Indian History of Bartholomew County

George Pence


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 217-228

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Indian History of Bartholomew county


The earliest date given for possession by the Indians of the territory now embraced by the county of Bartholomew, is the year 1621. On July 19, 1701, the Five Nations made their deed to the English King to the "Beaver Lands," a tract of land measuring 800 miles in length and 400 miles in width. The western boundary of this immense empire of land passed through the present state of Indiana on a direct line from the extreme southern point of LakeMichigan, at an Indian town called Quadoghe, to the Falls of the Ohio river. The Indians claimed in their deed that they had owned this land for 80 years under a title of conquest. This boundary in its east-of-south course from the lake, strikes, approximately, the southwest corner of Bartholomew county.

The Five Nations, commonly called the Iroquois tribe, having taken the side of the British in the War of the Revolution, ceded to the King all their claims to these lands west of the western boundary of Pennsylvania, by reason of the occupation by General George Rogers Clark, these lands were acknowledged to the Colonies at the treaty with Great Britain at Paris in 1783.

Following the War of the Revolution there was a constant conflict between the whites and the Indians in the territory northwest of the Ohio river, particularly within the present confines of the state of Ohio, and lasted until the treaty at Greenville, in Ohio, concluded August 3, 1795.

A number of separate treaties had been made with Indian tribes only to be broken by the red men who were opposed to the settlements of the whites, north of the Ohio river.

Two American armies, one under General Josiah Harmar, the second under General Arthur St. Clair, had been defeated and utterly routed by the tribes in western Ohio, and not until President Washington had commissioned General Anthony Wayne to command the western army, was there a suspension of hostilities—and then only a temporary one.

Wayne made a treaty with eleven separate tribes and by its terms the greater portion of the present state of Ohio, together with a wedge in the southeastern corner of the present state of Indiana, called the "gore," which includes portions of the counties of Jay, Randolph, Wayne, Union, Franklin, all of Dearborn, Ohio, and tlie greater part of Switzerland, were ceded to the United States.

Subsequent treaties were made with different tribes for lands in Indiana territory, which was the more easily effected from the fact of their decreasing members caused by the wars among the tribes themselves.

William Henry Harrison, who had been appointed governor of Indiana territory, under instructions of President Jefferson, pushed his efforts to extinguish the Indian title along the Ohio river below the mouth of the Kentucky river. On June 7, 1803, he obtained title to the Vincennes donation.

On August 7th, 1803, he obtained title to a tract, 40 by 85 miles from Vincennes to the Ohio Falls. And on August 18, 1804, by treaty, obtained title to all land between the Wabash and Ohio rivers south of the line from Vincennes to the Falls, and in this last treaty the claims of the Delaware tribe were recognized for all lands between White river and the Ohio river. In Article IV of the treaty that tribe, only, would be treated for the aggregation of these lands to the United States.

This was smooth diplomacy of General Harrison and the separation of lands to different tribes was most vigorously and openly opposed by that great leader of red men, the Shawaneese Tecumseh.

This last treaty was the first one that particularly affects or mentions the land now embraced within the confines of Bartholomew county.

A period of fourteen years rolled by before the lands of the Delawares, which embrace all of central Indiana, including Bartholomew county, were ceded to the United States. This was effected at St. Mary's, in Ohio, on October 2nd, 3rd and 6th, 1818.

The treaty, and its terms, are too lengthy to recite at this time, but it granted 79 millions of acres, or 11,780 square miles, enough to make nearly 30 counties of as good land as a crow ever flew over. The Delawares were given possession of their improvements for three years, if it was so long required.

On a former occasion I told you of the fact that many of the tracts in Bartholomew county were squatted, to be held for future entry and purchase of the land thus selected. This began early in the spring of 1819.

So much for the abstract of title to the Indian lands within the boundaries of Bartholomew, and now for the relation of a few facts of the history-making in our neighborhood, by its pioneers. One of the most noted characters, and most detested was a white man, the renegade, Simon Girty. He was the villian in many an Indian story of the days following the Revolutionary war, and until after the War of 1812.

