THE LAND OF THE MIAMIS
By Elmore Barce
Member of the State and National Bar Associations Member Indiana State Historical Society Author "Land of the Potawatomi"
An Account of the Struggle to Secure Possession of the North-West from the End of the Revolution until 1812.
Fowler, Indiana THE BENTON REVIEW SHOP 1922
Copyrighted, 1922, by the Benton Review Shop, Fowler, Ind.
Photos and Maps by Lieut. Don Heaton
CARRIE MAY BARCE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A BRIEF RETROSPECT—A general view of the Indian Wars of the Early Northwest 1
WHAT THE VIRGINIANS GAVE US—A topographical description of the country north of the Ohio at the close of Revolutionary War 6
THE BEAVER TRADE—A description of the wealth in furs of this section at the close of the Revolutionary War and the reasons underlying the struggle for its control 12
THE PRAIRIE AND THE BUFFALO—The buffalo as the main food supply of the Indians 20
THE WABASH AND THE MAUMEE—Chief line of communication with the tribes of the Early Northwest. The heart of the Miami country 34
THE TRIBES OF THE NORTHWEST—A description of the seven tribes of savages who opposed the advance of settlement in the Northwest. Their location. Kekionga, the seat of Miami power 44
REAL SAVAGES—The Savage painted in his true colors from the standpoint of the frontiersman 68
OUR INDIAN POLICY—The Indian right of occupancy recognized through the liberal policy of Washington and Jefferson 80
THE KENTUCKIANS—The first men to break through the mountain barriers to face the British and the Indians 112
THE BRITISH POLICIES—The British reluctant to surrender the control of the Northwest—Their tampering with the Indian tribes 126
JOSIAH HARMAR—The first military invasion of the Northwest by the Federal Government after the Revolution 145
SCOTT AND WILKINSON—The Kentucky raids on the Miami country along the Wabash in 1791 173
ST. CLAIR'S DEFEAT—The first great disaster to the Federal armies brought about by the Miamis 195
WAYNE AND FALLEN TIMBERS—Final triumph of the Government over Indians and British 207
THE TREATY OF GREENVILLE—The surrender of the Ohio lands of the Miamis and their final submission to the government 238
GOVERNOR HARRISON AND THE TREATY—Purchase of the Miami lands known as the New Purchase which led to the strengthening of Tecumseh's Confederacy—the final struggle at Tippecanoe 245
RESULTS OF THE TREATY—Harrison's political enemies at Vincennes rally against him in the open, and are defeated in the courts 271
THE SHAWNEE BROTHERS—The Prophet as an Indian priest and Tecumseh as a political organizer —The episode of the eclipse of 1806—Tecumseh's personal appearance described 280
PROPHET'S TOWN—The capital of the Shawnee Confederacy in the heart of the Miami Country 295
HARRISON'S VIGILANCE—His political courage and activities save the frontier capital 305
THE COUNCIL AT VINCENNES—The dramatic meeting between Harrison and Tecumseh— Tecumseh announces his doctrine of the common ownership of the Indian lands 316
THE SECOND AND LAST COUNCIL—The last meeting between the two leaders before Harrison marched into the Indian country 332
THE MUSTER AND THE MARCH—The rally of the Kentuckians and their clansmen in southern Indiana to Harrison's support—The coming of the Fourth United States Regiment—The march to the Tippecanoe battlefield 352
THE BATTLE OF TIPPECANOE—The night attack on Harrison's forces—The destruction of Tecumseh's Confederacy 371
NAYLOR'S NARRATIVE—A description of the battle by one of the volunteers 381
LIST OF MAPS AND ILLUSTRATIONS.
1. The Home of General William Henry Harrison, at Vincennes, as it now appears Frontispiece
2. A Section of the Grand Prairie in Benton County, Indiana, which extends West to Peoria, Illinois 25
3. A Typical Buffalo Wallow on the Donaldson Farm, in Benton County, Indiana 33
4. The Wabash River at Merom Bluff, Sullivan County, Indiana—LaMotte Prairie beyond 41
5. Location of the Indian Tribes of the Northwest 57
6. Shaubena, the best of the Potawatomi Chiefs, and a follower of Tecumseh 73
7. Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the United States 97
8. Map of the Harmar, St. Clair and Wayne Campaigns 161
9. Map showing the Wea Plains, and the Line of Scott's March. Tippecanoe County, Indiana 185
10. Indian Hills on the Wabash River, just below the old site of Fort Ouiatenon 193
11. General Anthony Wayne and Little Turtle, at Greenville. From an old painting by one of Wayne's staff 241
12. Governor William Henry Harrison 257
13. Another View of the Wabash. A land of great beauty 291
14. Raccoon Creek, Parke County, Indiana. The North Line of the New Purchase 323
15. The Line of Harrison's March to Tippecanoe and the New Purchase of 1809 363
16. Pine Creek, in Warren County, Indiana, near the place where Harrison crossed 371
17. Judge Isaac Naylor. From an old portrait in the Court Room at Williamsport, Indiana 387
In presenting this book to the general public, it is the intention of the author to present a connected story of the winning of the Northwest, including the Indian wars during the presidency of General Washington, following this with an account of the Harrison-Tecumseh conflict in the early part of the nineteenth century, ending with the Battle of Tippecanoe.
The story embraces all of the early efforts of the Republic of the United States to take possession of the Northwest Territory, acquired from Great Britain by the Treaty of 1783 closing the Revolutionary War. The whole western country was a wilderness filled with savage tribes of great ferocity, and they resisted every effort of the government to advance its outposts. Back of them stood the agents of England who had retained the western posts of Detroit, Niagara, Oswego, Michillimacinac and other places in order to command the lucrative fur trade, and who looked upon the advance of the American traders and settlers with jealousy and alarm. They encouraged the savages in their resistance, furnished them with arms and ammunition, and at times covertly aided them with troops and armed forces. In other words, this is a part of that great tale of the winning of the west.
We are well aware that there is a very respectable school of historians who insist that the British took no part in opposing the American advance, but the cold and indisputable facts of history, the words of Washington himself, contradict this view. England never gave up the idea of retrieving her lost possessions in the western country until the close of the War of 1812.
An attempt has also been made in this work to present some of the great natural advantages of the Northwest; its wealth of furs and peltries, and its easy means of communication with the British posts. The leading tribes inhabiting its vast domain, the Indian leaders controlling the movements of the warriors, and the respective schemes of Brant and Tecumseh to form an Indian confederacy to drive the white man back across the Ohio, are all dwelt upon.
The writer is confessedly partial to the western frontiersmen. The part that the Kentuckians played in the conquest of the Northwest is set forth at some length. The foresight of Washington and Jefferson, the heroism of Logan, Kenton, Boone and Scott and their followers, play a conspicuous part. The people of the eastern states looked with some disdain upon the struggles of the western world. They gave but scanty support to the government in its attempts to subdue the Indian tribes, voted arms and supplies with great reluctance, and condemned the borderers as savages and barbarians. There is no attempt to condemn the eastern people for their shortsightedness in this regard, but after all, that is the term exactly applicable. The West was won despite their discouragement, and the empire beyond the mountains was conquered notwithstanding their opposition.
William Henry Harrison has been condemned without mercy. Much of this hostile criticism has proceeded from his political enemies. They have distorted the plain facts of history in order to present the arguments of faction. Harrison was the greatest man in the western world after George Rogers Clark. The revelations of history justify his suspicion of the British. The people of the West were alone undeceived. The General was always popular west of the Alleghenies and justly so. Tecumseh and the Prophet were, after all is said, the paid agents of the English government, and received their inspiration from Detroit. Jefferson knew all these facts well, and so wrote to John Adams. Jefferson's heart beat for the western people, and throughout the whole conflict he stood stoutly on the side of Harrison.
We recognize the fact that we have done but poorly. Out of the great mass of broken and disconnected material, however, we have attempted to arrange a connected whole. We submit the volume with many misgivings and pray the indulgence of the reading public. We have endeavored at all times to quote nothing that we did not deem authentic, and have presented no fact that is not based on written records.
We desire to express our appreciation of the valuable help afforded by the State Library people at Indianapolis, by Prof. Logan Esarey of Indiana University, who kindly loaned us the original Harrison letters, and by Ray Jones and Don Heaton of Fowler, Indiana, who were untiring in their efforts to give us all the assistance within their power.
A BRIEF RETROSPECT
—A general view of the Indian Wars of the Early Northwest.
The memories of the early prairies, filled with vast stretches of waving grasses, made beautiful by an endless profusion of wild flowers, and dotted here and there with pleasant groves, are ineffaceable. For the boy who, barefooted and care-free, ranged over these plains, in search of adventure, they always possessed an inexpressible charm and attraction. These grassy savannas have now passed away forever. Glorious as they were, a greater marvel has been wrought by the untiring hand of man. Where the wild flowers bloomed, great fields of grain ripen, and vast gardens of wheat and corn, interspersed with beautiful towns and villages, greet the eye of the traveler. "The prairies of Illinois and Indiana were born of water, and preserved by fire for the children of civilized men, who have come and taken possession of them."
