Town’s past, present, future celebrated for Women’s History Month
During March, which is
National Women’s History
Month, it seems appropriate to give a nod to these women who have called West Seneca home and made the town proud as a result of their ambition, determination, talents, accomplishments, journeys and stories from the town’s origins to the present day.
Known as “The White Woman of the Genesee,” Mary Jemison was born to Scotch-Irish parents at sea as they made their journey to America in the 1740s.
Having lived in many places throughout her extraordinary life, Jemison settled on the West Seneca and Buffalo border, then part of the Buffalo Creek Reservation, during the last 10 years of her life.
Two of her brothers escaped the raid, and the remainder of her family was killed. She was sold to a party of Senecas and soon became known as Dehgewanus, or “Two Falling Voice.” She married a Delaware man named Sheninjee and had two children by him, one of whom survived. She and her husband undertook a 700-mile trek after the war ended, but Sheninjee died along the way.
When Jemison arrived at Little Beard Town, now Cuylerville, N.Y., she began to rebuild her life. She remarried and had six more children, spending a good portion of her adult life on the banks of the Genesee River before eventually moving to the Buffalo Creek Reservation.
Jemison embodied perseverance and is now a treasured piece of West Seneca’s past.
Catherine Burchfield Parker
An artist and musician, Catherine Burchfield Parker is the daughter of one of the town’s most famous residents, the late Charles E. Burchfield, whose watercolors have been widely displayed, including at the Charles E. Burchfield Nature & Art Center in West Seneca.
Parker’s work has also been exhibited locally in a show at Buffalo’s Burchfield Penney Art Center, which was also named after her father.
Although Parker took up a similar line of work, painting and pursuing music, she says she is not merely a carbon copy of her father.
“People who know who my father was can see a resemblance or relationship in our work, but I’m very much my own artist, and everyone agrees,” she told The Bee in an interview a few years ago.
A West Seneca native — specifically from the Gardenville area of town — Parker spent much of her adult life away from the area. She moved back to Western New York for a time to reconnect with her roots but has since relocated to the West Coast.
West Seneca West alumna Amanda Nagurney is in the process of creating her own place in history.
Two years ago, the 23-year-old country artist moved to Nashville, Tenn., to pursue her musical career. Although she is now touring and turning her dreams into reality, she says it was not always so easy.
“No matter how old you are, there are always going to be people out there who tell you that you can’t do it,” she said, adding that everybody has a talent, whether singing or writing or something else.
“Whatever you do, just believe is yourself,” she said. “If you believe in yourself, you can truly climb mountains.”