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History of Onondaga TowhnshipEdit

By Reg. Cooper, Brant Historical Society, Radio Broadcast

Onondaga was acquired its name through the fact that the Onondaga tribe of the Six Nations settled in that part of the county now comprising that township. The Onondaga’s territory at the time of the formation of the confederacy was chosen as the site for the council fire, the home of their parliament as it were, it was central territory. This Council fire was kept burning night and day for over 300 years with annual peace meetings and discussions of mutual interest and when the Greet Council was held at the time of the American Declaration of Independence, the council fire solemnly extinguished to express their devotion and loyalty to the British Empire.
Hiawatha, Onondaga Chief was the first to propose the Six Nations Confederacy to put on end to tribal warfare and improve the lot of his people. This at about the same time that Jacques Carter made his first visit to the New World. It is apparent that the name Onondaga born by this Township is one of which to be proud. History records only one instance of active hostility to the whites ever recorded in Brant County.
Mr. John Solomon Hagar, who in the early days of the Township was quite a prominent figure, was the the person concerned in this incident. In 1838, he located on lots 62 and 63 river range land which unknown to him had been used by Pagan Indians as their “Fire Grounds”. The site of many ceremonies-including the annual custom of sacrificing white dog. A ceremony still celebrated 8 am informed. For these reasons, sacred to them they did their best to make Mr. Hagar leave the spot. But he stuck, and acts of violence, the burning down of his shanty — until finally they assembled in great force that he sent his family down the river in a canoe to his fathers-in-laws house and remained to defend his property. He was badly beaten and left as dead. He recovered however and subsequently obtained his patent. He also obtained damages in a suit against the Six Nations.
In after years he lived on friendly terms with them and brought a bright ending to the only violent incident of the early settlers of Brant County. He was the first settler and store-keeper in the Village of Middleport. Onondaga was the last of the Township to be settled, was surrendered by the Indians in 1840 and survey 1841-1842. White settlers however beat the gun and in 1856 David Jones and his father tie the first settlers with Joseph Brown close behind. Brown later opened the first tavern on the river front. A log schoolhouse was erected in 1842 with Wm. Shannon as teacher in the first attempt at education in the Township. An early settler who was later 20 years treasurer of the Township was Richard Herdsman, who in 1844 petitioned the Crown Lands Department in which he stated that he had served for 31 years 3 months with the King's Guards fought with the regiments at Waterloo where he had had a horse shot and received a medal, also a medal for meritorious conduct, on being discharged in. addition to his pension. {C}Onondaga village was first known as Smiths’ Corners, its first postmaster and store-keeper was Wm. D. Soules Following the first settlers were the lumber-men soon at work on the large forests of trees. A sawmill at Caledonia owned by Jas. Little was the first to get out logs which he floated down the Grand River. Several others soon followed, and for many years, it was a major industry.
Middleport was the scene of great activity in the industry with thousand of spars cut from logs floated down the Grand River to the spot shipped by steamers loaded there to many outside points.
{C}Three taverns soon followed the advent of the lumbermen with the needed accommodation for men and their horses, the chief means of travel. {C}The first visiting clergyman was rev. Hill — Church of England minister with no church or place of public worship he preached in house's, barns, and etc. Rev. Dr. Ferrier Pres. Minister of Caledonia carried similar campaign among the residents of Onondaga. The first church was erected by the New England Co.
The 1st session of the Township Council of Onondaga after inclusion in Brant County took place in January 1852. George Youell was elected Reeve by the other members Messrs. Alger, Carryer, Mulligan, and May.
When the municipality was included in the United Township of Onondaga and Tuscarora, the first Council adopted some rules - one of which commanded that no councilor shall speak disrespectfully of the Queen or any of the Royal family, or person administering the Government of this Province, nor shall he use unmannerly or indecent language against the proceedings, or against other councilors. I suggest that this was an aftermath of the MacKenzie Rebellion of 1847 led in Brant County by Dr. Duncombe of Burford.
A picturesque part of the Township for many years has been the ferries propelled by an endless chain across the Grand River as there are no bridges on that portion of the river. Historic Chiefwood, the home of Pauline Johnson is situated in the township. Built by chief G. M. Johnson, Pauline’s father, for his English bride. The finest and largest home on the reservation. It was termed a Mansion and earned him an Indian name meaning George Mansion. Here Pauline Johnson spent her happy childhood and began her writing to display her literary ability end poetic fancy. Here she set and listened to her father and grandfather John Smoke Johnson recite many tales and Indian legends that stirred the imagination. From the Martin settlement in the Township many went forth to win distinction in various phases of life. And so we close on the subject of Onondaga Township which translated means “the big hill”.
The original name of Onondaga tribe in N. Y. State was on the side of big hill in fact the present Onondaga reservation is near Syracuse N.Y.