In the last half of the eighteenth century, great herds of buffalo grazed here, attracting thither the wandering bands of the Potawatomi, who came from the lakes of the north. Gradually these hardy warriors and horse tribes drove back the Miamis to the shores of the Wabash, and took possession of all that vast plain, extending east of the Illinois river, and north of the Wabash into the present confines of the state of Michigan. Their squaws cultivated corn, peas, beans, squashes and pumpkins, but the savage bands lived mostly on the fruits of the chase. Their hunting trails extended from grove to grove, and from lake to river.
Reliable Indian tradition informs us that about the year 1790, the herds of bison disappeared from the plains east of the Mississippi. The deer and the raccoon remained for some years later, but from the time of the disappearance of the buffalo, the power of the tribes was on the wane. The advance of the paleface and the curtailment of the supply of game, marked the beginning of the savage decline. The constant complaint of the tribes to General William Henry Harrison, the first military governor of Indiana, was the lack of both game and peltries.
From the first the Indians of the Northwest were pro-British. Following the revolutionary war they accepted the overtures of England's agents and traders, and the end of the long trail was always at Detroit. The motives of these agents were purely mercenary. They were trespassers on the American side of the line, for England had agreed to surrender all the posts within the new territory by the treaty of 1783. The thing coveted was the trade in beaver, deer and raccoon skins. In order that this might be done, the Americans must be kept south of the Ohio. The tribes were taught to regard the crossing of the Alleghenies as a direct attempt to dispossess them of their native soil. To excite their savage hatred and jealousy it was pointed out that a constant stream of keel-boats, loaded with men, women, children and cattle, were descending the Ohio; that Kentucky's population was multiplying by thousands, and that the restless swarm of settlers and land hunters, if not driven back, would soon fill the whole earth. Driven as they were by rage and fear, all attempts at treaty with these savages were in vain. The Miamis, the Potawatomi and the Shawnees lifted the hatchet, and rushed to the attack of both keel-boats and settlements.
The wars that followed in the administration of George Washington are well known. Back of them all stood the sinister figure of the English trader. Harmar was defeated at Miamitown, now Fort Wayne; St. Clair's army was annihilated on the head waters of the Wabash. For a time the government seemed prostrate, and all attempts to conquer the savages in their native woods, futile. But finally General Anthony Wayne, the hero of Stony Point, was sent to the west. He was a fine disciplinarian and a fearless fighter. At the battle of Fallen Timbers, in 1794, he broke the power of the northwestern Indian confederacy, and in the following year forced the tribes into the Treaty of Greenville.
On July 11th, 1796, the British, under the terms of Jay's Treaty, evacuated the post of Detroit, and it passed into the hands of its rightful owners, the American people. Well had it been for the red men, if, with this passing of the British, all further communication with the agents of Great Britain had ceased. Already had the tribes acquired a rich legacy of hate. Their long intercourse and alliance with the English; their terrible inroads with fire and tomahawk, on the settlements of Kentucky; their shocking barbarities along the Ohio, had enraged the hearts of all fighting men south of that river. But the British in retiring from American soil had passed over to Malden, near the mouth of the Detroit river. Communication with the tribes of the northwest was still kept up, and strenuous efforts made to monopolize their trade. At last came Tecumseh and the Prophet, preaching a regeneration of the tribes, and a renewal of the contest for the possession of the lands northwest of the Ohio. All past treaties were to be disregarded as impositions and frauds, and the advance of the paleface permanently checked. The joy of the British agents knew no bounds. Disregarding all the dictates of conscience and even the welfare of the tribes themselves, they whispered in the ears of the Wyandots of Sandusky and began to furnish ammunition and rifles. As a result of this fatal policy the breach between the United States and the Indian confederates was measurably widened. The end was Tippecanoe, and the eternal enmity of the hunters and riflemen of southern Indiana and Kentucky who followed General Harrison on that day. One of the ghastly sights of that sanguinary struggle, was the scalping by the white men of the Indian slain, and the division of their scalps among the soldiers after they had been cut into strips. These bloody trophies were carried back to the settlements along the Ohio and Wabash to satisfy the hatred of all those who had lost women and children in the many savage forays of the past.
With the death of Tecumseh at the battle of the Thames and the termination of British influence in the west, the tribes soon surrendered up their ancient demesne, and most of them were removed beyond the Mississippi. The most populous of all the tribes north of the Wabash were the roving Potawatomi, and their final expulsion from the old hunting grounds occurred under the direction of Colonel Abel C. Pepper and General John Tipton, the latter a hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe, and later appointed as Indian commissioner. At that time the remnants of the scattered bands from north of the Wabash amounted to only one thousand souls of all ages and sexes. The party under military escort passed eight or nine miles west of the city of Lafayette, probably over the level land east of the present site of Otterbein, Indiana.
Thus vanished the red men. In their day, however, they had been the undoubted lords of the plain, following their long trails in single file over the great prairies, and camping with their dogs, women and children in the pleasant groves and along the many streams. They were savages, and have left no enduring temple or lofty fane behind them, but their names still cling to many streams, groves and towns, and a few facts gleaned from their history cannot fail to be of interest to us, who inherit their ancient patrimony.
WHAT THE VIRGINIANS GAVE US
—A topographical description of the country north of the Ohio at the close of the Revolutionary War.
In the early councils of the Republic the stalwart sons of Virginia exercised a preponderating influence. As men of broad national conceptions, who were unafraid to strike a decisive blow in the interests of freedom, they were unexcelled. Saratoga had already been won, but at the back door of the newborn states was a line of British posts in the valleys of the Wabash and Mississippi and at Detroit, that stood ready to pour forth a horde of naked savages on the frontier settlements of the west and bring murder and destruction to the aid of England's cause. In December, 1777, George Rogers Clark came from Kentucky. He laid before Patrick Henry, the governor of Virginia, a bold plan for the reduction of these posts and the removal of the red menace. Into his councils the governor called George Wythe, George Mason and Thomas Jefferson. An expedition was then and there set on foot that gave the nation its first federal domain for the erection of new republican states. With a lot of worthless paper money in his pocket, and about one hundred and seventy-five hunting shirt men from Virginia and Kentucky, Clark marched across the prairies of southern Illinois, and captured Kaskaskia. Later he took Vincennes. Thus by the cool enterprise and daring of this brave man, he laid the foundation for the subsequent negotiations of 1783, that gave the northwest territory to the United States of America.
The country thus conquered covered more than two hundred and forty-four thousand square miles of the earth's surface, and comprised what are now the states of Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. Within its confines were boundless plains and prairies filled with grass; immense forests of oak, hickory, walnut, pine, beech and fir; enormous hidden treasures of coal, iron and copper. Add to all these natural resources, a fertile soil, a temperate climate, and unlimited facilities for commerce and trade, and no field was ever presented to the hand and genius of man, better adapted to form the homes and habitations of a free and enterprising people. This was known and appreciated by the noble minds of Washington and Jefferson, even at that day, and they above all other men of their times, saw most clearly the great vision of the future.
At the close of the revolution, however, only a few scattered posts, separated by hundreds of miles, were to be found. Detroit, Michillimacinac, Vincennes, Kaskaskia and a few minor trading points, told the whole tale. Kentucky could boast of a few thousands, maintaining themselves by dauntless courage and nerves of steel against British and Indians, but all north of the Ohio was practically an unbroken wilderness, inhabited by the fiercest bands of savages then in existence, with the possible exception of the Iroquois.
Over this territory, and to gain control of these tribes, England and France had waged a long and bitter conflict, and the gage of battle had been the monopoly of the fur trade. The welfare of the savages was regarded but little; they were the pawns in the game. The great end to be acquired was the disposal of their rich peltries. No country was more easily accessible to the early voyageurs and French fur traders. It was bounded on the north and northeast by the chain of the Great Lakes, on the south by the Ohio, and on the west by the Mississippi. The heads of the rivers and streams that flowed into these great watercourses and lakes were connected by short portages, so that the Indian trapper or hunter could carry his canoe for a few miles and pass from the waters that led to Lake Michigan or Lake Erie, into the streams that fed the Mississippi or the Ohio. The headwaters of the Muskingum and its tributaries interlocked with those of the Cuyahoga; the headwaters of the Scioto with those of the Sandusky; the headwaters of the Great Miami with those of the Wabash and the St. Marys. In northern Indiana another remarkable system of portages appeared. The canoes of the traders were carried some eight or ten miles from the little Wabash to the Maumee, placing the command of the whole Wabash country in the hands of the Detroit merchants. The sources of the Tippecanoe were connected by portages with the waters of the St. Joseph of Lake Michigan, and a like connection existed between the waters of the Tippecanoe and the waters of the Kankakee. These portages were, as General Harrison observes, "much used by the Indians and sometimes by traders." LaSalle passed from Lake Michigan to the waters of the St. Joseph, thence up that river to a portage of three miles in what is now St. Joseph county, Indiana, thence by said portage to the headwaters of the Kankakee, and down that river to the Illinois. At the post of Chicago the traders crossed from Lake Michigan by a very short portage into the headwaters of the Illinois, and General Harrison says that in the spring, the boats with their loading "passed freely from one to the other." In Michigan the heads of the streams that flowed into Lake Huron interlocked with the heads of those that went down to Lake Michigan. In Wisconsin, the voyageurs passed from Green bay up the Fox river to Lake Winnebago, thence by the Fox again to the portage between the Fox and Wisconsin, thence down the Wisconsin river to the Mississippi. Through this important channel of trade passed nine-tenths of the goods that supplied the Indians above the Illinois river and those in upper Louisiana.
