Campfire Site

Current Sign Text

Here David Morse and
James Lockwood made
First campfire April 1792
And made friends with
The Indians

Problematic issues

-This campfire was not the first campfire in the area. The land along the upper branches of the Tioughnioga River was a hunting and fishing area for the Onondaga long before Morse and Lockwood came to area.

-The friendship between David Morse and an unnamed Indian that began at this campfire is part of the lore of Cortland County. While the marker highlights the friendships made, the lore uses the story of how David Morse made friends with an Indian to demonstrate the "shrewd manner of ...dealing with an Indian whose hunting ground he was pre-empting."(1)

-The name of the Indian is not recorded, even though - according to the story, he gave the two travelers a fully dressed carcass of a deer, visited their home every day for over a year, and "interceded for them at his council fires in times of trouble."(2)


Entrance to Cuyler Cemetery, near intersection of New York Route 13 and Main Street, village of Cuyler in Cortland County. Campfire was allegedly along the banks of the eastern branch of the Tioughnioga River.


-David Morse (sometimes spelled Moss) was one of the first Revolutionary War soldiers to actually claim land in what is now the village of Cuyler in Cortland County. James Lockwood was his brother-in-law. The two men canoed north along the Tioughnioga.

-According to Cortland County Chronicles, the morning after the first campfire, Lockwood spied the Indian looking at them from behind a tree. When Lockwood reached for his gun, Morse allegedly intervened, and walked towards the Indian with a lighted "pipe of peace" which the three eventually smoked together.( 2)

-The story which highlights the diplomacy and quick wit of a Revolutionary War soldier and holder of a military tract bounty deed is used to reinforce the legitimacy of the claims.

Indigenous Place Names for Site

-The site overlooks the east branch of the Tioughnioga (tei-uhf-nee-O-guh) River.

-In the 1700s, this east branch was sometimes called Onogariske or O-nan'-no-giis'ka (which meant "shagbark hickory" and sometimes called Onondaga as it led to the Onondaga village, north of this location.(3)

Circumstances of Marker Placement

Erected by New York State Education Department in 1932. "The State Historic Marker Program began in 1926 as a program of the State Education Department to commemorate the Sequicentennial of the American Revolution. Over 2,800 of the small, cast iron site markers ... were erected statewide during the duration of this program (1926-1939)". (5)

Additional Information

See discussion on "The Military Tract."


1. H.P. Smith, History of Cortland County, 1885. Accessed July 3, 2011

2. Robert Cudworth, "The Diplomatic Pioneer," in Cortland County Chronicles, Vol. 1., Cortland County Historical Society, Cortland, NY,1957, pp 12-13.

3. William S. Beauchamp, Aboriginal Place Names of New York, New York State Museum, Bulletin 108, Archeology 12, May 1907, pp. 50, 51.

4. "Cortland County History," in Cortland County Chronicles, Vol. 3, Cortland County Historical Society, Publication 14, 1979.

5. New York State Museum, "Outreach: State Historic Markers",, accessed January 23, 2011.

Last Updated

Gail Bundy, July 10, 2011