Clark County, Ohio

History and Genealogy



The Ceremony

From The History of Clark County, Ohio
Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881 - Page 375


It had been arranged to suspend exercises at the stand at this point until after dinner, but having made so good a start, and the assemblage remaining intact and manifesting much interest, the order was gone through with to the end, omitting the musical interludes. Mr. Thomas F. McGrew, of Mad River National Bank, this city, the historian of the day, upon being introduced by the Chairman, read the following admirable and accurate paper, which is entitled to careful perusal and preservation. it received the undivided attention of the audience:

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen: On the 14th day of June, 1880, an illustrated article was published in the Springfield Republic, entitled: "The Siege of the Old Indian Town of Piqua, in the Month of August, A.D. 1780." Shortly after the publication of said article, the Soldiers' Memorial Association made arrangemetns for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of that military event, on the site of the old Indian town. It is for that purpose that we have met here to-day. It was supposed that this celebration would serve another important purpose: that the investigations which would be made, would determine all disputed points, as to exact location of the forces engaged in the battle, the site and form of the stockade fort, the old Indian road from Old Chillicothe to Piqua, and the burial-place of the soldiers killed in the fight. The information thus collected, when carefully compiled, would form an interesting chapter in the history of the settlement of Ohio. In reference to this event, we have not the usual record authority to aid our investigations. I wrote to the War Department for copies of papers on file that might in any manner be connected with the siege, and received the following letter from the Hon. Alex Ramsey, Secretary of War:

"Sir: Replying to your letter of the 5th inst., expressing a desire to procure, if on file, a copy of a report by Gen. George R. Clark of his capture of the old Indian town of Piqua, August 8, 1780, I beg to inform you that the Adjutant General reports that the desired report is not on file and that the records of his office do not cover so early a date as the one named."

An official report of this battle may be found in Virginia, but investigation there could not be made in time for this celebration. I hope the subject will be pursued until an official report has been found, or the fact ascertained that none was ever made. The materials furnished here to-day affecting the Shawnee tribe of Indians, the local history of the construction of the town of Old Piqua, the early settlers of Clark County and the town of Boston, are as follows:

  1. An accurate and exhaustive history of the Shawnee tribe of Indians, by C. C. Royce, of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington City.
  2. A letter from Hon. C. W. Butterfield, on the same subject, with some personal incidents in the life of Simon Girty.
  3. A letter from William Patrick upon the pioneer settlers of Clark County and the city of Springfield.
  4. A letter from Dr. John Ludlow on the town of Boston, which has disappeared, not one house being left.
  5. A letter from Dr. John J. Musson, in reference to Cata-he-cas-sa, or Black Hoof. In this intersecting letter, he states that Black Hoof was the "confidential friend of the great Tecumseh, and, at the instance of the latter, attempted to unite the several Indian tribes into a great confederacy, so as the more effectually to resist the constantly increasing encroachments of the whites." On this point in the history of these two great Indians, I most respectfully suggest that Benjamin Drake, who had gone over the whole subject in his "Life of Tecumseh," says that "when Tecumseh and the Prophet embarked in their scheme for the recovery of the lands as far south as the Ohio River, it became their interest as well as policy to enlist Black Hoof in the enterprise, and every effort which the genius of one and the cunning of the other could devise was brought to bear upon him. But Black Hoof continued faithful to the treaty which he had signed at Greenville in 1795, and by prudence and influence kept the greater part of his tribe from joining the standard of Tecumseh or engaging on the side of the British in the late war with England.
  6. A letter from Isaac Smucker, of Newark, Ohio.
  7. A letter from Theophilus McKinnon, of London.

These historical papers will be published and made part of the proceedings of the day's celebration. The parties brought together in the battle fought over this field one hundred years ago represented four forces in human affairs, of great and far-reaching consequences. Gen. George R. Clark represented the white race. He had been educated according to the highest standard of colonial times, and was a military officer of considerable experience in war, and of great reputation as an Indian fighter. His army was composed of a class of men who have all passed away, called "backwoodsmen." We all remember their bravery, qualities of great personal endurance and high patriotism. The Shawnees represented one of the most warlike tribes that have been found on the continent, under command of Indians of the highest type, of large experience and undoubted courage. The Mingo Indians were commanded by Simon Girty, one of the most degraded specimens of the white race; but, combining the training he had received in the settlement with Indian cruelty and treachery, made him a formidable opponent. The result of the fight determined the superiority of the whites, who realized the encouraging influences of the victory, and the Indians became satisfied that separate and independent tribes could not stand up against the advancing settlements, and Clark's victory demonstrated that two tribes combined — the Shawnees and the Mingoes — could not do so; and the determination of this point, in my judgment, makes Clark's battle the decisive one of our Indian wars. St. Clair's defeat was the result of negligence, and the victory at "the battle of the Fallen Timbers" was obtained by the great care bostowed [sic] by the Government on the material prepared for that campaign; but the vistory of Gen. Clark over the Shawnees at this place was an inspiration — quick, complete and decisive. From this time forward, the Indians sought for a confederation and foreign aid. The desire of confederation was at no time, and with no chief, an inspiration, but a conviction of weakness most emphatically declared by Clark's victory.