Girty was born in Sherman's Valley in Perry county, Pennsylvania, in January, 1744. His father was killed in a drunken spree, and his mother was murdered by the Indians in 1756, when young Girty was taken captive and adopted by the Seneca Indians. In 1764 at the close of the Pontiac war under the conditions of the treaty all prisoners taken by the Indians were given up to the whites. Girty was thus returned, but preferring the wild life of the savages he ran off and returned to the tribe. He was again returned to the whites, when he settled on Girty's Run, near Pittsburg. Later he was in the Dunmore war when he served as a scout. In this capacity he became acquainted with Col. William Crawford and family, and it is said, sought the hand in marriage of one of the daughters of the colonel. At the beginning of the Revolutionary war Girty was an officer of the Pennsylvania militia, but in 1777 he deserted to the British from Fort Pitt.

In 1781 the renegade led the Indians in their fierce onslaught upon the pioneer settlements in Kentucky, and the next year, June 11, 1782, he was present at one of the most inhuman deeds ever perpetrated by man, the burning at the stake of Col. William Crawford, his old-time acquaintance. Crawford and a number of his troopers had been made captive by the Wyandotte and Shawanee Indians. The details of this tragedy are too cruel and inhuman to relate, and the refusal of Girty to intercede, in any wise, was inhuman. While taking no active part in cruelties, he sat upon his horse, at some distance, looking on the act of the savages with malignant satisfaction for more than two hours.

The connection of our story with Girty, and the Crawford tragedy, is the fact that one of the pioneers of Bartholomew county, Thomas McQueen, was in Crawford's command against the Indians, and had been made a captive with his colonel, and was an eyewitness to the dastardly deed.

Thomas McQueen, whose body lies in Liberty graveyard, six miles north of Columbus, was the forebear of the McQueen family of Flatrock township.

Girty, also, on February 11, 1781, while on one of his Indian forays in Kentucky, captured three men, Irvin Hinton, Richard Rue and George Holman, some eight miles from the village of Louisville. The captors were composed of 13 Shaw-anees together with the renegade white, Simon Girty. After conducting the captives to the Ohio, it was crossed in three canoes, and a general northern route taken through our white river country, thence along Blue river toward Wapakoneta, in Ohio. Hinton was a married man with family, living at the village of Louisville. Girty warned him not to attempt to escape, as a recapture would mean the stake. However, Hinton managed to escape at night time, and started in the direction of the Ohio river. He was recaptured the following day, and met the fearful penalty which had been threatened by Girty.

Rue and Holman were brought before the tribal convention and both condemned to the stake, but both were saved by adoption before the fire was lighted, Rue being taken as a son, and Holman as a brother.

After three and a half years they managed to make their escape and in time safely reached Louisville. Later both removed to Wayne county, Indiana, and settled below the town of Richmond. Holman was the forbear of one of our congressmen, the late William I. Holman.

During the intervening period of the treaties of 1804 and 1818, troublesome times were encountered by the whites who were endeavoring to settle on the ceded lands south of Bartholomew, caused by marauding bands of Indians.

The battle of Tippecanoe was fought on November 7, 1811, and the second war with England had been fought to a finish during this interval between treaties. Many tribes were engaged in the war—commonly called the War of 1812, and many young warriors under the influence of British gold and the eloquence and influence of Tecumseh had taken sides with the British.

Two soldiers of the 1812 war participated in the war in the Northwest against the Indians under Tecumseh, and later became residents and lived in Bartholomew.

The first was William S. Jones, a member of one of the Kentucky regiments of mounted riflemen, who enlisted under General Harrison for the Northwest campaign. He was in the battle of the Thames, on the 5th of October, 1813, in which the great leader Tecumseh was slain. Jones was one of the first settlers of German township and for one term served as probate judge of Bartholomew county. He lies at Flatrock graveyard six miles north of Columbus.

The second soldier was Thomas Hart, the son of Joseph Wart, the soldier of the Revolution, now buried at Garland Brook. Thomas Hart was in the United States regulars, having enlisted in East Tennessee. He was in the siege of Fort Meigs, at the mouth of the Maumee rapids, near Lake Erie, where he received a wound in his foot from an Indian bullet shot from a tree outside the stockade. After the fort had been relieved, Hart was taken to Detroit, and later to Water-town, New York, where he was discharged, when the wounded soldier walked to his home, back in East Tennessee. July 3 Thomas Hart settled in Clay township and he now lies in Sand Hill graveyard, three miles east of Columbus. During the 1812 war in our neighborhood there were no attacks by the Indians on any of the numerous block houses which had been erected for the protection of the settlers, but usually the marauders would attack individuals, and sometimes families.

