Warrior Son

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I am a Shawnee.

My forefathers were warriors.

Their son is a warrior.

Tecumseh

 

Warrior Son

May of 1810 was momentous for David Gibbs of Norwalk, Connecticut: he passed the Connecticut bar and married Elizabeth Lockwood a lifelong resident of that town and daughter of Stephen Lockwood, a Sufferer, who had lost his possessions in the Battle of Norwalk over thirty years before. [1]

Although Stephen had been granted land in the Fire Lands, it had been only two years before that the Fire Lands of northern Ohio, set aside for the Sufferers had been surveyed and he was finally assigned his portion. [2]

Charles Robert Sherman

Charles Robert Sherman

The Ohio frontier was still a dangerous place for settlers, with frequent warfare with Native American tribes. But despite the danger, David decided to scout out his father-in-law’s land. The question was, whom should he ask to accompany him. His good friend, Charles Robert Sherman was an obvious choice. [3]

Charles Sherman was born and raised in Norwalk. Like David, in the spring of 1810 he had also passed the bar and married a Norwalk woman: Mary Hoyt. The two men had other similarities in their life histories: they were born within a few months of each other, had studied law together – and both had a personal interest in the Firelands of northwestern Ohio.

David’s father-in-law, Robert Lockwood’s home and business had been burned by the British during the Battle of Norwalk in the American Revolution. This made him one of the “Sufferers,” eligible for a portion of land in the Firelands. That land had been surveyed in 1808, and Robert had been assigned his portion in what are now Sherman and Norwalk Townships of Huron County. [2]

Charles was born in Norwalk, in on September 26, 1788 to Taylor and Elizabeth Stoddard Sherman. His father was a lawyer, and Charles studied law under his tutelage and that of a Judge Newman of Newtown, Connecticut.  Taylor was not a Sufferer, but while a trustee of the Connecticut Land Company, had purchased land in Sherman Township, which was named after him. [4]

The two friends departed Norwalk, Connecticut that summer and headed for the Firelands of Ohio. [3] However, in route, they had a change of plans. The Native American chief, Tecumseh, was threatening the frontier, a lead in to Tecumseh’s War, [4] so they diverted to Lancaster, near Columbus. Charles decided to settle there, and after acquiring land and building a cabin, returned for his bride. [5]

David did not settle in Lancaster with his friend. He returned to Connecticut and took advantage of an opportunity in Bridgeport, where he practiced law for two years. Then came the War of 1812.  He enlisted in David Captain Tilden’s Company, 37th U.S. Infantry at Fort Griswold, New Jersey on April 30, 1813, and was discharged on May 17, 1815. Apparently, he saw no action. [6]

At the conclusion of the war, danger from Native American’s had been removed and the frontier was open for settlement. David decided to visit the Firelands again, this time with his father-in-law and brother-in-law. That trip will be the subject of my next series of posts.

 

Footnotes

[1] The evening of July 10, 1779, British troops under the command of Brigadier General William Tyron landed at the mouth of the Norwalk River. The following morning, the troops moved up the river toward Norwalk, burning everything in their path. By the end of the “battle” eighty houses, two churches, eighty-seven barns, seventeen shops, and four mills had been destroyed worth an estimated 26 thousand British pounds (See the Wikipedia article Battle of Norwalk and W.W. Williams, History of the Fire-Lands, Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of the Prominent Men and Pioneers; Leader Printing Company, Cleveland, Ohio; 1879, p 14. and Erie Mesnard, “Surveys of the Fire Lands, so called being a part of the Western Reserve, sometimes called New Connecticut,” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society, June 1864; p 94.).

In 1792, the Connecticut General Assembly authorized compensation of over one-hundred sixty-one thousand pounds (New England currency) to about eighteen hundred seventy “Sufferers.” David Gibbs father-in-law Stephen Lockwood’s share was set at 18 pounds, 12 shillings (WW Williams, pp. 15-16).

[2] The Firelands was first surveyed in 1806, however, the results were challenged and deemed flawed. Another survey was required and was completed in 1808. A final apportionment to the “Sufferers” took place by lottery in November of that year. (WW Williams, pp. 23-25.) Stephen Lockwood was allotted land in Sherman and Norwalk townships. (WW Williams pp. 112, 284.)

[3] “David Gibbs,” Obituaries: The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume IX; The Firelands Historical Society; 1896; page 542 and “Incidents in the Life of Elizabeth Lockwood Gibbs,” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Vol XI, October 1874, page 83.