Gen. Jackson, in his message of December 7, 1830, says:

"Humanity has often wept over the fate of the aborigines of this country and philanthropy has been long busily employed in devising means to avert it. But its progress has never for a moment been arrested; and one by one have many powerful tribes disappeared from the earth."

Such has been the fate of the Shawnees, who once occupied this valley. When first known to the whites, they were a numerous and warlike people of Georgia and South Carolina. (Mr. Royce's letter,‡ read here to-day, traces them to a higher antiquity.) They abandoned or were driven from that locality, and located in Pennsylvania and took part in the tragic scenes of the Wyoming Valley. They fought on Braddock's field, at Point Pleasant, and along the whole line of the Western frontier, and lastly, we find them on the Wabash at Tippecanoe. Their traditions, if carefully preserved, would have embraced a hundred battle-fields in as many separate districts, which now embrace eight or nine sovereign States, with a population of from eight to ten millions of people. From this place where we are now assembled, one hundred years ago they were driven by Gen. George Rogers Clark. The manner or plan of the battle I do not propose to explain, for it will be demonstrated to you by what is called a sham battle; but I will trace the life, character and influence of one of their most distinguished chiefs, because of the power he exerted to prevent the settlement of the State of Ohio, and of course the county of Clark.

The celebrated Tecumseh was born in Old Piqua in 1768, and was twelve years old when Gen. Clark captured the town, and as a boy, must have witnessed the battle and defeat of his countrymen. It could not fail to have influenced his after life. Perhaps the event decided his whole career. Let that be as it may, I wish to speak of him as I understand his history. His life becomes quite interesting to us because of the fact that he was born within the limits of Clark County; but the whole life of Tecumseh cannot be perfectly comprehended until one has studied the life of his brother, the Indian Prophet, Law-le-wa-se-kaw. I cannot trace the history of both the brothers, for want of time, and will only refer to the most distinguished one of the two, unconnected and apart from the tradiitons of his tribe, and the magic practiced by the Prophet.

I will limit myself to four points in his history, and their treatment by me will in no sense be the popular view of the subject. And first, his bravery; second, treacherous disposition; third, misapprehension of the legitimate rights of his tribe, in relation to other tribes and the Government of the United States; fourth, the failure of his contemplated union, or confederation of the Indian tribes, even as an ally of the British Government, and himself fighting as a Brigadier General in its army. It has been said, by a distingusihed gentleman from Ohio, that Tecumseh was the "Napoleon of the West." It will not be regarded as out of the record for me to say, in this connection, that I do not concur in the justice of this title.

The same writer continues to say:

"So far as that title was deserved by splendid genius, unwavering courage, untiring perseverance, boldness of conception and promptness of execution, it was fairly bestowed on this savage."

It is in such extravagant language as that just quoted that writers love to indulge in when they refer to the Indian chief. I think that he was no better than his vagabond brother, the Prophet.

To read the life of Tecumseh as written by some of his admirers, and to accept their estimate of his character, is calculated to make one regret the fall of a chief who, they hold, contemplated the union of his race, and to believe that he was justly and rightfully entitled, in his lifetime, to have checked the advance of civilization, and to hold the vast West an unbroken empire of the confederate Indian tribes. In these views I do not concur. I regard him as having been but a little in advance of his race. He was only a cunning savage — nothing more than that. James, a British historian, in his account of the battle of the Thames, describes him as follows:

"A Shawnee, five feet ten inches high, and with more that [sic] the usual stoutness. He possessed all the agility and perseverance of the Indian character. His carriage was dignified; his eye penetrating; his countenance, even in death, betrayed indications of a lofty spirit, rather of the sterner cast." This writer was describing an officer of the English army. His national pride would incline him to a favorable estimate of an Indian chief who served in the English army, and in that light we must regard his portraiture of Tecumseh. I have met and conversed with an early settler in Clark County who remembered his personal appearance, and described him as nothing above that of an ordinary Indian.