On the afternoon of September 13, 1812, two men, Jeremiah Payne and Coffman, were out hunting bee trees about two miles north of the Pigeon Roost settlement in Clark, now Scott county, some 40 miles south of Columbus.

They were surprised by a band of a dozen Shawaneese warriors, both of them were killed and scalped. The Indians then advanced upon the settlement, about sunset, and within the space of an hour, killed one man, five women and sixteen children, and burned their dwellings.

Some of the Clark county militia immediately gathered at the scene of the massacre, when they found the dead in the smoking ruins. All the dead were gathered together and buried in a single grave. About 150 mounted riflemen, under command of Major John McCoy, the next day, followed the trail, northward, of the retreating savages for 20 miles to the Muscatituck where were found some of the straggling Indians. We are told by the late Mr. Nugent of Jonesville, then a resident of Clark county in the neighborhood of the massacre, that when the stragglers were discovered, the officer in command ordered the bugle to be sounded, whereupon the Shawaneese took warning and escaped through the river bottoms in the thick woods and underbrush, and eluded the pursuit of the scouts. Mr. Nugent further related that Colonel Bartholomew was away from home at that time, much to the regret of the militia, else the pursuit of the marauders might have had a different ending.

The settlers of the whole surrounding neighborhood of the Pigeon Roost vicinity sought protection, for some time, at the nearest blockhouse, or fort as they were locally called, and young Catherine McAllister, who in time became the grandmother of our fellow-citizen, James L. Kyte, together with her father and mother, sought and took refuge in Fort Beck, over in Washington County, just west of the Pigeon Roost settlement.

Down southeast from Columbus, some thirty odd miles, in Jefferson county, the marauding Indians gave the settlers a scare, and I find in the Territorial Laws of 1814, under date of December 16, 1813, a memorial to the Legislature, then in session. It reads:

An Act for the relief of David Hillis, late Lieutenant and Colonel of the 6th Regiment. Whereas, David Hillis hath represented to this legislature, that in the spring of 1812 an almost universal alarm existed within the county of Jefferson, and that many were moving away, believing that in a fern days the Indians would make a fatal blow on the frontiers of said county; that he thought it prudent to call out about forty of the militia who continued in service seventeen days, and that he was obliged to contract for provision to supply those men, for which he prays relief.

The General Assembly made an appropriation to Lt. Col. Hillis to be paid out of the first monies received by said regiment, and Hillis instructed to send his muster roll to the Secretary of War.

Our neighbors who had made settlement down in Vallonia were in dread, even three months before the Pigeon Roost affair, and I find in one of John Tipton's journals an account of a trip to the Vallonia settlement in the summer of 1812, with men to guard the settlers while harvesting a crop of flax.

As it is of interest, I shall quote from his journal:

On the 30th of June, 1812, Capt. Zenor and myself Received Letters from a number of citizens on the driftwood fork of White river Requesting us to come out and fetch a company to gueard them against the Indians and pertake of a dinner on the fourth day of July. On the second day the Capt. with 9 men myself and some others ware to follow on the fifth. I accordingly started on the fifth in company with one of my rangers.

Tipton then records an account of the protection given the Vallonia settlement while engaged in harvesting their flax.

However there were no savages that appeared, and he records the leaving the settlement and of their return home southward in Harrison county, as follows:

Monday the 20th (July, 1812). The morning cloudy we maid Preparation to start home. Capt. Zenor come on with his men from Fort Recovery and told us they had to swim a creek on the way. At 7 we set out for home come to Vallonia, thence to Fort Pleasant, drank some whisky then mooved on crosst muscakituck—then on two miles got some whisky thence on four miles—got half bushel of rotten corn for 25 cents men all merry shooting and hallowing one of our men lost a blanket—women went to find it three on the men come up—eould not find blanket we stopt and got some whisky then passt Price's Lick—thence to Hog-gatt's mill—staid all night Friday 21st (July, 1812). The morning cloudy—we mooved at daylight on to Will Coxes—got to shooting one of our horses run off and three the rider and hurt him very much— stopt when one of our men took dinner—mooved on Shieldes. One of our men and myself left the Company and came home at dark after being out 20 days and doing no good after Indians.

