Headwaters of the Tioughnioga River

Current Sign Text

The Tioughnioga River
Site of a large Indian
Village. A Favorite
Stopping Place of
Early Pioneers

Problematic issues

-The marker is actually about 15 miles south of the actual headwaters of the West and East Branches of the Tioughnioga River.

-The story of the existence of a large Indian village is part of the lore of the first European-American settlers that persisted into the 1950s. (1) While there is ample archeological evidence that the area was actively used for hunting and fishing long before the European-Americans arrived, there is no existing archeological record of an Indian village at this location. The Onondaga placed their villages above flood plains. Since this area flooded every year, the Onondaga would not have placed a village in a floodplain. (2)

-The area was a "favorite stopping place" for Indigenous peoples of the Northeast - long before the European-Americans came. Although there was no Indian village, the area was an important meeting place related to the development of dynamic economic and political relationships of the Haudenosaunee Alliance.(2)

-The phrase "early pioneers" suggests that the European Americans were the first to venture into an unknown territory and use the land. The term is used to reinforce the validity of their claims to land even though this land was Onondaga territory.


South of intersection of I-81 and NY Route 13 (also Clinton Street Extension), Cortland, NY. On the median between NY Route 13 and Friendly's Restaurant at 130 Clinton Street.


-This area as part of the upper Chesapeake Bay watershed system has been a meeting and stopping place for hundreds, even thousands of years. The word Tioughnioga can be translated as "meeting".(3)

-The Tioughnioga (tei-uhf-nee-O-guh) River is part of the upper Chesapeake Bay watershed system. The marker is near the confluence of the West Branch of the Tioughnioga (which begins 15 miles north in what is now the Tully Lake area, very close to the Onondaga Nation), and the East Branch (which begins about 15 miles northeast in Madison County).From this site, the Tioughnioga flows south, joining first with the Otselic and Chenango Rivers, and then the Susquehanna River which empties into Chesapeake Bay.

-Historically, these two northern branches were used extensively for trade, travel, fishing, and hunting by the Indigenous peoples of this area. Oral history describes the role this placed played in the development of inter-tribal relationships connected with the Haudenosaunee Alliance. The small plain at this confluence was a natural meeting place - especially for Indigenous peoples from the south who were curious to learn about the Haudenosaunee Alliance and the Great Law of Peace. This area was a place where peoples outside this alliance would camp and rest while delegations would travel further north to learn more about the Alliance.(2)

-The first recorded Europeans to visit this area were Moravian missionaries, Bishop Cammerhoff and Brother David Zeisberger, who journeyed to Onondaga from Pennsylvania in the 1750s. (3)

-After the American Revolution, this area was part of the Military Tract. Speculators purchased much of the land along the river, selling land to farmers, who grew grains and brewed whiskey. Near this site, arks and rafts were built to carry grain and whiskey down river to markets in Pennsylvania and Baltimore. (4)

Indigenous Place Names for Site

-The Tioughnioga (tei-uhf-nee-O-guh) River is part of the upper Chesapeake Bay watershed system. The name often translated as "forks of the river, or meeting of waters".(3)

-In the 1700s, the river has several other names. The west branch as Tiohujodha. The east branch was Onogariske or O-nan'-no-giis'ka (which meant "shagbark hickory". At times the east branch was called Onondaga as it led to the Onondaga village (which in the mid-1770s was near the source of the east branch).(3)

-The oral history of the place clearly indicates that this place played an important role in the development of inter-tribal relationships interconnected with the Haudenosaunee Alliance.(2)

-Other translations include "place where leafy branches hang over the banks" or "bank of flowers". (1)

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


1. Bertha Blodgett, Stories of Cortland County, Cortland County Historical Society, Publication 1, 1952.

2. Oral history, Pete Edwards, Onondaga, Eel Clan, Onondaga, July 28, 2010.

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", http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/services/marker/srvmarker.html, accessed January 23, 2011.

Last Updated

Gail Bundy, July 10, 2011