This great network of lakes, rivers and portages was in turn connected by the waterways of the Ottawa and the St. Lawrence, with the great head and center of all the fur trade of the western world, the city of Montreal.
The only practicable means of communication was by the canoe. Most of the territory of the northwest, being, as General Harrison observes, "remarkably flat, the roads were necessarily bad in winter, and in the summer the immense prairies to the west and north of this, produced such a multitude of flies as to render it impossible to make use of pack horses." Bogs, marshes and sloughs in endless number added to the difficulties of travel. Hence it was, that the power that commanded the lakes and water courses of the northwest, commanded at the same time all the fur trade and the Indian tribes in the interior. France forever lost this control to Great Britain at the peace of 1763, closing the French and Indian war, and at the close of the revolution it passed to us by the definitive treaty of 1783.
The importance of the posts of Detroit and Michillimacinac, forming the chief connecting links between the northwest and the city of Montreal, now fully appears. First in importance was Detroit. It commanded all the valuable beaver country of northern Ohio and Indiana, southern Michigan, and of the rivers entering Lakes Erie and Huron. The trade coming from the Cuyahoga, the Sandusky, the tributaries of the Miami and Scioto, the Wabash and the Maumee, all centered here. The French traders, and after them the British, did a vast and flourishing business with the savages, trading them brandy, guns, ammunition, blankets, vermilion and worthless trinkets for furs of the highest value. The significance of the old trading posts at Miamitown (Fort Wayne), Petit Piconne (Tippecanoe), Ouiatenon, and Vincennes, as feeders for this Detroit market by way of the Wabash and Maumee valleys, is also made plain. A glimpse of the activities at Miamitown (Fort Wayne), in the winter of 1789-1790, while it was still under the domination of the British, shows the Miamis, Shawnees and Potawatomi coming in with otter, beaver, bear skins and other peltry, the presence of a lot of unscrupulous, cheating French traders, who were generally drunk when assembled together, and who took every advantage of each other, and of the destitute savages with whom they were trading. At that time the French half-breeds (and traders) of the names of Jean Cannehous, Jacque Dumay, Jean Coustan and others were trading with the Indians at Petit Piconne, or Tippecanoe, and all this trade was routed through by way of the Wabash, the portage at Miamitown, and the Maumee, to Detroit. The traders at Ouiatenon, who undoubtedly enjoyed the advantage of the Beaver lake trade in northwestern Indiana, by way of the Potawatomi trail from the Wabash to Lake Michigan, were also in direct communication with the merchants of Detroit, and depended upon them. It is interesting to observe in passing, that the rendezvous of the French traders at the Petit Piconne (termed by General Charles Scott, as Keth-tip-e-ca-nunk), was broken up by a detachment of Kentucky mounted volunteers under General James Wilkinson, in the summer of 1791, and utterly destroyed. One who accompanied the expedition stated that there were then one hundred and twenty houses at this place, eighty of which were shingled; that the best houses belonged to French traders; and that the gardens and improvements around the place were delightful; that there was a tavern located there, with cellars, a bar, and public and private rooms. Thus far had the fur trade advanced in the old days.
THE BEAVER TRADE
—A description of the wealth in furs of this section at the close of the Revolutionary War and the reasons of the struggle for its control.
Perhaps no country ever held forth greater allurement to savage huntsmen and French voyageurs than the territory acquired by Clark's conquest. Its rivers and lakes teemed with edible fish; its great forests abounded with deer, elk, bears and raccoons; its vast plains and prairies were filled with herds of buffalo that existed up almost to the close of the eighteenth century; every swamp and morass was filled with countless thousands of geese, ducks, swan and cranes, and rodents like the beaver and other animals furnished the red man with the warmest of raiment in the coldest winter.
To give some idea of the vast wealth of this domain in fur bearing animals alone, it may be taken into account that in the year 1818 the American Fur Company, under the control of John Jacob Astor, with headquarters at Mackinaw, had in its employ about four hundred clerks and traders, together with about two thousand French voyageurs, who roamed all the rivers and lakes of the Indian country from the British dominions on the north, to as far west as the Missouri river. Astor had established a great fur business in direct competition with the British Northwest Company and commanded attention in both London and China. The "outfits" of this company had trading posts on the Illinois, and all its tributaries; on the Muskegon, Grand, Kalamazoo and other rivers in Michigan; on the line of the old Potawatomi trail from the Wabash country to post Chicago, and in the neighborhood of the Beaver lake region in northern Indiana, and at many other points. The furs handled by them consisted of the marten (sable), mink, musk-rat, raccoon, lynx, wildcat, fox, wolverine, badger, otter, beaver, bears and deer, of which the most valuable were those of the silver-gray fox and the marten. The value of these furs mounted into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and they were originally all consigned to New York. For these interesting observations history lovers are indebted to the autobiography of the late Gurdon S. Hubbard of Chicago, who was, in his youth, in the employ of Astor, and who later in his lifetime conducted a trading post at Bunkum, now Iroquois, in Iroquois County, Illinois. It has been estimated that in the days of England's control of Canada and of all the northwest territory, that more than half in value of all the furs exported "came from countries within the new boundaries of the United States," that is, from the district north and west of the Ohio river.
Of all the fur-bearers, the most interesting were the beavers. How much these industrious gnawers had to do with the French and Indian wars and the rivalry between England and France for the control of their domain north of the Ohio, is not generally appreciated. An animal that could be instrumental in part, in bringing about an armed conflict between the two greatest powers of that day, should not be entirely eliminated from history.
At the time of Braddock's defeat, Colonel James Smith, then a boy, was captured by what seems to have been a party of the Caughnawaga Indians, some of whom lived along the rivers and streams in northern Ohio. He lived among the savages for some years and was adopted into one of their families. Later in life, he left a written account of many of his experiences, and among other things he tells us some interesting things concerning the beavers. "Beavers," says Caleb Atwater, an Ohio historian, "were once here in large numbers on the high lands at the heads of the rivers, but with those who caught them, they have long since disappeared from among us." Before the Revolution, and for some years afterward, they were caught by the Indians in great numbers. Smith had a valuable friend among the Indians by the name of Tecaughretanego. He was quite a philosopher in his way, but he was rather inclined to believe, like most of his fellows, that geese turned to beavers and snakes to raccoons. He told Smith of a certain pond where he knew all the beavers were frequently killed during a hunting season, but they were just as thick again on the following winter. There was seemingly no water communication with this pond, and beavers did not travel by land. Therefore it must be that the geese that alighted here in great numbers during the fall, turned to beavers, and for proof of this assertion the Indian called Smith's attention to their palmated hind feet. The boy suggested that there might be subterranean passages leading to this pond, whereby the beavers could gain access to it, but Tecaughretanego was not entirely convinced.
In conversation with his Indian friend Smith happened to say that beavers caught fish. The Indian laughed at him, and told him that beavers ate flesh of no kind, but lived on the bark of trees, roots, and other growing things. "I asked him," said Smith, "if the beaver was an amphibious animal, or if it could live under water? He said that the beaver was a kind of subterraneous water animal, that lives in or near the water, but they were no more amphibious than the ducks and geese were—which was constantly proven to be the case, as all the beavers that are caught in steel traps are drowned, provided the trap be heavy enough to keep them under water. As the beaver does not eat fish, I inquired of Tecaughretanego why the beavers made such large dams? He said they were of use to them in various respects, both for their safety and food. For their safety, as by raising the water over the mouths of their holes, or subterraneous lodging places, they could not be easily found; and as the beaver feeds chiefly on the barks of trees, by raising the water over the banks, they can cut down saplings for bark to feed upon, without going out much upon the land; and when they are obliged to go out upon land for this food they frequently are caught by the wolves. As the beaver can run upon land but little faster than a water tortoise, and is no fighting animal, if they are any distance from the water they become an easy prey to their enemies."