In the spring of 1813 the Indians renewed their attacks en our neighbors in Jackson county and a number of killings are reported by small scouting parties that often penetrated the settlements, stole horses and escaped the hot pursuit of the militia.

On March 18 the Indians killed one man and wounded three, near Vallonia, 30 miles down Driftwood, and a month later, on April 16, more men were killed eight miles south of that town. Under date of April 24, 1813, Tipton, who had been commissioned as major, and placed in command of the militia stationed on the frontier of Harrison and Clark counties, reports from Vallonia to acting Governor John Gibson of his doing for the relief of the Jackson county settlers. He reported:

I took 29 men up Driftwood river 25 miles. I met a party of Indians on an island in the river—a smart skirmish took plsce—I defeated them—killed one dead on the ground, and saw some sink in the river; and I believe that all that made their escape by swimming the river, if done so, lost their guns.

Tipton's troops followed the Indians westward into the hilly country of Saltcreek, over in Brown, but they escaped to the north on an old trail leading towards the Delaware towns now north of Indianapolis.

This skirmish is now locally known as the "Battle of Tip-ton Island," and it occurred some fifteen miles down Driftwood, below Columbus. The late Dr. John Tipton Shields, of Seymour, a kinsman of his namesake, in 1894, related to me an incident which occurred in connection with this skirmish.

Tipton had struck the trail of the Indians in Rapp's Bottoms, some two miles above, northeast of Seymour, when he gave the command for complete silence in the ranks. As they were sleuthing on the trial, one of the biggest men in the command was heard talking. Tipton reprimanded the fellow and again commanded silence. Shortly after the big strapping fellow was heard talking again. Tipton halted the men, took the gun from the militiaman, tied him to a tree, in the tall horseweeds, where he was compelled to stay two hours in deadly fright, while the battle lasted, when men were sent to cut his thongs, which released him.

That the Indians were keeping the rangers and militia busy can be evidenced by a report made by Colonel Bartholomew to Governor Posey under date of June 21, 1813, from Vallonia, of an expedition against the hostile Delawares on the west fork of White river.

His force consisted of 137 men, which left Vallonia on June 11, 1813, with Lt. Col. Tipton and Major David Owen as aids and parts of three companies of rangers commanded by Captain Williamson Dunn, James Bigger and C. Peyton, and a small detachment of militia under Major Depauw of Harrison county. This force marched northeasterly east of Driftwood, and the route through Bartholomew was still marked and identified six years after when the first settlements were made in the county. South of the Madison state road, in time, from Columbus, the route of the Bartholomew Trail became what is known as the Brownstown Road.

This trail continues northward, immediately west of Garland Erook Cemetery, crossing Haw creek at the southeast corner of the Old Henry Dunn farm, and Flatrock west of St. Louis Crossing. This expedition was a short one, for a week later, on June 21st, Colonel Bartholomew reports that his forces had returned to Vallonia.

The route on their return was along the old Indian trail on the west side of Driftwood, west of Taylorsville and the old Lowel Mills, and later in 1823 was established and surveyed by John Tipton, as the Mauk's Ferry State road.

Tipton, in one of his journals, mentions the return of the troopers, as follows:

Saturday, May 20—1813

At 15 past 12 came to the upper Rapids of Driftwood—at this plaice where we made bark cannoes to carry a wounded man down to Vallonia on the 20th of June, 1813.

The upper rapids of Driftwood, four miles northwest of Columbus, is where Ephraim Arnold built one of the earliest mills of the county, afterwards owned by Gaff Gent & Thomas, but now abandoned as a millsite.

Eleven days after the return to Vallonia of the rangers and militia under Colonel Bartholomew—on July 1, 1813, Col. William Russell of the 7th United States regiment having organized a force of 573 effective men, marched from Vallonia upon the Delaware towns on the west fork of White river, northeast of Indianapolis. The line of march of this large force was through Bartholomew county, and was, about two miles west of Columbus on the old Indian trail, which, later in 1823, was made the Mauk's Ferry State road.

Colonel Russell's march from the Delaware towns was made to the mouth of the Mississinewa, some three miles up the Wabash river north of Peru where the Indian encampments were destroyed. The march was then down the Wabash river to Eel River town—now Logansport, thence by Winne-mac town to Fort Harrison, above Terre Haute.