Onondaga Central SchoolEdit

Historical Information By Jeff Ireland, student of Onondaga Central School, 1984.

In the 1830's, Settlers began to arrive in the eastern parts of the Twp. near Seneca Line and began to take up the indian lands under what was called squatters rights. The Indians were furious and these so-called squatters were fined, some up to thirty dollars. Undaun­ted by these difficulties, settlers began to pour into the Twp. in such numbers that in 1840 the government decided it would be best to make a treaty with the Indians. The treaty meant that the Indians had to surrender all of the land within the Twp. to white settlers. This property was then opened for settlement. In a very short time, every lot in Onondaga Twp. was either purchased or occupied by white settlers except seventeen lots. These lots were reserved and owned by the Indians. The population of Onondaga Twp. has made many increases and decreases over the past 160 years. For instance, in 1840, the population of white settlers in Onondaga was about 150. The population increased to 1,650 people ten years later. In 1861, the population increased to 2,065. Today the population of Onondaga Twp. is about 1,315. The first actual settlers to arrive in Onondaga Twp. were David Jones and his father who arrived in 1836. They located near the Haldimand County Line and were soon followed by Mr. Joseph Brown. Mr. Brown opened the first tavern in the Twp. in 1836. The next settlers to arrive in Onondaga Twp. were James Ferris, James Chapman and Thomas Conboy Sr.

In 1838, settlers began to arrive in the western end of the Twp. and settled on Lots 3 and 4, River Range. Some of these settlers were Arthur Smith, John Dickenson and William Burrill.

The settlers that arrived in the centre of the Twp. in 1838 were the Howeli brothers, the Duttons, James and Samuel Simpson, and Joseph Matthews. Most of the early build­ings built in Onondaga were built between the years 1838 and 1845. There were two taverns built in the year 1838, one built by Joseph Brown, the other built by George May. The taverns were small log buildings which had no rules regulating drinking. About two years later there were two more taverns erected. About the year 1845, David Smith decided to embark in the grocery business in Onondaga Village. Along with his grocery store, David Smith kept a liquor saloon and a bowling alley. Two more saloons were erected and this made a total of seven saloons and taverns in Onondaga Twp. In the year 1838, Captain Murray opened a general store near George May's tavern on the River Road. Along with Captain Murray, Arthur Smith and Robert Doules opened similar general stores. The first old-fashioned log school house in Onondaga Twp. was built in 1846 on the property of Henry Gilmore. By 1857, there were six school sections and five excellent school houses. The one in the Village of Onondaga, costing over three thousand dol­lars, could fully seat two hundred pupils. This school, S.S. #5, was built in 1876 and today houses the Twp. Municipal Offices, Council Chambers and Fire Dept. The Muni­cipal Road Shed is located at the rear.

In 1959, these five schools were amal­gamated into Onondaga Central School which was located on the outskirts of the Village of Onondaga. With the exception of S.S.#5 all the other schools were moved or torn down. Because of declining enrolment, in 1980 Onondaga Central School was turned into a senior primary school grades 5-8 and in 1984, Onondaga Central School closed its doors and was later sold by the Board of Education for a nursing home. To this day, the building stands vacant and boarded up. Onondaga students are bused to Brant School which is now known as Onondaga/Brant Public School. Some pupils go on to attend Pauline Johnson Collegiate in the City of Brantford.

The Municipal offices, located in the old school, are governed by an elected body referred to as the Council which is com­prised of a Reeve, Deputy Reeve and 3 Councillors. The Twp. of Onondaga is protected by a Volunteer Fire Dept. which has served the community for over 30 years and has approx. 20 fire-fighters. The Twp. of Onondaga is part of Brant County and the Reeve of Onondaga sits on Brant County Council as our representative. The Twp. of Onondaga, known by the indians as the land of the rolling hills, located across from the Six Nations Indian Reserve and along the shore of the Grand River, is still, after 137 years, a beautiful, growing, agricultural community.

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