The Indians caught great numbers of beavers by hunting and trapping. In the winter time when they found the beavers in their houses, they first broke up all the thin ice around about, and then by breaking into the houses, drove the beavers into the water. Being soon forced to come to the surface to take the air, the Indians commonly reached in and caught them by the hind legs, dragged them out on the ice and tomahawked them. Not only were the furs and skins utilized, but the flesh as well. Smith describes the meat as being a "delicious fare." In the days before the savages were corrupted by the French and English traders, they possessed a wonderful skill in dressing the skins of the buffalo, the bear and the beaver. Beaver and raccoon skin blankets were made "pliant, warm and durable." Says Heckewelder, the Moravian missionary, "They sew together as many of these skins as are necessary, carefully setting the hair or fur all the same way, so that the blanket or covering be smooth, and the rain do not penetrate, but run off."
In the later days, however, the beaver proved to be more of a curse than a blessing. The Indian then wore the European blanket, and bartered his valuable furs away for whiskey and brandy. The riotous scenes of drunkenness, debauchery and murder became unspeakable. To Detroit the Indians swarmed from the shores of Erie and all the rivers in the interior. Hunting for weeks and months and enduring privation, suffering and toil, they came in at last with their women and children to buy rifles, ammunition and clothing. Here mingled the Miami, the Potawatomi, the Ottawa and the Wyandot; a motley gathering of all the tribes. In the end the result was always the same, and always pitiful. The traders came with the lure of fire water, and when they departed the Indians were left drunken and destitute and often with death, disease and wounds in their midst.
Smith gives a vivid description of one of their orgies at Detroit as follows: "At length a trader came to town (the Indian camp) with French brandy. We purchased a keg of it, and held a council about who was to get drunk, and who was to keep sober. I was invited to get drunk, but I refused the proposal. Then they told me I must be one of those who were to take care of the drunken people. I did not like this, but of the two evils I chose that which I thought was the least, and fell in with those who were to conceal the arms, and keep every dangerous weapon we could out of their way, and endeavor, if possible, to keep the drinking club from killing each other, which was a very hard task. Several times we hazarded our lives, and got ourselves hurt, in preventing them from slaying each other. Before they had finished the keg, near one-third of the town was introduced to this drinking club; they could not pay their part, as they had already disposed of all their skins; but they made no odds, all were welcome to drink."
"When they were done with the keg, they applied to the traders, and procured a kettle full of brandy at a time, which they divided out with a large wooden spoon—and so they went on and on and never quit whilst they had a single beaver skin. When the trader had got all our beaver, he moved off to the Ottawa town, about a mile above the Wyandot town."
"When the brandy was gone, and the drinking club sober, they appeared much dejected. Some of them were crippled, others badly wounded. A number of the fine new shirts were torn, and several blankets burned. A number of squaws were also in this club, and neglected their corn planting."
"We could now hear the effects of the brandy in the Ottawa town. They were singing and yelling in the most hideous manner, both night and day; but their frolic ended worse than ours; five Ottawas were killed, and a great many wounded."
The marshes, lakes, rivers and small streams of northern Ohio and Indiana, and of the whole of Michigan and Wisconsin, abounded with the homes and habitations of the beavers. Behind them, as a memorial of their old days, they have left the names of creeks, towns, townships and even counties. The beaver lake region of northern Indiana has a Beaver "lake," a Beaver "township," a Beaver "creek," a Beaver "city," and a Beaverville to its credit. The history of Vigo and Parke counties, Indiana, by Beckwith, Chapter Twenty, at page 208, recites that beavers existed along all the small lakes and lesser river courses in northern Indiana, They were plentiful in Dekalb, Marshall, Elkhart, Cass. White and Steuben. It is well known that their dams existed in large numbers in Newton and Jasper, and in practically all the Indiana counties north of the Wabash river.
The above regions, with their wealth of peltries, England meant to hold as long as possible against the American advance, and she succeeded in doing so for twelve long years after the Revolution had closed.
THE PRAIRIE AND THE BUFFALO
—The buffalo as the main food supply of the Indians.
To describe all the wonders in the interior of the northwest would be a serious, if not an impossible task. The Grand Prairie, however, stands alone. It was one of the marvels of creation, resembling the ocean as nothing else did, making men who saw, never forget.
On Sunday, the third day of November, 1811, General Harrison's army, with scouts in front, and wagons lumbering along between the flanks, crossed the Big Vermilion river, in Vermilion County, Indiana, traversed Sand Prairie and the woods to the north of it, and in the afternoon of the same day caught their first glimpse of the Grand Prairie, in Warren County, then wet with the cold November rains. That night they camped in Round Grove, near the present town of Sloan, marched eighteen miles across the prairie the next day, and camped on the east bank of Pine creek, just north of the old site of Brier's Mills. To the most of them, the sight must have been both novel and grand; if they could have known then that the vast undulating plain before them stretched westward in unbroken grandeur, a distance of two hundred and fifty miles to the Mississippi river at Quincy; that these vast possessions in a few short years would pass from the control of the savage tribes that roamed over them, and would become the future great granaries of the world, producing enough cereals to feed an empire, what must have been their thoughts?
The magnitude of this great plain, now teeming with thousands of homes and farms, is seldom realized. Draw a straight line west from old Fort Vincennes to the Mississippi, and practically all north of it, to the Wisconsin line, is the Grand Prairie. "Westward of the Wabash, except occasional tracts of timbered lands in northern Indiana and fringes of forest growth along the intervening water courses, the prairies stretch westward continuously across Indiana, and the whole of Illinois to the Mississippi. Taking the line of the Wabash railway, which crosses Illinois in its greatest breadth, and beginning in Indiana, where the railway leaves the timber, west of the Wabash near Marshfield (in Warren County), the prairie extends to Quincy, a distance of more than two hundred and fifty miles, and its continuity the entire way is only broken by four strips of timber along four streams running at right angles with the route of the railway, namely, the timber on the Vermilion river between Danville and the Indiana state line; the Sangamon, seventy miles west of Danville, near Decatur; the Sangamon again a few miles east of Springfield, and the Illinois river at Meredosia, and all the timber at the crossing of these several streams, if put together, would not aggregate fifteen miles, against the two hundred and fifty miles of prairie. Taking a north and south direction and parallel with the drainage of the rivers, one could start near Ashley, on the Illinois Central railway, in Washington county, and going northward, nearly on an air line, keeping on the divide between Kaskaskia and Little Wabash, the Sangamon and the Vermilion, the Iroquois and the Vermilion of the Illinois, crossing the latter stream between the mouths of the Fox and DuPage, and travel through to the state of Wisconsin, a distance of nearly three hundred miles, without encountering five miles of timber during the whole journey."
All that portion of Indiana lying north and west of the Wabash, is essentially a part of the Grand Prairie. "Of the twenty-seven counties in Indiana, lying wholly or partially west and north of the Wabash, twelve are prairie, seven are mixed prairies, barrens and timber, the barrens and prairie predominating. In five, the barrens, with the prairies, are nearly equal to the timber, while only three of the counties can be characterized as heavily timbered. And wherever timber does occur in these twenty-seven counties, it is found in localities favorable to its protection against the ravages of fire, by the proximity of intervening lakes, marshes or watercourses." On the Indiana side, the most pronounced of the tracts of prairie occur in western Warren, Benton, southern and central Newton, southern Jasper, and western White and Tippecanoe. Benton was originally covered with a great pampas of blue-stem, high as a horse's head, interspersed here and there with swamps of willows and bull grass, while only narrow fringes of timber along the creeks, and some five or six groves of timber and woodland, widely scattered, served as land marks to the early traveler.
Those who early observed and explored the grassy savannas of Indiana and Illinois, always maintained that they were kept denuded of trees and forests by the action of the great prairie fires. Among those who have supported this theory are the Hon. James Hall, author of "The West," published in Cincinnati in 1848; the Hon. John Reynolds, former governor of the state of Illinois, and the Hon. John D. Caton, a late judge of the Supreme Court of Illinois. Caton's observations on this subject are so interesting and ingenious that we cannot refrain from making the following quotation:
"The cause of the absence of trees on the upland prairies is the problem most important to the agricultural interests of our state, and it is the inquiry which alone I propose to consider, but cannot resist the remark that wherever we do find timber throughout the broad field of prairie, it is always in or near the humid portions of it, as along the margins of streams, or upon or near the springy uplands. Many most luxurious growths are found in the highest portions of the uplands, but always in the neighborhood of water. For a remarkable example, I may refer to the great chain of groves extending from and including the Au Sable grove on the east and Holderman's grove on the west, in Kendall county, occupying the high divide between the waters of the Illinois and the Fox rivers. In and around all the groves flowing springs abound, and some of them are separated by marshes, to the borders of which the great trees approach, as if the forests were ready to seize upon each yard of ground as soon as it is elevated above the swamps. Indeed, all our groves seem to be located where the water is so disposed as to protect them, to a greater or less extent, from the prairie fire, although not so situated as to irrigate them. If the head waters of the streams on the prairies are most frequently without timber, as soon as they have attained sufficient volume to impede the progress of fires, with very few exceptions, we find forests on their borders, becoming broader and more vigorous as the magnitude of the streams increase. It is manifest that the lands located on the borders of streams which the fire cannot pass, are only exposed to one-half the fires to which they would be exposed, but for such protection. This tends to show, at least, that if but one-half the fires that have occurred had been kindled, the arboraceous growth could have withstood their destructive influences, and the whole surface of what is now prairie would be forest. Another confirmatory fact, patent to all observers, is, that the prevailing winds upon the prairies, especially in the autumn, are from the west, and these give direction to the fires. Consequently, the lands on the westerly sides of the streams are the most exposed to the fires, and, as might be expected, we find much the most timber on the easterly sides of the streams."
