Jesuit Well

Current Sign Text

JESUIT WELL
Thought to have been used
By the Jesuit missionaries of
Whom Father LeMoyne was the
First Visitor in 1654. Called
Bitter spring by the Onondagas

Erected by Syracuse Chapter S.A.R.
And the State of New York 1933

Problematic issues

The capitalization of the phrase "First Visitor" is similar to the use of the phrase "First Settler. It suggests that the French Jesuit was the first visitor of any consequence to this area. In actuality, as the center of the Haudenosaunee Alliance, the entire area around Onondaga Lake has been an important center of governance and commerce for centuries. Long before the Europeans arrived, people from many indigenous nations would have come here to trade and to negotiate diplomatic relationships.

Location

On Old Liverpool Road, behind LeMoyne Manor, Liverpool, NY

Significance

This replica of a well is reputed to be the place of the spring where Father Le Moyne in 1654 drew water and identified the bitter taste as salt.

The Onondagas did not use salt as a preservative, they had other methods of drying, preserving, and storing food.

In Europe, salt was used as a major preservative. Le Moyne immediately recognized the potential commercial value of the salt for European colonists and the Jesuits chose this location for their first mission.

Le Moyne's identification eventually led to the development of the salt industry. The potential commercial value of the salt contributed to the zeal with which the European-American revolutionists sought to displace the Onondaga from their territory.

Indigenous Place Names for Site

The Onondaga word for this place was translated as "bitter spring".

Circumstances of Marker Placement

The site of the well was uncovered during a WPA project in the 1930s which included the construction of a "French fort" marking the site of the 17th century Jesuit mission. As part of that project, the well was rebuilt. Both sites were dedicated in August16, 1933 with a large parade and pageant. The dedication of the well commemorated the role of the Jesuits in recognizing the potential commercial value of the salt to European colonists, which ultimately became a contributing factor in the development of the city of Syracuse.

Additional Information

Also see the marker text for Onondaga Salt Spring.

Sources

1. Bell, "The Onondaga New York Salt Works (1654 - 1926)", Science Tribune, October 1998, http://www.tribunes.com/tribune/sel/bell.htm. Accessed March 26, 2012.

Baldwinsville Gazette & Farmers Journal, August 17, 1933, p.1.

2. www.fultonhistory.com, # 830921. Accessed March 26,2012.

Review Details

Gail Bundy, March 2012