life among the Seneca in Sehgehunda, or "Vale of the Three Falls". She married Seneca chief Hiokatoo, and she had six more children. In 1823 Mary gave an interview to a local doctor, and he published "The Life and Times of Mrs. Mary Jemison". When the Senecas gave up most of their Genesee Valley lands, Mary sold the two square miles left to her and moved to the Buffalo Creek reservation. She died there at the age of 90. When the reservation was closed and the burial ground there threatened, her grandchildren turned to William Pryor Letchworth, whose estate, Glen Iris, encompassed the land where Sehgehunda had been. He immediately invited them to bring Mary home. Her remains were placed in a new walnut coffin and taken back to the Genesee Valley. A full ceremony was held at the old Seneca council house, and she was laid to rest in March of 1874. Letchworth erected a granite marker, on top of which is a statue which he dedicated in 1910, after his estate had been incorporated into Letchworth State Park.
Bio by: Kristen Conrad
Thomas Teahdowaingqua Jemison