As an illustration of his morals and honor, in his early life, I give the following incident: It was communicated to me by a friend, who obtained the same information from an early settler in Clark county, that Tecumseh traded with a white man a much-worn saddle for one that appeared better. The white man repaired the saddle which he obtained in the trade, and, by the use of his own skill and materials, made it look the better one of the two. When Tecumseh next met this white man with the reparied saddle, he treacherously claimed it as his own. The white man invited him to settle the right of ownership by a personal conflict, which the Indian very cowardly declined. The want of honor in a savage might be excused, but the want of courage would be condemned by the whole of his race. The truth of his personal timidity is easily believed, when all of his biographers admit, on the authority of some Indian chiefs, that in his first battle, fought near the present site of Dayton, he became firghtened and fled from the field. This last-stated fact was told by those personally present and acquainted with it, to show a want of courage in Tecumseh. This personal trait in his character has been part of the history of several great men, who in after life became brave, but, as it is the grandest virtue of a savage to be brave, I reproduce the circumstance as an answer to those who desire to celebrate Tecumseh as a hero from infancy. The chief indicated a great treachery of disposition by his conduct on several different occasions. A council was held at Springfield, Ohio, in the year A.D. 1807, in a sugar grove situated a little east of the court house as now located. McPherson's command, in compliance with the request of the Commissioners, left their arms a few miles from the place of the conference, but Tecumseh and his party refused to attend without bringing their arms with them. The reason that he desired to be armed in a conference with parties who were not armed can be accounted for upon no other ground than that of contemplated treachery. He had no reason to fear danger from unarmed men, neither did he need arms for the protection of his party at a conference to be held for no purpose but the desirable one of peace. His conduct was not amiable, but sullen and rude. This treacherous disposition of the savage was confirmed by his conduct at the council of Vincennes, held with Gen. Harrison in the month of August, A.D. 1810. He attended with 400 warriors in full war paint, bringing by their sides tomahawks and war clubs. They reached the town in eighty canoes. The warriors were painted in the most terrific style of savage life. The canoes were examined and found well prepared for war. Forty of his principal warriors attended Tecumseh at the conference, the exact location of which had been selected by himself. Here he acted with great violence, evidently intending mischief to the Governor, who wisely called up his guard in time to prevent a bloody termination of the council called to secure a continuance of peace. Great care has been bestowed upon this part of his history, with the intention of proving that he did not intend treachery, but this does not seem to be maintainable when we recall the significant fact of the presence of 400 warriors, armed and in war paint. His conduct here makes the impression on my mind that he intended, if an opportunity afforded, to murder Gen. Harrsion.

Gen. Proctor, of the British army, hoped to reduce Fort Meigs, and, upon doubtful authority, it has been said that he promised to surrender all the prisoners who had fought at Tippecanoe to the Indians, to be disposed of as they might in council decide. Among these of course would be Gen. Harrison, who was to have been delivered to Tecumseh, and to be disposed of at the pleasure of that chief. Davidson's Historical Narrative asserts: "There is no doubt that when Proctor made arrangements for the attack on Fort Meigs with Tecumseh, the latter insisted and the former agreed (perhaps submitted to what he could not help) that the white prisoners should be handed over to the Indians."

Drake unwillingly admits that "Tecumseh may possibly have made such an arrangement with Proctor, and announced it to the Indians, for the purpose of exciting them to activity and perseverance in carrying on the siege."

The command of Col. Dudley, after the death of its commander, surrendered to the British, and, while huddled together in an old garrison, the Indians commenced to put them to death. Please remember that no white soldier participated in the massacre, for which it is claimed that Tecumseh tried to prepent [sic], and denounced Gen. Proctor for permitting. The General said: "Your Indians cannot be commanded." In reply to this, it has been reported that Tecumseh said: "Begone! you are unfit to command. Go an put on petticoats!" It does not seem at all probable that an Indian would address a British commander in this style. It is possible, as he could not speak English, that some one has invented this answer for him. There is much testimony to show that Gen. Harrison and all who fought at Tippecanoe were to have been given up to the Indians. I incline to the opinion that Gen. Proctor did not make the offer, but that Tecumseh demanded the prisoners as a reward for military service, and that if he had obtained the person of Gen. Harrison, he would have burned him at the stake. Tecumseh's own language proves him to have been capable of such conduct. He once declared that he "could not look upon the face of a white man without feeling the flesh crawl upon his bones." When Detroit was captured, on August 16, 1812, Tecumseh commanded the Indians. After the surrender, Gen. Brock requested him not to allow his Indians to ill-treat prisoners, to which he replied: "No! I despise them too much to meddle with them."