Local observation in Benton County, Indiana, which is purely prairie throughout, would seem to confirm the judge's view. Parish grove, on the old Chicago road, was filled with springs, and a rather large spring on the west side of the grove, supplied water for the horses of the emigrants and travelers who took this route to the northwest in the early 40's. Besides this, the grove was situated on rather high uplands, where the growth of grass would be much shorter than on the adjoining plain. It is probable that this spring on the west side, and the springy nature of the highlands back of it, kept the ground moist and the vegetation green, and these facts, coupled with the fact that the grass as it approached the uplands, would grow shorter, probably retarded and checked the prairie fires from the southwest, and gave rise to the wonderfully diversified and luxuriant growth of trees that was the wonder of the early settler. Sugar grove, seven miles to the northwest of Parish grove, and a stopping place on the old Chicago road, lay mostly within the point or headland caused by the juncture of Sugar Creek from the northeast, and Mud Creek from the southeast. Scarcely a tree is on the southwestern bank of Mud creek, but where it widens on the south side of the grove, it protected the growth of the forest on the northern side. Turkey Foot grove, east and south of Earl Park, formerly had a lake and depression both on the south and west sides of it. Hickory Grove, just west of Fowler, in the early days, had a lake or pond on the south and west. The timber that skirted the banks of Pine creek, was heaviest on the eastern side. The headwaters of Sugar, Pine and Mud creeks, being small and narrow, were entirely devoid of trees on their banks, but as they flowed on and acquired strength and volume, a skirt of forest appeared.
The Grand Prairie, the home of the ancient Illinois tribe, the Sacs and Foxes, the Kickapoos, and the prairie Potawatomi, was also the home of the buffalo, or wild cow of America. No story either of the northwest or its Indian tribes would be complete without mention of the bison. Think of the sight that Brigadier General Harmar saw on the early prairies of Illinois, when marching from Vincennes to Kaskaskia, in November 1787! With him the Miami chief, Pachan (Pecan) and a comrade, killing wild game for the soldiers; before him stretching the vastness of the prairie, "like the ocean, as far as the eye can see, the view terminated by the horizon;" here and there the herds of deer and buffalo far in the distance.
For centuries before the advent of the white man the buffalo herds roamed the plain. The savage, with no weapon in his hands, save rudely chipped pieces of stone, was unable to reduce their numbers. With the coming of firearms and the rifle the buffalo passed rapidly away.
In the seventeenth and the early part of the eighteenth centuries the buffalo ranged as far east as western New York and Pennsylvania, and as far south as Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. Father Marquette, in his explorations, declared that the prairies along the Illinois river were "covered with buffalos." Father Hennepin, in writing of northern Illinois, between Chicago and the Illinois river, asserted that "There must be an innumerable quantity of wild bulls in this country, since the earth is covered with their horns. * * * They follow one another, so that you may see a drove of them for about a league together. Their ways are beaten, as are our great roads, and no herb grows therein."
Of the presence of large numbers of buffalo, that resorted to the salty licks of Kentucky, we have frequent mention by both Humphrey Marshall and Mann Butler, the early historians of that state. In the year 1755, Colonel James Smith mentions the killing of several buffalo by the Indians at a lick in Ohio, somewhere between the Muskingum, the Ohio and the Scioto. At this lick the Indians made about a half bushel of salt in their brass kettles. He asserts that about this lick there were clear, open woods, and that there were great roads leading to the same, made by the buffalo, that appeared like wagon roads. The wild cattle had evidently been attracted thither by the mineral salts in the water. In the early morning of June 13, 1765, George Croghan, an Indian agent sent out by William Johnson, of New York, to report to the English government conditions in the west, coming into view of one of the fine large meadows bordering on the western banks of the Wabash, saw in the distance herds of buffalo eating the grass, and describes the land as filled with buffalo, deer and bears in "great plenty." On the 18th and 19th of the same month, he traveled through what he terms as a "prodigious large meadow, called the Pyankeshaw's Hunting Ground," and describes it as well watered and full of buffalo, deer, bears, and all kinds of wild game. He was still in the lower Wabash region. On the 20th and 21st of June he was traveling north along the Wabash in the vicinity of the Vermilion river in Vermilion county, and states that game existed plentifully, and that one could kill in a half hour as much as was needed. He spoke, evidently, of the large variety of game before mentioned. The whole of the prairie of Illinois, filled with an abundant growth of the richest grasses, and all the savannas north of the Wabash in Indiana, that really constituted an extension of the Grand Prairie, were particularly suited to the range of the wild herds, and were the last grounds deserted by them previous to their withdrawal west, and across the Mississippi.
The economical value of the herds of buffalo to the Indian tribes of the northwest may be gathered from the uses to which they were afterwards put by the tribes of the western plains. "The body of the buffalo yielded fresh meat, of which thousands of tons were consumed; dried meat, prepared in summer for winter use; pemmican (also prepared in summer) of meat, fat and berries; tallow, made up into large balls or sacks, and kept in store; marrow, preserved in bladders; and tongues, dried and smoked, and eaten as a delicacy. The skin of the buffalo yielded a robe, dressed with the hair on, for clothing and bedding; a hide, dressed without the hair, which made a tepee cover, when a number were sewn together; boats, when sewn together in a green state, over a wooden frame work; shields, from the thickest portions, as rawhide; clothing of many kinds; bags for use in traveling; coffins, or winding sheets for the dead, etc. Other portions utilized were sinews, which furnished fibre for ropes, thread, bowstrings, snow shoe webs, etc.; hair, which was sometimes made into belts and ornaments; "buffalo chips," which formed a valuable and highly prized fuel; bones, from which many articles of use and ornament were made; horns, which were made into spoons, drinking vessels, etc." The Rev. John Heckewelder, in speaking of the skill of the Delawares of Ohio, in dressing and curing buffalo hides, in the latter part of the eighteenth century, says that they cured them so that they became quite soft and supple, and so that they would last for many years without wearing out.
All at once, and near the beginning of the last decade of the eighteenth century, the buffalo herds east of the Mississippi, suddenly disappeared. George Wilson, in his history of Dubois County, Indiana, says that, "toward the close of the eighteenth century a very cold winter, continuing several months, froze all vegetable growth, starved the noble animals, and the herds never regained their loss." This statement is borne out by the testimony of the famous Potawatomi chieftain Shaubena, of northern Illinois, who says that the trade in buffalo robes east of the Mississippi ceased in about the year 1790; that when a youth he joined in the chase of buffalos on the prairies, but while he was still young, they all disappeared from the country. "A big snow, about five feet deep, fell, and froze so hard on the top that people walked on it, causing the buffalo to perish by starvation. Next spring a few buffalo, poor and haggard in appearance, were seen going westward, and as they approached the carcasses of dead ones, lying here and there on the prairies, they would stop, commence pawing and lowing, then start off again in a lope for the west." It is true that Brigadier-General Josiah Harmar, in marching from Vincennes to Kaskaskia, in 1787, gives a striking account of the early prairies, "like the ocean, as far as the eye can see, the view terminated by the horizon," and describes the country as excellent for grazing, and abounding with deer and buffalo. Pachan, or Pecan, a famous Miami chieftain from Miamitown, and an Indian comrade, supplied the military party with buffalo and deer meat on the march out, and on the return. Notwithstanding these facts, the story of the terrible winter and the deep snow as told by Shaubena seems authentic, and while scattered remnants of the great herds may still have existed for some time afterward, the great droves stretching "for above a league together," were seen no more.