[4] See Wikipedia articles for Taylor Sherman and Charles Robert Sherman, Also, “Charles Robert Sherman on the website: “Former Justices of the Ohio Supreme Court.” An account of the naming of Sherman Township is in Baughman, A.J., History of Huron County Ohio: Its Progress and Development, Volume I, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, IL, 1909; p. 284

[5] The Shawnee Chief Tecumseh was a thorn in the side of Americans for many years as leader of a large multi-tribe confederacy based out of “Prophetsville” in Indiana. In August of 1810, he appeared with a group of warriors at General Henry Harrison’s headquarters in  Vincennes with a list of demands, which the General immediately rejected. The situation quickly deteriorated and open warfare was narrowly averted by another Native American Chief. Tecumseh departed, threatening war. See the Wikipedia article Tecumseh.

News of this encounter terrified settlers on the frontier and caused many who were about to push into newly opened territories such as the Firelands to revise their plans, to include David Gibbs and his friend Charles Sherman.

 

 

 

Shawnee Chief Tecumseh and William Tecumseh Sherman

 

Although Tecumseh foiled Charles Sherman’s plans to settle on his father’s land in the Firelands, he was impressed by the man’s skill as a warrior. Charles remembered him through the years, and when Charles and Mary christened their sixth child in 1820,  they named him after the Chief. That child also became a renowned warrior. His name was William Tecumseh Sherman.

[6] “David Gibbs,” Obituaries: The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume IX; The Firelands Historical Society; 1896; page 542; William A. Gordon, A compilation of registers of the Army of the United States, from 1815 to 1837, inclusive. To which is appended a list of officers on whom brevets were conferred by the President of the United States, for gallant conduct or meritorious services during the war with Great Britain, James C. Dunn, Printer, 1837, page 38; and War of 1812 Pension Applications. Washington D.C.: National Archives. NARA Microfilm Publication M313, 102 rolls.

 

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This is the second of a series of posts about the Lockwood and Gibbs families trek to the Firelands in 1816.

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And Now We Hunt the Doe

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And now We roam in Sovreign Woods –
And now We hunt the Doe
Emily Dickinson

 

White-tailed Deer

White-tail Deer [1]

In my last post, Forest Primeval, I wrote that Native Americans would set fires in the forests of the Firelands. Today, we’ll find out why they did this.

Indians in canoes

Indians in Canoes [2]

Native Americans did not live permanently in the Firelands at the time the first pioneers arrived. Instead, Canadian tribes would cross the lake in autumn to hunt. To make it easier for them to spot game from a distance, they would start fires and burn off the underbrush that had grown up over the summer.

Why did they want to see prey from a distance? Can’t the animals see the hunter too, and run away? They can, but although we humans are not as fast as our prey, we can travel farther. In a technique that goes back to a form of hunting first practiced by our earliest ancestors on the plains of Africa, we can use our stamina to advantage, running or walking long distances to exhaust prey. Called “persistence hunting,” this strategy involves hunters keeping an animal, or herd of animals, in sight, pushing them along until they can go no farther. The hunters then can approach and kill their prey at close range. [3]

Settlers picked up this technique from Native Americans. According to pioneer John Niles “It was a maxim among deer hunters, that if a man could follow a deer at the rate of forty miles per day, the deer would tire out before night and lay down.” [4]

Forty miles a day seems a fast rate to maintain all day, but “a day” most likely meant from dawn to dusk. While hiking here in Colorado, I have on occasion kept up that rate for nine hours in fairly rugged terrain, so I can imagine maintaining that pace even longer on the flat-lands of northern Ohio.

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As settlers arrived and pushed the Native Americans out of their traditional winter hunting grounds, these annual fires did not occur, and the forest soon became choked with underbrush, much as we see it today. [5]

 

Footnotes:

[1] “Whitetail doe,” Wikimedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 29 June 2008. Web. 2 May, 2018, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Whitetail_doe.jpg

[2] Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 12.

[3] “Persitence hunting,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 28 March, 2018. Web. 3 May, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persistence_hunting

[4] John H. Niles, “Memoirs of Richmond,” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society, June 1864; pp. 68-69.

[5] Marcus E. Mead, “Memoirs of Greenwich,” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society, June 1864; p. 75.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 21 – Trial and Punishment

Sufferers’ Land

Trial and Punishment

by Dave Barton

The Huron County Court of Common Pleas convened on Tuesday, May 18 at the Court House in Norwalk. A Grand Jury met the same day. Two days later, they indicted the three Indians for first-degree murder.

