Indian Hill

Current Sign Text

Indian Hill
In a bark chapel on this spot
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
Was First Offered in New York State
By Rev. Joseph M. Chaumonot
Sunday 14, November 1655
Going Therefore Teach
Ye all Nations
Baptizing Them in the
Name of the Father
And the Son and the Holy Ghost
Teaching Them to Observe all
Things Whatsoever Have Commanded You
St. Matthew XXVII 19-20

Erected by the Order
Of the Alhambra
Anno Domini - MCMXVII

Problematic issues

-The "bark chapel" was the home of Teotonhararo, the Onondaga woman at whose home the French priests, Joseph Chaumont and Claude Deblon, held that mass.(1) Her hospitality made the mass possible, yet the marker does not acknowledge her.

-In 1696, only 41 years after the first French priests came to the area and celebrated this mass, a French army under Frontenac came through this area, burning Onondaga villages.


This marker (along with at least one other) is located in "Indian Hill Memorial Park", a small site maintained by Onondaga County as a county historic site. The site is on Indian Hill Road West (which connects Watervale Road and Pompey Center Road, .6 mile west of Pompey Center Road.


-On November 14, 1655, French Jesuit Fathers Joseph Chaumont and Claude Deblon, celebrated mass in the cabin of Teotonhararo, an Onondaga woman who had apparently been traveling with them. (1)

-[From Chaumont's Diary] "14th-Sunday. We could not commence better than by administering the sacrament of the Holy Mass, which we celebrated on a small altar, in an oratory, made in the cabin of Teotonhararo, one of the women who came down to Quebec with the ambassadors." (1)

-This mass is considered by some to be the first Catholic mass in what is now the state of New York. The priests built a chapel near here, founding the "Mission of St. John the Baptist " which extended from Indian Hill to a point near Jamesville, a distance of several miles. This mission was conducted from 1655 to 1681, a period of 27 years.

Indigenous Place Names for Site

On-on-da-ga - People of the Hills

Circumstances of Marker Placement

-In 1905, Father George Mahan of Pompey Hill sponsored a celebration of the 250th anniversary of that mass at the Roman Catholic Church in Pompey Hill. Over 2500 people attended. At the time, Father Mahan was interviewed extensively concerning his research about the event and its location.(2)

-A Catholic historian, Dr. John Coyle, became a moving force behind placing this marker. (3)

-The Knights of the Alhambra, a Roman Catholic service organization, used a November 1917 national convention in Syracuse as the occasion for erecting the marker. (3)

Additional Information

The site is occasionally still used for Roman Catholic celebrations, pilgrimages, and interfaith prayer services.


1. "Revelations of Father La Mercier", quoted in Joshua V.P. Clark, Onondaga; or Reminiscences of Earlier and Later Times, Two Volumes, Syracuse, NY: Stoddard and Babcock, 1849, p. 151;

2. "Recalls Early Church History, "The Syracuse Journal, Thursday, August 3, 1905, p. 4. (Syracuse NY Daily Journal 1905 - 2312.pdf, #342824). Accessed July 8, 2009.

3. "Will unveil and Dedicate Tablet at Indian Hill," Syracuse Journal, Saturday, September 1, 1917., (Syracuse NY Daily Journal 1917 0 3966.pdf,#327160). Accessed July 8, 2009.

Last Updated

Gail Bundy, January 23, 2011