Early Settlement of Kosciusko County

[pen-name of Isaiah J. Morris]

Chapter 5

From the time the first settler came to the country, to 1836, the Indians were numerous, and sometimes a little insolent, but as a rule, they were peaceable, friendly, and strictly minded their own business. When they were cheated and robbed by the whites, as they too often were, they frequently exhibited a little bad blood, which cropped out in ill-natured grumblings; but when treated fairly, and dealt with honestly, they behaved themselves very gentlemanly. The avarice and cupidity of many of the early traders, often caused the Indians to pay two or three prices for what they purchased, and sometimes twice or three times, even at those figures. An annuity of forty or fifty thousand dollars was paid both the Pottawattamies and Miamis. These payments were made first at the Pottawattamie Mill, at the outlet of Lake Manitau, near Rochester, but afterwards at the "treaty grounds," two miles below Huntington, at the confluence of Little River with the Wabash. The Pottawattamies were more numerous and powerful than the Miamies. The latter, however, were the most numerous south of the Wabash. Russiaville, Shinglemacy and Sharran were chiefs of some note among the Miamies, while Lafountain, Coessa, Monoquet, Zeek, Turkey, Flat-belly, Squabuck, Wabaassee, Benack, Aubbeenaubbee, Pokshuck and Meteau were chiefs of the Pottawattamies. The annual payments were made in the months of October, at which time all the members of the tribe would repair to the payment ground, at which swarms of traders, gamblers, and freebooters would also congregate. Traders would come with claims just and unjust, and swear them through before the adjusting officer, which claims were paid first, the Indians receiving the residue. The Indians never liked these middle men, but were helpless, and could not get clear of their claims. When the claims were all paid, the annuity was divided among the tribe, and paid in coin, which the Indians generally tied in the corner of their blankets. Usually after the payment was made, the Indians had a dance and general drunk. If any of them waxed tired or tipsy, and laid down for a nap, or to sober off, when he woke up he generally found the corner of his blanket clipped, and his money gone. This kind of theft was extensively practiced, and often two middle men would be watching the same blanket for hours, and then not get the money. Two fellows by the name of Scribner and Wirtz, from North Manchester, were watching the same Indian for a greater part of the night; at last Scribner ventured up, knife in hand, to clip the coveted money corner of the blanket. Wirtz pitched in to secure the prize; a scuffle followed, which woke the Indian, who was sober enough to comprehend the situation, and getting up walked away, leaving the disappointed scufflers to fight as long as they chose. To this kind of trading such men as the Ewings, Tabors, and others, are indebted for much of their wealth. As a general thing, when the payment was ended and the Indians returned home, they were a little better off than before they went.

There is a marked difference between an Indian drunk, in the manner of carrying it on, and a white man's drunk, the distinction being in favor of the Indian, in point of system and caution against accidents or unworthy conduct. White men go in en-masse, and all get drunk together, and if a quarrel or difficulty arises, a drunken fight, in which as many engage as desire to give or receive dotted eyes, broken heads, or flat noses; while the Indians, before entering into the contemplated revelry, divest themselves of rifle, knife and tomahawk, and designate a sufficient number of active and muscular males and females, who are to remain sober and care for the others while drunk, and prevent any quarreling, fighting, or other mischief being done. A liberal portion of "good-ne-toss," or whiskey, being set aside and scrupulously preserved until the grand drunk is passed, for the use of those who watched or remained sober. During one of these systematic drunks at the payment ground, in 1842, an Indian who had a grudge against another, became furious and wished to kill him whether or no. He raved like a wounded tiger, but having no weapons, and not understanding the civilized mode of depending upon his fists, he gave vent to his wrath in a series of those piercing yells peculiar to the savage; but his career was cut short by two of the police, who gently laid him on his back, wrapped him from head to foot with baswood bark, and fastening him securely to a sapling. Others were uproarous, but were soon quieted, and no harm was done during the frolic.

There were quite a number of Indian villages within the limits of the county before their removal west of the Mississippi. Squabuck's village was on Bone Prairie, near where Oswego now stands. He was a chief of the Pottawattamie persuasion, and was a clever chief, of good address, and possessed of a reasonable share of intelligence and cunning. Wabaassee, or Waba, as he was usually called, had a village at the northeast corner of Turkey Creek Prairie, at which Dominique Rousseau, father of William and John H. Rousseau, of this city, had a small trading establishment as early as 1832 or 1833, and was the second white settler who remained a citizen of the county. Cowcot was a son-in-law of Waba, and the handsomest Indian in the county straight as an arrow, fully developed, muscular, and remarkably swift of foot; but unfortunately for him, he fell under the displeasure of a young squaw, who, at a dance, stealthily approached, stabbed him in the neck with a hunting knife, severed the jugular vein, killing him almost instantly.

