Pieces of the Past
Artifacts, Documents, and Primary Sources
from Letchworth Park History

Mary Jemison's Children

The Life of Mary Jemison was written by James Everett Seaver in 1824 and was reprinted and revised nineteen times by 1918 when the Twentieth edition was published by the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society and dedicated to the Memory of William Pryor Letchworth, LL.D.

One of the interesting parts of the twentieth edition is the footnote that pieces together facts about the children of Mary Jemison and we will do our best share the information presented. This footnote is included in the edition because there were times and places in the writings of Seaver when the narration by Mary did not mesh with historical facts recorded elsewhere.

Mary had two husbands and eight children. Sheninjee was a Delaware she married in the summer of 1760 at age 17 while still in a village on the Ohio river. Hiokatoo was a Seneca Chief she married in the Genesee country in 1765. Mary had two children by her first husband Sheninjee and six by her second, Hiokatoo. She was widowed while she traveled to the Genesee Country, Sheninjee having died of "disease".

Her first child was girl who lived two days. This was during Mary's second summer at the village of Wiishto, in 1761 "at the time the kernels of corn first appeared on the cob".

Thomas, her second child, born in the winter of 1762, made the journey to the Genesee Country on Mary's back as depicted by her statue at the Council Grounds in Letchworth State Park. Thomas was killed by his half brother, John in 1811, one of the many tragic events of in Mary's life.

Her other children were

The English names for these children reflect their unique family history. Mary related to Seaver that she named her son "to commemorate the name of my much lamented father, I called my son Thomas Jemison". (p45) It should be noted, however, that the children also had Seneca names. According to treaty documents, Thomas was known to the Seneca as Teahdowaingqua.

One of the interesting revelations in the 20th edition is that Mary's original life story states that she was captured in 1755 when in fact it was 1758. Mary was 80 when she gave her life story to Seaver and everyone can understand that her memory might be a little off. The footnotes in the edition cite this three year glitch frequently when comparing some of Mary's described dates to the absolute dates as established by other factual sources.

Mary dictated her story in 1824 and at that time had at least 14 grandchildren. She died on the Buffalo Reservation in 1833.



Tom Breslin
April 2002

Also see our Glimpse of Mary Jemison



Seaver, Life of Mary Jemison, 1918ed, pp 346-354

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