Weird NY: The Grotesque History of the Cuylerville ‘Torture Tree’
The horrifying history of one of the oldest trees in New York sheds light on the horrors that came with founding our nation, and it's just 2 hours from Utica.
Outside of Geneseo is the small hamlet of Cuylerville, home to a tree that has stood since before the Revolutionary War. It looks just like an ordinary tree, but it was once the site of the horrific torture of two of George Washington's soldiers.
The American Revolutionary soldiers, Lieutenant Thomas Boyd and Sargent Michael Parker, were sent by General Sullivan to scout a Seneca Indian village, which was providing food and protection to the British ensconced at nearby Fort Niagara.
Unfortunately, the scouting part was ambushed by the Seneca Indians, and all but Boyd and Parker were killed. They were led to the Seneca village, and then to the tree, where they would meet a gruesome end.
(You might want to skip this part if you're squeamish.)
According to Exploring Upstate, "their finger and toe nails were removed, their genitals mutilated and their backs whipped...their right ears were cut off as well as their noses and their tongues," and their right were "gouged from their sockets." All of that is horrifying - but not the worst the soldiers had to endure.
"In a final show of protest to the settlers taking their land, the Senecas cut open the abdomen of each Boyd and Parker and attached one end of their intestines to the tree and forced each of them to walk around the trunk in circles. Upon final collapse, their hearts were ripped from their bodies and each were beheaded."
When their commander, General Sullivan, arrived in the village and discovered the abuse, he and his men burned the village to the ground, destroying every trace of the Seneca's settlement.
The tree, which is at least 275 years old, resides in what is now 'Boyd-Parker Memorial Park', along with the remains of the soldiers. (Although Parker's head was never recovered.)
Did the suffering of their final hours leave an imprint on the tree or the grounds where their remains lie?
If you'd like to visit, you can find the park on Route 20A in the town of Leicester. You can read an even more detailed history at ExploringUpstate.com