History of Ashtabula County

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"The people which are first known to have inhabited this region... have left their name upon the waters near which they resided. The Eries were a tribe which occupied all the territory lying south of the lake which bears their name, and are thus described by the earliest maps of the country.

The French, who were the first explorers and discoverers of the great west, called them the Felians, or Cat Nation. How they came by the name is unknown, but possibly it was given to them from the wild animal that prowled so stealthily among these forests. It was, however, a name which at the earliest date was assigned by the natives themselves both to the tribe and to the lake, and never changed.

The history of this people is unknown. All that is known of them is that, about one hundred and fifty years after the time of the discovery of the continent, they came in contact with the powerful, all-conquering people to the east of them, the fierce and cruel Iroquois, and were subdued by them.

No people on the continent ever served to carry so much fear into the hearts of the savage tribes as did that confederated and warlike race. For a time the Eries were shielded from their attacks by the tribes which were called the Neutral nation, and who occupied the country east and north of Lake Erie.

This people were able to make their land the neutral ground, where all the tribes of the west might meet on friendly terms, and be safe from the attacks of the confederates. Even after the Hurons had been attacked on their lands, and were nearly exterminated, this tribe was able to continue its neutrality.

The destruction of the neutral people did not occur until at least one hundred years after the discovery of the continent. The Jesuits had long occupied their missions at the north, and had even explored the distant west, before this barrier was removed and the terrible Iroquois began their incursions into the interior...

The destruction, indeed, was made before the white man entered these unexplored regions, and the natives of these forests lost their possessions through the incursions of those who were of their own race and blood. The Iroquois were not the possessors of the soil which they sold, but they conquered if from other tribes, and after the advent of the white race, by treaty after treaty, disposed of it to this advancing people.

The first nation which fell before the conquering savages was the Eries, who occupied the territory nearest them. The story runs that, about the year l650, the Eries and the Iroquois met in bloody conflict in the neighborhood of Buffalo, and that the former were completely vanquished.

Whatever became of the [Eries] is now unknown, for no fragment of them has been recognized among all the wandering tribes of the west. Were they incorporated into the [Iroquois] confederacy, and, becoming mingled with their conquerors, lost their separate existence?

Or did they escape in scattered and fugitive bands, and become absorbed with the other tribes of the great west? It is singular that such perfect oblivion could pass over a people who lived so recently on this soil, and that no one should know what was their fate... The name they bore rests upon the beautiful lake near which they lived, but it rests in silence, its peaceful waves not even whispering the story of their fate."