The trial began the day after the indictment. A crowd assembled, so many that a large number had to stand outside in the yard. Being a prominent member of the community, Platt secured a seat inside, and later gave Sally a first hand account.

He seemed to have witnessed a fair trial. After hearing only a portion of the evidence, the prosecutor dropped the charge against the boy Negossum and released him, to the applause of the audience.

The evidence against the other two Indians was compelling, however, and after a short deliberation, the jury found them guilty. The judge asked if they had anything to say before he passed sentence, but they refused to speak. He sentenced them to be hanged on Friday, July first, and had them led back to jail to await execution.

Sally and the other settlers were curious how the Indians were taking their impending deaths. They learned that the two men were particularly concerned about hanging, which they considered an ignominious death. To discover what it felt like, they practiced choking each other until they almost passed out. The results disturbed them and they became so depressed that the sheriff, in sympathy, gave them whisky to dull their anguish.

The day of execution dawned warm and sultry. Early that morning, settlers from all over the county assembled around the gallows, erected on a knoll behind where St. Paul’s Episcopal Church now stands. Seven or eight Indians from the condemned men’s tribe arrived to witness the execution, including several who had assisted in recapturing the prisoners after their escape.

At the appointed time, the condemned men approached the knoll, escorted by a rifle company commanded by Captain Burt. They were dressed in shrouds and were intoxicated, having begged for whisky earlier that morning. After mounting the gallows and having nooses placed around their necks, the men were asked if they wished to say anything. Negosheek mumbled a few words. The men dropped to their deaths and several women turned away and began to cry.

After they were dead, the authorities took down their bodies, placed them in coffins, and buried them on the knoll. The Rifle Company and civil officials marched to Captain Boalt’s house. He treated them to a big dinner, and they listened to a funeral discourse, a rather macabre scene to us, but probably considered appropriate at the time.

For months afterwards, the settlers of the Firelands worried that friends of the executed Indians would exact revenge. Platt, not having a gun, kept a sharpened hoe hanging near his front door against such an eventuality. However, perhaps because the court had found the boy Negossum innocent, the Indians felt that justice had been done. They never attacked.

As time went on, settlers cleared the forests and farms replaced the Native American’s traditional hunting grounds. In 1843, the remaining tribes departed Ohio for reservations further west. Their time had passed. [1]

Goodbye to Old Hunting Grounds

Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 137.

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] The account of the murders of John Wood and George Bishop and the capture, trial and execution of their killers is from an article by W.C. Allen in The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume VI, The Firelands Historical Society, June 1865, pp. 43-52, and from Baughman, A.J., History of Huron County Ohio: Its Progress and Development, Volume I, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, IL, 1909; pp. 144-145. Platt Benedict’s reaction to this incident is described by him in “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk,” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume I, Number 4, The Firelands Historical Society, May 1859, p. 21.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 20 – Recapture

Sufferers’ Land

Recapture

by Dave Barton

A day or two after the return of Negonaba, Sally and the other townspeople were relieved when Captain Burt, accompanied by Constable Charles Tupper of Danbury Township and several other men, walked into town, leading Negosheek by a rope tied around him.

Before putting him back into custody, the men searched the Indian and found a small knife secreted in his clothes. Captain Burt told them he had searched the Indian at the time of his capture, but that Negosheek’s squaw must have slipped him the knife before they departed the Indian’s village.

Pioneers and Indians

Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 139.

After returning Negosheek to the makeshift jail with the wounded Negonaba, Captain Burt told his story to the assembled populace of the village. Arriving on the Miami River, the three men went to the Indian camp where Negosheek and Negossum lived. John Flemmond introduced Captain Burt, who had dressed in an impressive military uniform, as Governor of Ohio, and demanded that the chief turn over Negosheek and Negossum to him.

This ruse worked, and the chief brought Negosheek to them. The chief promised that he would have the boy Negossum brought to Norwalk in a few days, but also told them that Negossum was not guilty. Through the interpreter, the two captains assured the chief that the boy would receive a fair trial, and if the court found him innocent, they would release him.

Leaving Captain Boalt and John Flemmond behind to wait for the boy Negossum, Captain Burt led Negosheek north toward Lake Erie accompanied by a party of Indians. The weather had turned rainy, and the men slogged through the wilderness, cold, wet and miserable. After a day’s travel, the party stopped for the night and Captain Burt tried unsuccessfully to start a fire. He used sign language to ask the Indians accompanying him to do it, promising them a quart of whisky if they did. An Indian poured gunpowder on the wood, and used flint and steel to try to start a fire. The powder ignited suddenly in the Indian’s face causing him to jump several feet into the air.