The saddle trade, flight from the battle-field near Dayton, the council at Springfield and at Vincennes, prove Tecumseh to have been cowardly in the early part of his life, and in the latter part, treacherous. He was a savage — nothing more. He possessed no qualities of grandness. He believed in the witchcraft of his prophet brother, and was no better than he was — only braver. His plan for the union and confederation of the Indian tribes was impossible — a misapprehension of the right. It was in violation of Indian tradition, and of the rules of international law, which all writers regard as conducive to the rights of nations, to common justice, and the happiness of the people whose government adheres to its principles. His union was to be supported upon the new doctrine that "No particular portion of the country belonged to the tribe then within its limits, though in reference to other tribes its title was perfect; that is, possession excluded them forever, but did not confer on the tribe having it the right to sell us (the United States) the soil, for that was the common property of all the tribes who were near enough to occupy or hunt upon it, and it could only be vacated by the consent of all the tribes."

Under this new doctrine, he proposed to hold land which had been ceded to the United States by treaty, and threatened to kill all the chiefs concerned in making the treaty in reference to the lands disposed of. The doctrine was a new departure from the Indian practice from the first discovery of the continent, and, if insisted upon, would involve all the tribes in a war with the United States. He carried with him a red stick, the acceptance of which was regarded as equivalent to joining his party; hence, Indians hostile to the United States were called Red Sticks. He failed to engage any number of the tribes in his plan, all hope of which was defeated by Gen. Harrison at Tippecanoe. The new doctrine did not originate with Tecumseh, but it failed under his leadership; but if his union had succeeded, the settlers in the West would have been murdered, and its present prosperous condition delayed many years. Gen. Harrison, who was in a position to be well informed, wrote to the Government: "That the compalint of injury, with regard to the lands, is a mere pretense suggested to the Prophet by British emissaries and partisans."

Tecumseh fell fighting for the British and against the United States, at the battle of the Thames, in the month of October, A.D. 1813. He is buried not far from the battle-field. His death seems to have been considered of small account at the time, as Gen. Harrison did not mention it in the report of the battle — but the English bore testimony to his good conduct. Think as we may of this savage, his memory will ever live in the annals of the early settlement of Ohio. He lies buried on the banks of the River Thames, rendered ever illustrious by the bones of an Indian who was born within the present limits of Clark County, Ohio, and who has been pronounced a statesman, warrior and patriot. In reference to the place of his grave, Charles A. Jones, of Cincinnati, wrote a poem entitled:

"Tecumseh, the last King of Ohio."

I reproduce the first verse:

"Where rolls the dark and turbid Thames.
His consecrated wave along,
Sleeps one, than whose few are the names
More worthy of the lyre and song;
Yet o'er whose spot of lone repose
No pilgrim eyes are seen to weep;
And no memorial marble throws
Its shadow where his ashes sleep."

Since the writing of these verses, a monument has been erected at his grave.

We do not wish to recall the history of the aborigines who occupied this locality, or any other, to extol their supposed greatness, or to lament their disappearance, but to compare them with the white race of people who have followed them, and learn from the past useful lessons for the present, and from the wonderful events and improvements made in the last one hundred years, present the power, talent, genius and unequaled greatness of the people who occupy this land. In the place of the Indian trail, they have laid down railroads; where stood a wigwam, they have built cities; they have digged down the mountains, bridged rivers, defied deserts —some they have made productive— extorted from the rocks of the land gold, silver, iron, copper and tin. The hunting-grounds of the passed-away race are annually covered with crops of wheat, rye, corn and grass. The site of Old Piqua is about the center of a food-producing district, with a surplus produce great enough to feed the world. It was part of the inevitable that the red man should depart and the white man take his place. No thoughtful person would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few savages, to our extensive State, covered with cities, towns and well cultivated farms, embellished with all the improvements that art can devise. or industry execute, occupied by more than three millions of people, enjoying all the blessings of liberty, civilization and religion.