HODGE, JOSEPH, also known as Black Joe, was a hunter and trapper hired in June 1796 by the surveying party of MOSES CLEAVELAND to guide the group from Buffalo across the Pennsylvania border into the Western Reserve. He has thus been called the first black American to have contact with Cleaveland, although he guided the party only as far as Conneaut Creek before returning to Buffalo in early July 1796. Little is known about Hodge's life. One recent investigator, Edith Gaines, has speculated that he was a runaway slave, escaped perhaps from a farm in the Hudson River Valley, where many slaves were owned until New York prohibited slavery in 1799. He was apparently captured by Seneca Indians in a raid during the Revolutionary War and lived with them until being returned to U.S. authorities at Ft. Stanwix in Dec. 1784. During captivity, he apparently became fluent in the Seneca tongue, for he later was a trader and storekeeper near an Indian settlement near Buffalo Creek. He was also married to an Indian woman and was reported to have had a son who was killed in the War of 1812. Hodge served as a guide and interpreter for Moses Cleaveland's surveying party from about 27 June 1796, when the party left Buffalo, until about 4 July 1796, when the surveyors crossed the Pennsylvania border. Little else is known about him, except that he died at an advanced age on the Cattaraugus Reservation.

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