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The Indian Owners


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Transcription contributed by Arne H Trelvik 3 June, 2003

Sources:
The History of Warren County Ohio
Part III. The History of Warren County by Josiah Morrow
Chapter II. The Indian Owners
(Chicago, IL: W. H. Beers Co, 1882; reprint, Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, 1992)

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The territory composing Warren County was uninhabited on its discovery and exploration by white men. So far as is known, no tribe of Indians ever lived upon its soil. There is no historic proof that any people ever had permanent habitations within its limits after the pre-historic race, the Mound- Builders, had passed away, until English-speaking white men took possession of the land and began the work of clearing away the forests which had been growing for centuries over the earthworks of a people whose history is enveloped in obscurity. When the Ohio Valley was first explored by white men, the Miami Indians laid claim to nearly all of Western Ohio, and a vast region extending through Indiana to Illinois and northward to the Maumee. This powerful tribe, or rather confederacy of tribes, had villages on the Scioto, the headwaters of the Miamis, the Maumee and the Wabash. But of their vast territory, much that was then the most beautiful and in now the most valuable was entirely unoccupied. The Ohio, from the mouth of the Scioto, was without evidence of human habitations on either side. The regions of the two Miamis from their union with the Ohio well up to their sources was an unbroken solitude. Why a region so inviting as Kentucky and Southwestern Ohio should have remained uninhabited for so long a period, while the inhospitable regions of the lakes were peopled, has, perhaps, not been satisfactorily explained. The theory that Kentucky was a common hunting-ground, and purposely kept bare of inhabitants, has been advanced. That is was a disputed ground and battle-field between the tribes of the South and those from the Northwest has been suggested. Perhaps the lack of human habitations may be explained with the simple facts that sufficient time had not elapsed since the advent of the Indian races upon the continent to people the whole territory; and that savage tribes as well as civilized races, are not always successful in first selecting and occupying the best and most pleasing regions. But whatever may be the explanation, the fact that the region referred to was destitute of all traces of recent settlement is established by the testimony of the first explorers and emigrants. Mr. Butler, in his history of Kentucky, says that “no Indian towns within recent times were known to exist within this territory, either in Kentucky or the Lower Tennessee.” Gen. Harrison, whose long acquaintance with the Miami Valley before its settlement by white men, and his familiarity with Indian history and traditions entitle his opinion to the greatest weight, was emphatic in denying the occupation of the country for centuries before its discovery by the Europeans, although he thought there was evidence, from the remains of pottery, pipes, stone hatchets, and other articles of inferior workmanship to those of the Mound Builders, of its being inhabited by some race inferior to that people. At the threshold of this history, then, we are to conceive of the territory of Warren County during the generations preceding the approach of white men, not as thickly populated with dusky braves, whose villages dotted the shores of its streams, but as a wilderness inhabited only by the beasts of the forest. There was not a town or settlement upon its soil. The smoke curled up from no scattered wigwams; no council fires were lighted; no fields of maize were tilled by squaws within its limits. The Little Miami, from the northern boundary of the county, rolled its blue waters to the Ohio between forest-covered hills, which

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knew not the busy haunts of men. Fort Ancient, then, as now, stood covered with its forest growth of centuries, and no Indian visitor knew aught of its builders.

“Nothing appeared but nature unsubdued,
One endless, noiseless, woodland solitude.”

But, while there were no Indian residents, there were Indian owners. We have said that the Miami Indians claimed the territory. They were, doubtless, the rightful owners of the soil when the first white men visited the Miami Rivers. This tribe had important towns on the head-waters of the Great Miami in 1751. It was then probably the most powerful of the North American tribes. Little Turtle, the famous Miami chief, a few days before he agreed to the treaty at Greenville and ceded his right to these lands, spoke with pride, and yet with sadness, of the former greatness and dominion of his tribe. His words are preserved in the American State Papers:

I hope you will pay attention to what I now say to you. You have pointed out to us
the boundary line between the Indians and the United States; but I now take the liberty to
inform you, that that line cuts off from the Indians a large portion of country which has
been enjoyed by my forefathers time immemorial, without molestation or dispute. The
prints of my ancestor’s houses are everywhere to be seen in this portion. It is well known
to all my brothers present that my forefather kindled the first fire at Detroit: from thence
he extended his lines to the head-waters of Scioto; from thence to its mouth; from thence
down the Ohio to the mouth of the Wabash; from thence to Chicago on Lake Michigan.
At this place I first saw my elder brothers, the Shawnees. I have now informed you of the
boundaries of the Miami nation, where the Great Spirit placed my forefather a long time
ago and charged him not to sell or part with his lands, but to preserve them for his posterity.
This charge has been handed down to me. I was surprised to find my other brothers
differed so much from me on this subject; for their conduct would lead one to suppose
that the Great Spirit and their forefathers had not given them the charge that was given to
me; but on the contrary had directed them to sell their lands to any white man who wore
a hat, as soon as he should ask it of them.

Little Turtle took pride in the antiquity of his race, as well as in the extent of territory controlled by his ancestors. In 1797, this Maimi [sic] chief met Volney in Philadelphia. The French philosopher explained to the savage orator the theory that the Indian race had descended from the dark-skinned Tartars, and, by a map, showed the supposed communication between Asia and America. Little Turtle replied; “Why should not these Tartars, who resemble us, have descended from the Indians?”

While the Miami Indians were the rightful owners of the soil when the Miami country was first visited by white men, they were not the only nor the principal tribe which resisted the settlement of the country by the white men. About ten years before the beginning of the Revolutionary war, the Miami tribes abandoned their towns on the Great Miami and removed to the region of the Maumee. The Shawnees, a warlike and numerous tribe, then established themselves on the head-waters of the two Miami Rivers. It was the Shawnees that the first settlers of the Miami country most frequently came in contact with. They came from the South, and first appeared in Ohio under the protection of the Miamis. The tribes which in Ohio resisted the encroachments of the whites were the Wyandots, Delawares, Shawnees, Chippewas, Ottawas, Pottawatomies, Miamis, Weas and Eel Rivers. The last three were in fact but one tribe, but at the treaty of Greenville, Gen. Wayne recognized this division, so as to allow them a larger share of money which was stipulated to be paid by the United States. Gen. Wayne thought it just that the Miami Indians should receive more of the annuities promised by the Government that they would be entitled to as a single tribe, because he recognized the fact that the country ceded by the treaty was in reality their property. It was the opinion of Gen. Harrison that all the Indian tribes of Ohio and Indiana which were united in the war

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against the whites could not at any time during the ten years which preceded the treaty of peace in 1795 have brought into the field more than three thousand warriors, although a few years before, the Miamis alone could have furnished more than that number. The ravages of the small-pox was the principal cause of the great decrease of their numbers. They composed, however, a body of the finest light infantry troops in the world. they delayed the settlement of the country now forming Warren County and adjoining counties for more than seven years, and, if they had been under an efficient system of discipline, their conqueror at Tippecanoe admits that the settlement of the country might have been attended with much greater difficulty.

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This page created 3 June, 2003 and last updated 21 November, 2006
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