The great snowfall was the culminating tragedy. In order to secure whiskey and brandy the horse tribes of the prairies had slaughtered thousands, and bartered away their robes and hides. What distinguishes the savage from civilized man is, that the savage takes no heed of the morrow. To satisfy his present passions and appetites he will sacrifice every hope of the future. He no longer cures the skins and clothes his nakedness. He thinks no longer of husbanding his supply of meat and game. He robs the plain, and despoils every stream and river, and then becomes a drunken beggar in the frontier towns, crying for alms. The same thing that happened on the plains of Illinois at the close of eighteenth, took place on the plains west of the Mississippi in the last half of the nineteenth century. The giant herds melted away before the remorseless killings of the still hunters and savages, who threw away a meat supply worth millions of dollars in a mad chase for gain and plunder, and no one took a more prominent part in that killing than the Indian himself.
"When the snow fall was unusually heavy," says William T. Hornaday, "and lay for a long time on the ground, the buffalos fast for days together, and sometimes even weeks. If a warm day came, and thawed the upper surface of the snow, sufficiently for succeeding cold to freeze it into a crust, the outlook for the bison began to be serious. A man can travel over a crust through which the hoofs of a ponderous bison cut like chisels and leave him floundering belly-deep. It was at such times that the Indians hunted him on snow-shoes, and drove their spears into his vitals as he wallowed helplessly in the drifts. Then the wolves grew fat upon the victims which they, also, slaughtered without effort." This is probably an accurate description of what took place east of the Mississippi river about the year 1790, and left the bones of the herds to bleach on the prairies.
However the facts may be, it is certain that at the opening of the nineteenth century the buffalo were practically extinguished in the territory of the northwest. A few scattered animals may have remained here and there upon the prairies, but the old herds, whose progenitors were seen by Croghan were forever gone. In the month of December, 1799, Judge Jacob Burnet was traveling overland on horseback from Cincinnati to Vincennes on professional business, and while at some point north and west of the falls of the Ohio, he and his companions surprised a small herd of eight or ten buffalos, that were seeking shelter behind the top of a fallen beech tree on the line of an old "trace," during a snow storm. This is one of the last accounts given of any buffalos in Indiana. On August 18th and August 27th, 1804, Governor William Henry Harrison, as Indian agent for the United States government, bought a large tract of land in southern Indiana, between the Wabash and the Ohio rivers, from the Delaware and Piankeshaw tribes. The right to make this purchase was disputed by Captain William Wells, the Indian agent at Fort Wayne, and by the Little Turtle, claiming to represent the Miamis, and it was claimed among other things, that the lands bought were frequented as a hunting ground by both the Miamis and Potawatomi, and that they went there to hunt buffalo. The truth of this statement was denied by Governor Harrison, who said that not an animal of that kind "had been seen within that tract for several years."
Traces of the old buffalo wallows are occasionally met with, even to this day. The great animals "rolled successively in the same hole, and each carried away a coat of mud," which, baking in the sun, served to protect them against the great swarm of flies, gnats and insects that infested the marshes and prairies of that early time. One of these wallows, in a perfect state of preservation, exists in the northwest quarter of section thirty, in township twenty-five north, range six west, in Benton County, Indiana. It is several yards in diameter, hollowed out to a depth of four or five feet, and its periphery is almost an exact circle. It is situated on a rather high, springy knoll, commanding a view of the surrounding plain for several miles. A great number of Indian arrow heads have been picked up in the immediate vicinity, showing that the Indiana had previously resorted thither in search of game.
THE WABASH AND THE MAUMEE
—Chief line of communication with the tribes of the Early Northwest. The heart of the Miami Country.
To give a detailed description of the many beautiful rivers, valleys and forests of the northwest at the opening of the last century, would be difficult. It was, as before mentioned, a vast domain, well watered and fertile, and containing some of the best lands in the possession of the federal government. Two rivers, however, assume such historical importance, as to merit a more particular mention. Along their courses two Indian confederacies were organized under the spur of British influence, to oppose the advance of the infant republic of the United States. These two rivers were the Wabash and the Maumee, both leading to the principal center of the fur trade of the northwest, the town of Detroit.
The valley of the Wabash, famed in song and story, and rich in Indian legend, is now filled with fields of corn and prosperous cities. At the close of the Revolution, the great stream swept through an unbroken wilderness of oak, maple and sycamore from its source to the old French settlement of Vincennes. Its bluffs, now adorned with the habitations of a peaceful people, then presented the wild and rugged beauty of pristine days; its terraces, stretching back to the prairies of the north and west, were crowned with forests primaeval; while naked Miamis, Weas and Potawatomi in canoes of bark, rounded its graceful courses to the waters of the Ohio.
For one who has ridden over the hills to the west and south of Purdue University, and viewed the gorgeous panorama of the Wea plain, or who has glimpsed in the perspective the wooded hills of Warren and Vermilion from the bluffs on the eastern side of the river, it is not hard to understand why the red man loved the Wabash. An observer who saw it in the early part of the last century pens this picture: "Its green banks were lined with the richest verdure. Wild flowers intermingled with the tall grass that nodded in the passing breeze. Nature seemed clothed in her bridal robe. Blossoms of the wild plum, hawthorn and red-bud, made the air redolent." Speaking of the summer, he says: "The wide, fertile bottom lands of the Wabash, in many places presented one continuous orchard of wild plum and crab-apple bushes, over-spread with arbors of the different varieties of the woods grape, wild hops and honeysuckle, fantastically wreathed together. One bush, or cluster of bushes, often presenting the crimson plum, the yellow crab-apple, the blue luscious grape, festoons of matured wild hops, mingled with the red berries of the clambering sweet-briar, that bound them all lovingly together."
Through all this wild and luxurious wilderness of vines, grasses and flowers flitted the honey bee, called by the Indians, "the white man's fly," storing his golden burden in the hollow trunks of the trees. While on the march from Vincennes, in the last days of September, 1811, Captain Spier Spencer's Yellow Jackets found three bee trees in an hour and spent the evening in cutting them down. They were rewarded by a find of ten gallons of rich honey.
The great river itself now passed between high precipitous bluffs, crowned with oak, sugar, walnut and hickory, or swept out with long graceful curves into the lowlands and bottoms, receiving at frequent intervals the waters of clear, sparkling springs and brooks that leaped down from rocky gorges and hillsides, or being joined by the currents of some creek or inlet that in its turn swept back through forest, glade and glen to sun-lit groves and meadows of blue grass.
Everywhere the waters of the great stream were clear and pellucid. The plow-share of civilization had not as yet turned up the earth, nor the filth and sewerage of cities been discharged into the current. In places the gravelly bottom could be seen at a great depth and the forms of fishes of great size reposing at ease. "Schools of fishes—salmon, bass, red-horse and pike—swam close along the shore, catching at the bottoms of the red-bud and plum that floated on the surface of the water, which was so clear that myriads of the finny tribe could be seen darting hither and thither amidst the limpid element, turning up their silvery sides as they sped out into deeper water."
The whole valley of the Wabash abounded with deer, and their tiny hoofs wrought foot paths through every hollow and glen. The small prairies bordered with shady groves, the patches of blue-grass, and the sweet waters of the springs, were great attractions. The banks of the Mississinewa, Wild Cat, Pine Creek, Vermilion, and other tributaries, were formerly noted hunting grounds. George Croghan, who described the Wabash as running through "one of the finest countries in the world," mentions the deer as existing in great numbers. On the march of General Harrison's men to Tippecanoe, the killing of deer was an every day occurrence, and at times the frightened animals passed directly in front of the line of march. Raccoons were also very plentiful. On a fur trading expedition conducted by a French trader named La Fountaine, from the old Miamitown (Fort Wayne), in the winter of 1789-90, he succeeded in picking up about eighty deer skins and about five hundred raccoon skins in less than thirty days. He descended the Wabash and "turned into the woods" toward the White River, there bartering with the Indians for their peltries.
As to wild game, the whole valley was abundantly supplied. In the spring time, great numbers of wild ducks, geese and brant were found in all the ponds and marshes; in the woody ground the wild turkey, the pheasant and the quail. At times, the sun was actually darkened by the flight of wild pigeons, while the prairie chicken was found in all the open tracts and grass lands.
The bottom lands of this river, were noted for their fertility. The annual inundations always left a rich deposit of silt. This silt produced excellent maize, potatoes, beans, pumpkins, squashes, cucumbers and melons. These, according to Heckewelder, were important items of the Indian food supply.
To the Indian we are indebted for ash-cake, hoecake, succotash, samp, hominy and many other productions made from the Indian maize. The Miamis of the Wabash, with a favorable climate and a superior soil, produced a famous corn with a finer skin and "a meal much whiter" than that raised by other tribes. How far the cultivation of this cereal had progressed is not now fully appreciated. In the expedition of General James Wilkinson against the Wabash Indians in 1791, he is said to have destroyed over two hundred acres of corn in the milk at Kenapacomaqua, or the Eel river towns, alone, and to have cut down a total of four hundred and thirty acres of corn in the whole campaign. In General Harmar's campaign against Miamitown in the year 1790, nearly twenty thousand bushels of corn in the ear were destroyed. On the next day after the battle of Tippecanoe the dragoons of Harrison's army set fire to the Prophets Town, and burned it to the ground. Judge Isaac Naylor says that they found there large quantities of corn, beans and peas, and General John Tipton relates that the commissary loaded six wagons with corn and "Burnt what was estimated at two thousand bushel."