The army was composed of five divisions, the center division being under the command of Major Zachary Taylor, who 35 years later was elected President of the United States.

Colonel Russell's report of the expedition mentions the route taken to have been upward of 500 miles (quoting):

Colonel Bartholomew acted as my aid-de-camp. This veteran has been so well tried in this kind of warfare that any encomiums from me would be useless.

A personal mention, here, I judge, will not be out of place.

In the fall of 1894 my brother, William D. Pence, and I were visiting our brother, the Rev. Edward H. Pence, who was then ministering to the First Presbyterian church at Janesville, Wisconsin. While there I proposed a visit to James Bartholomew, a son of Colonel Bartholomew, who lived on his large farm, some two miles out from Lodi, 30 miles west of Janesville.

The proposition was carried out, and two of the most interesting hours of my life were spent on that October day, listening to that aged, and totally blind man, the son of the hero for whom our county was given its name. As was his right, he was proud of his father and told us many things which occurred in the active career of this Indiana pioneer history maker. One of them was in relation to the Russell expedition, and in this wise:

When Colonel Russell made the call for the rangers, one of the sons of Colonel Bartholomew was so very sick that he was unable to respond. The father at once volunteered as substitute and accompanied the Clark county troopers to Vallonia in the ranks, as a private. Colonel Russell promptly accepted his services, but selected him as his aid-de-camp.

While on the march, and while encamped for the night, Russell was suddenly taken violently sick. He called for Colonel Bartholomew and told him, "Colonel, I am very sick, and should anything happen to me, I want you to take charge of this expedition.

Another personal mention: One of my numerous queries was that one relative to what the father thought of the way that the whites had obtained possession of the lands of the Indians. He answered me:

Father expressed himself a number of times on that subject, that the white men in many instances and treaties had imposed upon the Indian—and suddenly making a vigourous gesture with his right arm and with much energy said—but he killed as many of them as the next man.

There were no more Indian outbreaks in our neighborhood in or after the year 1813. Colonel Russell's expedition taught the redman in Indiana that his style of didos would not be stood for.

In a former treatise I told you that the earliest settlements were made in Bartholomew county by squatters in the spring of 1819—nearly two years before the formation and organization of the county.

One of the pioneers of the county was John Hamner, whose statement I have, made on May 15, 1869. He was a resident of Sand Creek township, was 82 years of age, having been born in Mercer county, Kentucky, in 1787.

He moved to the county and settled here in the spring of 1819, first in the Hawpatch, and then moved and located permanently near the forks of Sandcreek. At that time there was quite a village of forty Pottowattomies right in the forks of Sandcreek. The Indians went, generally, by the name of "John," he said. There was another settlement of Indians between the bayou and Driftwood, and numerous wigwams on each side of Driftwood and up Blue river, at that time. He says that the route traveled by Col. Joseph Bartholomew and John Tipton rangers, the 11th and 12th of June, 1813, against the Delaware Indians, crossed Clifty about where the Browns-town road now crosses it, and crossed Hawcreek about three miles north of Columbus, near the Elias Cox residence. The route crossed Flatrock where James Gooding, Daniel Aiken and — Smock afterwards settled, and that he lived there in 1819 when the road was very plain and the facts fresh.

Samuel Daugherty, who settled near Walesboro, another pioneer, tells us that in 1820 that there were a number of Pottowattomies here. He was sure that they did not belong to the Delawares as it made them angry when David Stipp, who visited their camps to buy their furs, would tease them by calling them "Delawares." He said further, that as late as 1823 there were Indians camped up in the Hawpatch—and along Flatrock near the mouth of Lewis Creek—and wigwams were still standing on Possum Creek on the road from Columbus to Walesboro. The last authentic local mention was the visit in 1830 of seven Indians with a number of boys at Columbus.

This was a straggling band and gave an exhibition in the court house yard of their skill with their bow and arrow, by shooting out of a split stick the fip-penny-bit, which was contributed by the onlookers.

Thus it was, my friends, that the 19th white star was carried for the blue field of the Flag.

It was at Vincennes, Tippecanoe, Fort Harrison, the Mississinewa, Pigeon Roost and Vallonia that the red pigment was furnished by the early pioneer of Indiana.

Published by the Indiana University Department of History.