When they reached the shore of Lake Erie, the Indians accompanying him turned back, and Captain Burt continued alone through the forest with his captive. Once, Negosheek tried to break away, but Captain Burt, who was a large man, grabbed him and shook him harshly. After that, he had no more trouble with him.

After going nine or ten miles along the lakeshore, Captain Burt arrived at Constable Charles Tupper’s cabin at the mouth of the Portage River. Charles was relieved to see him and his prisoner, and after hearing Captain Burt’s story, agreed to accompany him the rest of the way to Norwalk.

A day or two after Captain Burt returned to Norwalk with Negosheek, Captain John Boalt and John Flemmond arrived with Negossum, whom the chief of the tribe had turned over to them as promised. They put the boy into jail with his companions to await trial. [1]

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] The account of the murders of John Wood and George Bishop and the capture, trial and execution of their killers is from an article by W.C. Allen in The Firelands Pioneer, June 1865, pp. 43-52, and from Baughman, A.J., History of Huron County Ohio: Its Progress and Development, Volume I, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, IL, 1909; pp. 144-145.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 19 – A Grim Comedy of Errors

Sufferers’ Land

A Grim Comedy of Errors

by Dave Barton

One night, a week after the prisoners came to Norwalk, gunshots and cries of alarm awakened the village. Platt Benedict rushed from his home, leaving Sally and the children to huddle in the cabin, wondering what was going on. When he returned, he had frightening news — the Indians had escaped.

It had been a comedy of errors. After midnight, Negonaba asked Charles Soules, who was on guard at the time, to remove his shackles and allow him to go outside to relieve himself. Charles did so, not realizing that somehow Negosheek and Negossum had managed to slip out of their shackles earlier in the evening. When Soules and Negonaba left the cabin, the other two Indians made their escape. Soules saw them and raised the alarm. Negonaba ran away and Soules shot at him, which woke the town. Although he could not be sure, he told the townspeople that he thought he had hit his target.

Platt and the other men of the village searched for the escaped prisoners, but they were gone. For the next several days, the inhabitants of the county were terrified, wondering where the suspected murderers might turn up. Then, several days later, an old hunter named Pumphrey came into town leading Negonaba, who had wounds to his hip and shoulder. Charles Soules had hit his mark.

Unbroken Forest

“Unbroken Allen County Forest,” Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 227

Pumphrey told the assembled villagers that a young man named John Hawk, who was hunting on the western boundary of the county, saw a wounded Indian drinking from a pool of water. He captured him and turned him over to Pumphrey who brought him to Norwalk.

The townspeople placed Negonaba back in shackles in Daniel Raitt’s cabin, and sent for a Doctor Tilden to treat his wounds. When the doctor finished treating Negonaba, Daniel Raitt took charge of nursing him back to health, a task he performed so well that his neighbors from then on referred to him as “Doctor Raitt.”

Sally and the rest of the town were relieved that one of the murderers was back in custody, but were concerned that the other two were still at large. Immediately after the escape, Captain John Boalt, who had settled in Norwalk Township just before the Benedicts, started for the Miami River in company with Captain Henry Burt of Monroeville and the interpreter John Flemmond. However, so far, they had not returned.

Sally and Platt worried for their friend off on such a hazardous mission. Sally was also concerned about how Ruth Boalt was handling this. They were together often, and Sally and the other women of the village helped Ruth the best they could.

She and the rest of the villagers prayed that he would return safely. [1]

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] The account of the murders of John Wood and George Bishop and the capture, trial and execution of their killers is from an article by W.C. Allen in The Firelands Pioneer, June 1865, pp. 43-52, and from Baughman, A.J., History of Huron County Ohio: Its Progress and Development, Volume I, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, IL, 1909; pp. 144-145.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 18 – Crime and Capture

Sufferers’ Land

Crime and Capture

by Dave Barton

The Portage River was a traditional passage for Indians traveling from the Maumee River to Lake Erie. Around the middle of April, three Indians, Negosheek (Ne-go-sheek), Negonaba (Ne-gon-a-ba) and Negossum (Ne-gos-sum), passed by John Wood and George Bishop’s cabin on their way down the river.