Of the many other natural advantages of this great valley, much might be written. Wheat and tobacco, the latter of a fine grade, were growing at Vincennes in 1765, when Croghan passed through there. Wild hemp was abundant in the lowlands. The delicious pecan flourished, and walnuts, hazelnuts and hickory nuts were found in great plenty. The sugar maple existed everywhere, and the Indians, who were the original sugar makers of the world, made large quantities of this toothsome article. In addition to this the whole valley was filled with wild fruits and berries, such as blackberries, dewberries, raspberries, gooseberries, and the luscious wild strawberry, that grew everywhere in the open spaces and far out on the bordering prairies.
This sketch of the Wabash and its wonderful possibilities may not be more aptly closed, than by appending hereto the description of Thomas Hutchins, the first geographer of the United States. It appears in his "Topographical Description," and mention is made of the connection of the Wabash by a portage with the waters of Lake Erie; the value of the fur trade at Ouiatenon and Vincennes, and many other points of vital interest.
"Ouiatenon (Author's note: Just below Lafayette), is a small stockaded fort on the western side of the Wabash, in which about a dozen families reside. The neighboring Indians are the Kickapoos, Musquitons, Pyankeshaws, and a principal part of the Ouiatenons. The whole of these tribes consists, it is supposed, of about one thousand warriors. The fertility of soil, and the diversity of timber in this country, are the same as in the vicinity of Post Vincent. The annual amount of skins and furs obtained at Ouiatenon is about 8,000 pounds. By the river Wabash, the inhabitants of Detroit move to the southern parts of Ohio, and the Illinois country. Their route is by the Miami river (Maumee) to a carrying place (Author's note: Miamitown or Fort Wayne), which, as before stated, is nine miles to the Wabash, when this river is raised with freshies; but at other seasons, the distance is from eighteen to thirty miles, including the portage. The whole of the latter is through a level country. Carts are usually employed in transporting boats and merchandise, from the Miami to the Wabash river."
No less wonderful was the valley of the Maumee, directly on the great trade route between the Wabash and the post of Detroit. Croghan, who was a good judge of land, and made careful observations, found the Ottawas and Wyandots here in 1765, the land of great richness, and game very plentiful. It was a region greatly beloved by the Indian tribes, and the scene after the revolution, of many grand councils of the northwestern confederacy. In a letter of General Anthony Wayne, written in 1794, he asserts that: "The margins of these beautiful rivers, the Miamis of the Lake (Maumee), and the Au Glaize (A southern tributary), appear like one continued village for a number of miles, both above and below this place, Grand Glaize, nor have I ever before beheld such immense fields of corn in any part of America, from Canada to Florida."
After General Wayne's army had defeated the Indians at the battle of Fallen Timbers on this river in 1794, they spent many days after that conflict in destroying the fields of grain. One who marched with the army, in August of the above year, describes Indian corn fields extending for four or five miles along the Au Glaize, and estimated that there were one thousand acres of growing corn. The whole valley of the Maumee from its mouth to Fort Wayne, is described as being full of immense corn fields, large vegetable patches, and old apple trees, and it is related that Wayne's army, while constructing Fort Defiance for a period of eight days, "obtained their bread and vegetables from the corn fields and potato patches surrounding the fort."
Is it any wonder that along these wonderful basins should be located the seats of power of the Miami Indians, the leaders of the western confederacy that opposed the claims of the United States to the lands north of the Ohio; that from the close of the Revolutionary war until Wayne's victory in 1794, the principal contest was over the possession of the Miami village, now Fort Wayne, which controlled the trade in both the Wabash and the Maumee Valleys, and that President George Washington, consummate strategist that he was, foresaw at once in 1789, the first year of his presidency, that the possession of the great carrying place at Miamitown would probably command the whole northwest and put an end to the Indian wars?
THE TRIBES OF THE NORTHWEST
—A description of the seven tribes of savages who opposed the advance of settlement in the Northwest. Their location. Kekionga, the seat of Miami power.
We have now to consider those Indian tribes and confederacies, which at the close of the Revolutionary war, inhabited the northwest territory.
Chief among them were the Wyandots, Miamis, Shawnees, Delawares, Ottawas, Chippewas and Potawatomi. These were the seven tribes known in after years as the "western confederacy," who fought so long and bitterly against the government of the United States, and who were at last conquered by the arms and genius of General Anthony Wayne in the year 1794.
The Ottawas, Chippewas and Potawatomi formed a sort of loose confederacy known as the Three Fires, and Massas, a Chippewa chief, so referred to them at the Treaty of Greenville.
The Miamis, the most powerful of the confederates, were subdivided into the Eel Rivers, the Weas, and the Piankeshaws. The Kickapoos, a small tribe which lived on the Sangamon, and the Vermilion of the Wabash, were associated generally with the Potawatomi, and were always the allies of the English. The Winnebagoes of Wisconsin were of the linguistic family of the Sioux; were generally associated with the confederates against the Americans, and many of their distinguished warriors fought against General Harrison at Tippecanoe. The decadent tribes known in early times as the Illinois, did not play a conspicuous part in the history of the northwest.
While the limits of the various tribes may not be fixed with precision, and the boundary lines were often confused, still there were well recognized portions of the northwest that were under the exclusive control of certain nations, and these nations were extremely jealous of their rights, as shown by the anger and resentment of the Miamis at what they termed as the encroachment of the Potawatomi at the Treaty of Fort Wayne, in 1809.
The Wyandots, for instance, were the incontestable owners of the country between the Cuyahoga and the Au Glaize, in the present state of Ohio, their dominion extending as far south as the divide between the waters of the Sandusky river and the Scioto, and embracing the southern shore of Lake Erie from Maumee Bay, to the mouth of the Cuyahoga. Large numbers of them were also along the northern shores of Lake Erie, in Canada. Their territory at one time probably extended much farther south toward the Ohio, touching the lands of the Miamis on the west, but certainly embracing parts of the Muskingum country, to which they had invited the ancient Delawares, respectfully addressed by them as "grandfathers." Intermingled with the Wyandots south and west of Lake Erie were scattered bands of Ottawas, but they were tenants of the soil by sufferance, and not as of right.
The Miamis have been described by General William Henry Harrison as the most extensive landowners in the northwest. He stands on record as saying that: "Their territory embraced all of Ohio, west of the Scioto; all of Indiana, and that part of Illinois, south of the Fox river and Wisconsin, on which frontier they were intermingled with the Kickapoos and some other small tribes." Harrison may have been right as to the ancient and original bounds of this tribe, but Little Turtle, their most famous chieftain, said at the Treaty of Greenville, in 1795: "It is well known by all my brothers present, that my fore-father kindled the first fire at Detroit; from thence, he extended his lines to the head-water of Scioto; from thence, to its mouth; from thence, down the Ohio, to the mouth of the Wabash, and from thence to Chicago, on Lake Michigan." The truth is, that the ancient demesne of the Miamis was much curtailed by the irruption of three tribes from the north in about the year 1765, the Sacs and Foxes, the Kickapoos and the Potawatomi, who conquered the old remnants of the Illinois tribes in the buffalo prairies and divided the country among themselves.
Says Hiram Beckwith, in speaking of the Potawatomi: "Always on friendly terms with the Kickapoos, with whom they lived in mixed villages, they joined the latter and the Sacs and Foxes in the exterminating war upon the Illinois tribes, and afterwards obtained their allotment of the despoiled domain." The Potawatomi advancing by sheer force of numbers, rather than by conquest, finally appropriated a large part of the lands in the present state of Indiana, north of the Wabash, commingling with the Kickapoos at the south and west, and advancing their camps as far down as Pine creek. The Miamis were loud in their remonstrances against this trespassing, and denounced the Potawatomi as squatters, "never having had any lands of their own, and being mere intruders upon the prior estate of others," but the Potawatomi were not dispossessed and were afterwards parties to all treaties with the United States government for the sale and disposal of said lands. The Miamis also lost a part of their lands on the lower west side of the Wabash to the Kickapoos. Pressing eastward from the neighborhood of Peoria, the Kickapoos established themselves on the Vermilion, where they had a village on both sides of that river at its confluence with the main stream. They were, says Beckwith, "Greatly attached to the Vermilion and its tributaries, and Governor Harrison found it a difficult task to reconcile them to ceding it away."
