The Land of the Miamis.
by Elmore Barce.
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-Tec.u.mseh 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 Tec.u.mseh 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. Tec.u.mseh 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 ma.s.s 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 a.s.sistance 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 gra.s.ses, 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 gra.s.sy savannas have now pa.s.sed 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 sh.o.r.es 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 racc.o.o.n 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 trespa.s.sers 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 racc.o.o.n 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 pa.s.sed into the hands of its rightful owners, the American people. Well had it been for the red men, if, with this pa.s.sing 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 pa.s.sed 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 Tec.u.mseh 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 b.l.o.o.d.y 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 Tec.u.mseh 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 s.e.xes. The party under military escort pa.s.sed 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 gra.s.s; 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 n.o.ble 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 p.a.w.ns 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 pa.s.s 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 pa.s.sed 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 "pa.s.sed 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 pa.s.sed 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 pa.s.sed 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 mult.i.tude 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 pa.s.sed 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), Pet.i.t 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 a.s.sembled together, and who took every advantage of each other, and of the dest.i.tute 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 Pet.i.t 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 pa.s.sing, that the rendezvous of the French traders at the Pet.i.t 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 racc.o.o.ns; 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 mora.s.s 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 compet.i.tion 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, racc.o.o.n, 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 Bunk.u.m, 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.
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