Negosheek was the eldest and the leader of the group. He had the reputation of not being able to handle liquor. Negonaba, also an adult, was easily influenced by his friend when drunk. Negossum, being only sixteen or eighteen, was afraid of his older companions, and inclined to do whatever they told him.

The three Indians continued to the mouth of the Portage River where they stayed for several days. They bought whiskey and started back up the river toward their homes. On the way, Negosheek decided they should attack and kill John Wood and George Bishop and steal their furs and other belongings.

log-cabin-imageJust before dawn on Wednesday, April twenty-first, while the boy Negossum waited outside, the two elder Indians crept into the trappers’ cabin and murdered them in their sleep with tomahawks. When the men were dead, Negosheek called Negossum into the cabin and had him strike one of the bodies on the leg with a hatchet so the boy would feel he had participated in the murders.

The Indians looted the cabin, and after hiding some of the murdered trappers’ possessions along a nearby creek and selling their furs, they started for home. On the way, they encountered a half-breed Indian named Chazee traveling down the river, and told him what they had done. Chazee stopped at Bishop and Wood’s cabin and found their bodies. He continued to the mouth of the river and told Charles Tupper, a constable who lived there, about the murders.

Judge Truman Pettibone, the Justice of the Peace in Danbury Township, issued a warrant of arrest for the Indians, and Charles raised a posse to pursue them. The posse tracked them to a village on the Miami River and the Indians living there turned the three suspects over to them.

The posse returned to Danbury Township, where Judge Pettibone questioned the Indians with the assistance of an interpreter named John Flemmond. Convinced of their guilt, he sent them on to the County Seat in Norwalk to stand trial.

The arrival of the Indians created quite a stir among the inhabitants of Norwalk and the surrounding vicinity. One can imagine Platt and other men of the village visiting the jail to see the prisoners. Seeing face to face these men who had committed murder raised fears of further raids, and enhanced the terror that Sally Benedict had felt when visited by an Indian late at night.

It is a testimony to the sense of fairness and the importance of the rule of law to the Connecticut pioneers that they did not attempt to lynch the three Indians. Many conflicts between Native Americans and settlers ended when mobs of angry men took the law into their own hands. In this case, however, the record is clear that the settlers were determined to give the prisoners a fair trial. There was no rush to judgment, and guilt and innocence was determined after careful consideration of the facts. However, before that could happen, the Benedicts, along with the rest of their neighbors, were in for a scare. [1]

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] The account of the murders of John Wood and George Bishop and the capture, trial and execution of their killers is from an article by W.C. Allen in The Firelands Pioneer, June 1865, pp. 43-52, and from Baughman, A.J., History of Huron County Ohio: Its Progress and Development, Volume I, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, IL, 1909; pp. 144-145.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 17 – Murder on the Portage River

Sufferers’ Land

Murder on the Portage River

by Dave Barton

In late April 1819, disturbing news reached the village of Norwalk. Indians on the Portage River northwest of town had murdered two men. Sally Benedict, along with all the settlers, was alarmed and anxious to know more. As the days went by, more news came in. The victims were two trappers, John Wood and George Bishop. John was a married man, a tavern-keeper in Venice, Ohio, and George was single, a sailor on the Great Lakes who lived in Danbury Township.

One room school houseAt that time, much of the Firelands was still wilderness and game was plentiful enough to make trapping and hunting a profitable enterprise. In early April, a company of men, including John Wood and George Bishop, had gone on a trapping expedition up the Portage River on the peninsula, in what is now Ottawa County. The others in the party soon went home, but John and George stayed on. They were relatively successful, and by late April had settled into a cabin on the Portage River where they continued to work their trap lines. It was in that cabin that their bodies were discovered.

For a few more days the suspense continued, then came the welcome news that authorities had captured the murderers. Three Indians had confessed to the crime and were on the way to Norwalk to stand trial.

When the Indians arrived in the village, authorities confined them in a log cabin belonging to Daniel Raitt, located just north of Main Street on what is now Hester Street. Mr. Raitt and another man named Charles Soules guarded them twenty-four hours a day.

With the Indians safely confined to the jail, Sally and the other inhabitants gathered around the men who brought them in anxious to learn the full story of the murder. [1]

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] The account of the murders of John Wood and George Bishop and the capture, trial and execution of their killers is from an article by W.C. Allen in The Firelands Pioneer, June 1865, pp. 43-52, and from Baughman, A.J., History of Huron County Ohio: Its Progress and Development, Volume I, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, IL, 1909; pp. 144-145.

 

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