Tecumseh is a man who’d I like to know more about. It’s not that I have any great appreciation of him or of his culture. He is certainly a captivating figure. However, my interest is personal. You see my ancestors, the Hills and the Tidds, were wrapped up into this narrative when Tecumseh was alive and well. Everyone on the Ohio frontier, the newcomers and the natives, was competing for land and life.
In 1810, James Hill, Samuel Tidd, and their families set out for the wilds of what was to become Logan County. They settled, first, somewhere near the Mad River. In 1811, Tecumseh began to wage what was to be his final military campaign. It was named for him, simply Tecumseh’s War. When war with Britain came again in 1812, Tecumseh’s maneuverings merged into the much greater conflict. Still living near the Mad River, that same year the Hills witnessed the birth of Samuel, son of James and veteran of the Mexican War.
According to the endpaper maps in A Sorrow In Our Heart: The Life of Tecumseh, there were Indian villages all around what was to become Indian Lake, near Roundhead Township in Hardin County, where the Hills have lived since the 1800s:
Wapakoneta was named after a Shawnee chief and was the birthplace of astronaut Neil Armstong. A treaty was signed there in 1831, resulting in the remaining natives being relocated to Kansas. Blue Jacket’s Town is now the site of Bellefontaine, the county seat of Logan County. It was named for Blue Jacket and destroyed in 1786 during Logan’s Raid at the outset of the Northwest Indian War. Wapatomica, the second village with this name, met the same fate as Blue Jacket’s Town. It was obliterated during Logan’s Raid.
I couldn’t locate the current name of Leatherlips’ Town, but did find information on Leatherlips, a Wyandot chief known for “the strength of his word.” He was much more accommodating of the settlers, particularly as he grew older. Sadly, he was sentenced to death by Tenskwatawa, brother of Tecumseh, for ceding away Indian lands and executed by tomahawk in 1810 near Dublin, Ohio. Today it’s known as the headquarters of Wendy’s.
Other placenames I couldn’t match yet are: Tawa (Could this be Ottawa, Ohio?), Upper and Lower Piqua, Girty’s Town, Stiahta’s Town, Stony Creek Village, Sekunk (apparently now Columbus), Mackachack, Deer Creek Village, Pigeon Town, and Piqua Town.
Fort Greenville is now just plain Greenville and where a critical treaty was signed. Fort Jefferson was nearby, but I haven’t been able to find anything about it at the moment.
Years ago I bought a biography, Tecumseh: A Life, by John Sugden. Right now, it’s sitting in storage, buried among other books in boxes. But I did sit down years ago, right after receiving it in the mail from one of those book clubs, and read most of it, if not all. From what I can remember it was a good read.
While at the downtown library, I found a copy of The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull for sale in the Friends’ bookstore, and this is what set me on this little adventure. Immediately upon opening it, I noticed the endpapers, maps of the delicate situation in the Dakotas in 1890, three years after the immigration of my Fromke relatives to northeastern South Dakota.
I am almost always tempted by books for sale, especially when I can find some sort of justification, usually a ‘personal’ connection to me, something I can use in my family research. Yet, I have made a sort of personal pledge to declutter my life, and to accomplish this I simply have to stop buying so many things, including books, at least until I build my own library or something. So instead, I decided to check the library catalog, and sure enough, there were actually two copies sitting on the shelves, a hard cover and a paperback.
The Black Hills and the area’s history has always been of interest to me. I’ve been to see Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial many times. And these visits were all family-related, perhaps a death, but more likely a reunion.
What did settlers think about these Natives being so close and perhaps ready to pounce? In 1890 was Sitting Bull a serious threat? Watertown is only a little more than 200 miles from the western reservations (map) while the Lake Traverse Reservation of the Sisseton–Wahpeton Oyate lay just to the north.
Supposedly Frank Hay wanted to head from Lake Preston west to the Black Hills and raise cattle. For some reason, he never made it, instead remaining a farmer in Kingsbury County until his death from cancer in 1903.
So, clearly, studying and understanding the Native mindset and their history is crucial, as they are intertwined in the lives of so many of my ancestors.