To the last, however, the Miamis remained the undisputed lords and masters of most of the territory watered by the two Miamis of the Ohio, and by the Wabash and its tributaries down to the Ohio. The great head and center of their power was at Kekionga (now Fort Wayne), always referred to by President Washington as "the Miami Village." It was a pleasant situation in the heart of the great northwest, at the junction where the swift flowing St. Joseph and the more gentle stream of the Saint Marys, formed the headwaters of the Maumee. On the eastern side of the St. Joseph was the town of Pecan, a head chief of the Miami, and the same savage who had supplied deer and buffalo meat for Brigadier General Harmar on his mission to Kaskaskia in 1787. Pecan was an uncle of the famous chief, Peshewah, or Jean Baptiste Richardville, who after the death of Little Turtle in 1812, became the head chief of the Miami tribe, and was reputed to be the richest Indian in North America. The southern end of this town was near the point of juncture of the St. Marys and St. Joseph, and the village extended north along what is now known as Lakeside, in the present city of Fort Wayne, a pleasant drive revealing at times the rippling waters of the river to the west. To the south of this village lay the Indian gardens, and east of the gardens the extensive corn fields and meadows. On the northern side of the town more corn fields were found, and north and west of it extended the forests. The banks of the Maumee just below the junction, and south of this old village, are quite high and steep, and along the northern side now runs the beautiful avenue known as Edgewater. Traveling down Edgewater to the eastward one comes to a great boulder with a brass tablet on it. You are at Harmar's Ford, and at the exact point where the regulars crossed the river just after sunrise of October 22nd, 1790, to attack the Indians. Here it was that Major John Wyllys fell leading the charge. Along the southern bank of the Maumee the ground is elevated and crowning these elevations were the forests again. It was through these forests that Hardin's forces approached the fatal battlefield.
On the western bank of the St. Joseph was a mixed village of French and Indians known as LeGris' Town, and it in turn was surrounded by more corn fields. LeGris was also an important chief of the Miamis, and named in Henry Hay's journal as a brother-in-law of the Little Turtle. He signed the treaty of Greenville under the Indian name of Na-goh-quan-gogh. Directly south of this village ran the St. Marys, and to the west of it was a small wooded creek known as Spy Run.
To these villages in August, 1765, came George Croghan on his way to Detroit. He describes the carrying-place between the Wabash and the Maumee systems to be about nine miles in length, "but not above half that length in freshes." He reported navigation for bateaux and canoes between the carrying place and Ouiatenon as very difficult during the dry season of the year on account of many rapids and rifts; but during the high-water time the journey could be easily made in three days. He says the distance by water was two hundred forty miles and by land about two hundred ten. Within a mile of Miamitown he was met by a delegation of the Miami chiefs and immediately after his entrance into the village the British flag was raised. He describes the villages as consisting of about forty or fifty cabins, besides nine or ten French houses. He entertained no very high opinion of the French and describes them as refugees from Detroit, spiriting up the Indians against the English. He describes the surrounding country as pleasant, well watered, and having a rich soil.
Recently another account of these villages has been given to the world by the publication of the diary of one Henry Hay, who, as a representative of certain merchants and traders of Detroit, visited these villages in the winter of 1789-1790, while they were still under the influence of the British agents at Detroit, although the soil was within the jurisdiction of the United States government. It was then one of the most important trading places for the Indian tribes in the northwest, and in close proximity to the great council grounds of the northwestern Indian confederacy in the valley of the Maumee. Le Gris, was there, and Jean Baptiste Richardville, then a youth; also the Little Turtle himself, about to become the most famous and wily strategist of his day and time.
Let there be no mistaken glamour cast about this scene. Already the disintegration of the Indian power was setting in. The traders among them, both English and French, seem to have been a depraved, drunken crew, trying to get all they could "by foul play or otherwise," and traducing each other's goods by the circulation of evil reports. Hay says, "I cannot term it in a better manner than calling it a rascally scrambling trade." Winter came on and the leading chiefs and their followers went into the woods to kill game. They had nothing in reserve to live upon, and in a hard season their women and children would have suffered. The French residents here seem to have been a gay, rollicking set, playing flutes and fiddles, dancing and playing cards, and generally going home drunk from every social gathering. The few English among them were no better, and we have the edifying spectacle of one giving away his daughter to another over a bottle of rum. The mightiest chieftains, including Le Gris, did not scruple to beg for whiskey, and parties of warriors were arriving from the Ohio river and Kentucky, with the scalps of white men dangling at their belts.
There was still a considerable activity at this place, however, in the fur trade, and the English thought it well worth holding. Raccoon, deer, bear, beaver, and otter skins were being brought in, although the season was not favorable during which Hay sojourned there on account of it being an open winter. Constant communication was kept up with Detroit on the one hand and the Petit Piconne (Tippecanoe) and Ouiatenon on the other. La Fountaine, Antoine LaSalle, and other famous French traders of that day were doing a thriving business in the lower Indian country.
That these Miami villages were also of great strategical value from the military standpoint, and that this fact was well known to President Washington, has already been mentioned. The French early established themselves there, and later the English, and when the Americans after the Revolution took dominion over the northwest and found it necessary to conquer the tribes of the Wabash and their allies, one of the first moves of the United States government was to attack the villages at this place, break up the line of their communication with the British at Detroit, and overawe the Miamis by the establishment of a strong military post.
To the last, the Miamis clung to their old carrying place. Wayne insisted at the peace with the Miamis and their allies, at Greenville, Ohio, in 1795, that a tract six miles square around the newly established post at Fort Wayne should be ceded to the United States, together with "one piece two miles square on the Wabash river, at the end of the portage from the Miami of the Lake (Maumee), and about eight miles westward from Fort Wayne." This proposal was stoutly resisted by the Little Turtle, who among other things said: "The next place you pointed to, was the Little River, and you said you wanted two miles square at that place. This is a request that our fathers, the French or British, never made of us; it was always ours. This carrying place has heretofore proved, in a great degree, the subsistence of your younger brothers. That place has brought to us in the course of one day, the amount of one hundred dollars. Let us both own this place and enjoy in common the advantage it affords." Despite this argument, however, Wayne prevailed, and the control of Kekionga and the portage passed to the Federal government; that ancient Kekionga described by Little Turtle as "the Miami village, that glorious gate, which your younger brothers had the happiness to own, and through which all the good words of our chiefs had to pass from the north to the south, and from the east to the west."
Returning to the Potawatomi, it will be seen that this tribe, which originally came from the neighborhood of Green Bay, was probably from about the middle of the eighteenth century, in possession of most of the country from the Milwaukee river in Wisconsin, around the south shore of Lake Michigan, to Grand River, "extending southward over a large part of northern Illinois, east across Michigan to Lake Erie, and south in Indiana to the Wabash." The Sun, or Keesass, a Potawatomi of the Wabash, said at the treaty of Greenville, that his tribe was composed of three divisions; that of the river Huron, in Michigan, that of the St. Joseph of Lake Michigan, and the bands of the Wabash. In the year 1765, George Croghan, Indian agent of the British government, found the Potawatomi in villages on the north side of the Wabash at Ouiatenon, with a Kickapoo village in close proximity, while the Weas had a village on the south side of the river. This would indicate that the Potawatomi had already pushed the Miami tribe south of the Wabash at this place and had taken possession of the country.
Far away to the north and on both shores of Lake Superior, dwelt the Chippewas or Ojibways, famed for their physical strength and prowess and living in their conical wigwams, with poles stuck in the ground in a circle and covered over with birch bark and grass mats. The Jesuit Fathers early found them in possession of the Sault Ste. Marie, and when General Wayne at the treaty of Greenville, reserved the post of Michillimacinac, and certain lands on the main between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, Mash-i-pinash-i-wish, one of the principal Chippewa chieftains, voluntarily made the United States a present of the Island De Bois Blanc, at the eastern entrance of the straits of Mackinac, for their use and accommodation, and was highly complimented by the general for his generous gift. A reference to the maps of Thomas G. Bradford, of 1838, shows the whole upper peninsular of Michigan in the possession of the Chippewas, as well as the whole southern and western shores of Lake Superior, and a large portion of northern Wisconsin. One of their principal sources of food supply was wild rice, and the presence of this cereal, together with the plentiful supply of fish, probably accounts for their numbers and strength. In the beginning of the eighteenth century, they expelled the Foxes from northern Wisconsin, and later drove the fierce fighting Sioux beyond the Mississippi. They were the undisputed masters of a very extensive domain and held it with a strong and powerful hand. One of their chiefs proudly said to Wayne: "Your brothers' present, of the three fires, are gratified in seeing and hearing you; those who are at home will not experience that pleasure, until you come and live among us; you will then learn our title to that land." Though far removed from the theatre of the wars of the northwest, they, together with the Ottawas, early came under the British influence, and resisted the efforts of the United States to subdue the Miamis and their confederate tribes, fighting with the allies against General Harmar at the Miami towns, against St. Clair on the headwaters of the Wabash and against Anthony Wayne at Fallen Timbers on the 20th of August, 1794.