The Legend of Summit Lake
By E. George Hall

Background: Summit Lake is located in the town of Edmeston, Otsego County, New York. The article was written by Mr. E. George Hall, a former resident who moved to Overbrook, Kansas. He was an authority on Indian lore. Mrs. Churchill,who gave the article to the Oneonta Star in 1916, was the wife of a former DL&W Railroad Station Agent. She found it behind a board in a camp of one Henry Aylesworth. In a later letter to the STAR, Mr. Hall states that an old Indian named "Yo-sah-keed" or "Meh-gah-sah-gwan," (the wise one) lived at this lake. He gave advice to indians and held councils of the tribes. A French Catholic priest, Francis X. Rahl, who was a missionary among the Six Nations, is said to have visited the wise one frequently.

The Legend Of Summit Lake

"In the days of Sha-ah-sha (long ago) the laws of the Algonquin Nation were strict and punishment sure, one law was that no tribe could marry into another without the consent of both tribes, and one or the other must first be adopted so that both could be members of one tribe before marriage, or the penalty was death to one or both.

There was a Seneca brave came on a visit to the Oneidas and saw at the campfire an Indian girl. She was the belle of the tribe and was called in Indian language Ah-wal-sah, or in the English language the Bluebird. The Seneca was a fine specimen of an Indian brave and was called Be-mah-ga, the meaning of which is a wild grapevine.

They were pleased with each other and Be-mah-ga asked her hand in marriage. Then a council was called, and Yo-sah-keed, the Me-ga-sah-gwan, the Sag-a-more and chiefs convened at Lake A-me-mah, or Pigeon Lake.

This great spring is known as Smith's Pond or Summit Lake, and is a very romantic and picturesque, having the reputation of being haunted. Many in its vicinity believe this to be true, nor can they be convinced to the contrary. I conversed with a party of young men who ridiculed the idea and they told me they went to this lake to camp and fish one moonlight night and while ashore heard some one singing a low, mournful chant. Sometimes it sounded nearby, than away off in the distance, dying away in a wail. They resolved to investigate and getting into their boat, they rowed out into the bright moonlight. When nearly across they distinctly saw a female figure gliding over the water and again heard a low, wailing chant. Rowing their boat swiftly toward it, they saw it rise and disappear, and although there was a bright moonlight they rowed about and could discover nothing.

There are others who have seen similar things, and as they are sensible and honest persons no manner of argument will convince them that Lake A-me-mah is not haunted.

The council was convened by the tribe, and after a long deliberation it was decided that the marriage was impracticable and impossible.

Be-mah-ga was not discouraged in his attempt to possess Ah-wal-sah. Agreeing to meet in the forest at a certain place, they resolved to flee to the Ah-ha-ta-kas (Onondagas) and claim their protection. The meeting took place and westward they journeyed toward the home of Ah-ha-ta-kas.

Now, among the Indians there are several ways of conveying news very quickly over a wide tract of country. One of these is by striking blows on hollow or dry trees. Three raps with a pause and then repeated meant "listen." It was principally used to call attention. One rap at intervals meant to be alert, to listen, to watch out; and so a regular code of signals was fully established and recognized by the various tribes of the Ojibway-Algonquin Nations.

In a short time it was known to every tribe of the Six Nations that the two had broken the laws and were absconding against the decision of the council.

Fleet runners were dispatched on the trail.

"With the long lope which can tire, The hound's deep hate or hunter's ire."

The next day they were brought into camp on the shores of Lake A-me-mah. The council was convened but the recreants remained sullen, obstinate, and silent.

The council pipe was passed from one to another, no word was spoken, but one after another arose and struck the totem pole. This was the unanimous decree that the death penalty must follow. Placing them back to back, they were firmly lashed together. The death chant followed, in which the captives remained silent. Then the song of triumph burst from the lips of the captives.

They were carried into the middle of the lake, while Ah-wal-sah continued her death chant. On reaching the center of the lake, their weighted bodies were lifted up and dropped into the placid waters. A few bubbles rose to the surface and all was still.

So it is said by many that the spirit of Ah-wal-sah still hovers about the lake and the sweet voice of the Indian maiden is heard singing the weird melody of her death song as she floats above the waters. Many claim to have heard this singing. Some solemnly waver that they have seen her wraith. Whether the legend be true or not the lake has a wide reputation of being haunted and there are those who cannot be prevailed upon to visit it at night.


Sometime in the last of the 15th century, or early in the 16th, there still resided at Lake A-me-mah this wise man.

This wise one had particular names applied to him. Yo-sah-keed "the wise one," or Me-gah-sah-gwan, a profit or priest. Cullen called him Mesagon, Longfellow called him Megasagwan, but whatever name he had, it is a fact he dwelt at Lake A-me-mah.

There was with him an old woman, Ah-ko-mis. Longfellow in his Hiawatha calls her Nokomis, Ah-ko-mis or No-ko-mis literally is a very old woman, the word too is used to designate a grandmother, and a younger one who ministered to the wants of this wise man. It is a well established fact that from many tribes came persons to have knotty questions adjusted and disagreements straightened out, so the fame of the great Me-gah-sah-gwan extended very widely. I have no doubt but on thorough search there might be found remains of the dwelling place of this wise one still remaining.

A French Catholic priest named Francis Xavier Rahl was a missionary among the Six Nations and often visited this great counselor, for he translated the four gospels and published in book form the only work of the kind.

So well established is the fact that there lived this Great Wizard of the North, as Bontell called him, has dwelled there that instead of its being legendary there is no doubt of it.


I have not visited any of the tribes in the Oklahoma or Indian Territory, so I have not pursued my inquiries. As I noted, the main point of my inquiries were to establish the fact of such a person living at Lake A-me-mah.

That there are many legends and traditions connected with the country from Burlington to Winfield and the head waters of the Wah-na-de-la (Unadilla River). I have ample proof.


I am pursuing further inquiries which have led me to get a few ideas of Lake Kah-na-dah-ra-ga, now known as Schuyler Lake. I have a story of the eastern side on the Big Hyder, told me by one of my Indian friends. There are quite a number of interesting legends and traditions in the vicinity of Lak A-me-mah which may be of interest to your readers.

I should be very glad to receive any communication from anyone having knowledge of the Indian lore of this beautiful lakelet."


E. George Hall
Overbrook, Kansas
September 12, 1916

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