Chicoosie's village stood on the west bank of the Tippecanoe river, opposite Warner's old mill. The graveyard of his village was somewhat peculiar, and not like other burial places of that race of people. Two forks were driven into the ground, and a cross pole lengthways of the grave put up; split slabs or puncheons were placed from the ground to the cross pole, making a neat roof over the grave. Monoquet's village stood where Monoquet now stands. Monoquet was a large, powerful man, and a chief of some influence. He died in 1837. His sepulchre was of that peculiar character awarded only to chiefs. His body was brought a few hundred yards from where the Warsaw and Leesburg road crosses, and placed in a sitting posture against a large oak tree, enclosing tree and body in a rough round pen. His body remained there for a year or more, or until the Indians were being collected prior to removing west of the Mississippi, when his family and friends declared they would not leave their village nor the graves of their ancestors so long as their chief Monoquet retained his position. John Patey, who had entered the land now composing the Kelly farm, upon which the body was deposited, relieved the old chief's friends of making trouble, by assuming the responsibility, and prostrated the body, scattering the bones all over the little enclosure. In after years full half a dozen doctors claimed to have in their possession the identical skull of the old chief, while a neighboring farmer had it placed on his hen-coop as a protection against the depredations of foxes and owls.

Aubbeenaubee's village was on the banks of the Tippecanoe, in Fulton County, and is introduced here on account of his tragical death. In 1835, Aubbeenaubbee, who was a large, portly, and influential chief, in a drunken frolic, killed his oldest son, which produced a great excitement among his tribe. The old chief knew the Indian law, and knew well that notwithstanding his high position, his life must pay the forfeit of his crime, and made his arrangements accordingly. It was agreed among the friends of the murdered man that Pok-shuk, the chiefs second son, should be the avenger of his brother's death, and take his father's life. Aubbeenaubee being informed of this, made all necessary preparations to meet death in a manner becoming a brave chief and warrior and seating himself with a calm countenance and steady voice told his son to shoot him. Pok-shuk deliberately loaded his trusty rifle in the presence of his victim, then raising it to his shoulder to shoot, but his otherwise strong and manly nerves gave way, and he trembled to such an extent that to shoot, with a prospect of killing the object was impossible, and at once abandoned the execution of his father, telling the by-standers that he could not fire the fatal shot. This gave evidence that he possessed filial affection and humane feeling. This, however, did not punish the guilty, or appease the wrath of the friends of the deceased, who taunted Pok-shuk as a coward, calling him a squaw, etc. Whisky was brought, and Pok-shuk, as well as the chief, were soon both drunk, when a knife was put into the hands of Pok-shuk, who like an infuriated tiger, sprung upon his father, thrusting his knife into the old chief's side twice or thrice, making fearful wounds, but not causing immediate death. Pok-shuk retired satisfied, leaving the chief to die in his blood. The medicine men were immediately called, who prepared a string about a foot in length of short bones, telling the chief if he could swallow them and have them drawn back again by the end of the string, he would positively recover; but if he failed in the operation, there was no help for him. He made a desperate effort to swallow the bones, which resulted in a failure, and determined his fate. Finding he must die, he sent for an interpreter to write his will, but he was unable to dictate his desires, and died in a few hours. Like Monoquet, his body was placed in a sitting posture against a tree or stump near his house, and a rude enclosure put around him. Aubbeenaubbee was one of the foremost, most eloquent, intelligent and powerful chiefs of his day among the Pottawattamies. At the treaty of Tippecanoe in 1832, he was the principal speaker, and when he arose in council, his appearance at once commanded silence and respect. He was at the battle of Tippecanoe and the treaty which followed, and was considered wealthy by his friends, owning, at the time of his death, an entire township of land, which to-day bears his name. In 1837 and 1838 a majority of the Indians in fact all who could be forced to go, were taken by the government west of the Mississippi, since when but little has been heard from them. A few yet remain, but they are living in a semi-civilized condition. This number has been devoted to a description of the Indians, though meader and imperfect, yet it will convey some idea of their operations as seen by the early settlers. Other chiefs, villages, and circumstances might have been introduced; but the foregoing must suffice for the present.

Northern Indianian March 19, 1874

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