Nancy Marlin, a giant of the earth
“Glancing Backward” occasionally honors Livingston County Giants of the Earth, courageous souls who formed the backbone of our county in the early days. Their pioneer spirit and fortitude was the stuff of giant character.
Miss Nancy Marlin lived through and clearly remembered the trials and hardships of Valley settlers in early times. Nancy was born in the southern tier in 1800.
Her memories especially are valued regarding the year without a summer. In agreement with other accounts, she told of frosts every month that destroyed almost all the crops.
Was it that bad? In the words of Hugh McNair- “a man named Carpenter (by 1885, having become the Bird Kennedy farm) was fortunate to have tucket, half-ripened corn. The next season whole families survived for weeks on natural greens supplemented by milk and butter. As soon as new wheat had any substance it was boiled and served as the main course for hungry families.
Nancy described it “as a year of great suffering among the people.”
Miss Martin attended school in a district on both sides of a line between Ossian and Sparta. The schoolkids had no fears of peanut butter allergy but, instead, rattle snakes on their playground.
During a particular springtime noon recess, students watched spellbound as a rattler charmed a chipmunk. The hypnotic snake’s eyes forced little chipmunk ever closer, continually with chipmunkish cries of terror. Almost to the rattler’s jaws, sixth grader Thomas Ward and Richard Parkinson killed the snake. The chipmunk scampered away.
Nancy Marlin never married but took pride in surviving to be a great aunt and being blessed in surviving the 1816 year without a summer.
Mary Kennedy was a giantess who adjusted to a new way of life. She lived where skeletons of reputed giants had been unearthed. In Mary’s spelling, her home was “Skwaki Hill.”
At age 62 in 1887 Mary revisited the hill adjacent to the Genesee River. She found a driveway at the foot of the hill leading to a telegraph pole. There her father, Djoaot (Standing Corn) once had headed her family. Working for whites, Djoaot had taken the name of John Kennedy. (LCHS Proceedings)
Mary described her life experiences as sad. After being defeated at Newton by General Sullivan, her Seneca people became refugees, fleeing to the supposed safety of the Genesee. On their way, Little Salt Maker slipped under a horse’s belly. Her back was permanently deformed. Though her spine never straightened, she met and married a wandering “Nameless One” who then gained an identity. He became Gadjay, the “dish” for as he explained- “a dish does not move.”
These were Mary’s grandparents. Dish fathered nine daughters and one son with each daughter bringing her husband home to Squawkha. Salt Maker became a clan mother.
Nine times the original bark cabin was extended until it became a longhouse. The other Squawkia forgot it became a longhouse. The other Squawkia forgot their ancestry but not Mary whose mother was Ga-dji-kadoni, the youngest of the sisters.
Then more dark days. Her people were forced to live at Buffalo Creek, then the Cataraugus Reserve with an attempt to force Kansas migration on them.
In 1887 Mary wept at the thought of her forever-lost “Squakkie Hill.”
Newspaper editor C.K. Sanders in 1886 quipped-the early settlers had to work or die. With prosperity, it changed to “cheat and lie.”
Nancy and Mary were giants of the first category.