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.

 

#

This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

 #

Previous Post: Recapture

Next Post: Lucy Preston

#

Thanks for visiting! Share and like this post below, and on Facebook. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Advertisements

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.

 

#

This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

 #

Previous Post: A Grim Comedy of Errors

Next Post: Trial and Punishment

#

Thanks for visiting! Share and like this post below, and on Facebook. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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.

 

#

This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

 #

Previous Post: Crime and Capture

Next Post: Recapture

#

Thanks for visiting! Share and like this post below, and on Facebook. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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.

 

#

This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

 #

Previous Post: Murder on the Portage River

Next Post: A Grim Comedy of Errors

#

Thanks for visiting! Share and like this post below, and on Facebook. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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.

 

#

This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

 #

Previous Post: Native Americans

Next Post: Crime and Capture

#

Thanks for visiting! Share and like this post below, and on Facebook. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Sufferers’ Land – Post 16 – Native Americans

Sufferers’ Land

Native Americans

by Dave Barton

When the Benedict family arrived in Norwalk, open warfare with Native Americans had ceased, but tension remained. Hunting parties of Indians visited the area frequently. Often they supplied the settlers, who for the most part did not hunt, with deer and other game. Sometimes these natives would wander into homes, scaring settlers half to death. In later years, Sally Benedict described a late night intrusion of her home.

Techumseh

Rusler, William, A Standard History of Allen County, Volume I; The American Historical Society, Chicago, IL and New York, NY; 1921; page 91

One night the loud barking of our dog attracted our attention, followed by a knock at the door; on opening which, in stalked a large Indian, dressed in furs and blanket, and fully armed. The children huddled close to me, as he came near and asked for “Daddy.” He was evidently intoxicated, and I did not dare let him know that “Daddy” was not at home. I asked him to sit down, but he preferred to stretch himself before the fire, where he soon fell asleep.

When he awoke, he was nearly sober, and quite inclined to be talkative. He told me of the many wrongs the Indians had suffered; that the white man had planted corn over his father’s bones, and the poor old Indian wept. Finally, he started up, exclaiming, “Daddy no come. You go sleep. I go to my brother’s,” and he went away. Sleep was a stranger to our eyes that night. We kept ourselves in readiness for flight, for we expected the “red-face” would return with his brothers, and murder us all. The riches of a Kingdom would not repay me for another such night of anxiety. [1]

Sally’s concern about her late night visitor may seem humorous now. But only a few years previously, Indian raids during the War of 1812 had resulted in many deaths and the flight of settlers out of the Firelands. In 1819, Sally and the other residents of Norwalk were witness to an event that made them wonder if those days of war were about to return.

 

Footnotes:
[1] Quote of Sarah Benedict’s description of a visit to her home by a Native American is from Family, by Ian Frazier, p. 58, & History of the Firelands, by W.W. Williams, 1879, p. 175.

 

#

This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

 #

Previous Post: Episcopal Church in Norwalk

Next Post: Murder on the Portage River

#

Thanks for visiting! Share and like this post below, and on Facebook. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Sufferers’ Land – Post 15 – The Episcopal Church in Norwalk

Sufferers’ Land

The Episcopal Church in Norwalk

by Dave Barton

As with everything else in the early days of the village of Norwalk, Platt and Sally Benedict were involved in the religious life of the community. Although they were not baptized when they arrived, they saw the need for a church in Norwalk, and decided to establish one.

In 1818, they hosted the first Episcopal service in their cabin, consisting of the reading of the Episcopal Church service, and a sermon by a layman. These lay meetings continued for years, first in private homes, and later in the Court House.

In 1820, Platt and Sally organized the first Sabbath School in the Court House. Most of the children of the town attended this non-denominational school. It would be years before a minister arrived in the village, but in the meantime, thanks to Platt and Sally’s initiative, a vibrant religious community developed.

Sunday, January 20, 1821, a minister named Reverend Searle visited the village for the first time and called a meeting to organize a new parish. Seventeen men attended, with Platt, of course, taking the lead. They decided to call the new parish, Saint Paul’s, and elected wardens and vestrymen. They elected Platt vestryman, and selected him to be a representative of the new parish to the fourth annual Diocesan Convention.

Reverend Searle could not stay in the parish, so he selected lay readers to carry out services in his absence. Platt, as usual, was one of those selected. Services continued every Sunday, with Reverend Searle occasionally attending to give Holy Communion and perform baptisms. The Bishop also visited the parish from time to time, so often that Sally’s son David ran away from home once because he was tired of polishing the bishop’s boots. [1]

During one visit, Sunday, February 17, 1822, Reverend Searle baptized Platt Benedict into the church. The next day, he held a meeting of the vestry in the Benedict home. He selected Rufus Murray to perform divine service in the parish once he became qualified. Reverend Searle continued to visit St. Paul’s parish occasionally, his last visit coming in 1826. [2]

During this time, a deacon by the name of S.A. Bronson also served the parish. He later recalled the religious life in Norwalk at the time. My first visit to this place was in 1825, to supply as far as a layman could, the place of a clergyman. No settled minister of any name had ever resided here, and only the Episcopal Church had attempted to keep up regular services. When, subsequently, a clergyman did become resident here, the regularity of the services depended upon the established forms of religion, as conducted by laymen. Many of you, no doubt, remember the old white court house, and cousin Ami Keeler with his tin horn, with which he used to call the people to worship — a horn more truly spiritual than some of more recent date. [3]

By this time, the parish conducted weekly services and had a strong Sunday school program for the religious education of all the children of the village, not just those of families in the parish. If not for Sally and Platt Benedict, none of this would have happened.

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] Story of David Benedict running away from home is from the undated text of an address given by Eleanor Wickham to the Sally DeForest chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
[2] First religious services in Norwalk and the early history of St. Paul’s Parish are described in detail by C.E. Newman in The Firelands Pioneer, Sept. 1876, pp. 45-47. The establishment of the Sabbath School is described in the above article and in The Firelands Pioneer, June 1867, p. 84.
[3] “Address of Rev. S.A. Bronson, D.D.” The Firelands Pioneer, November 1859, p. 7.

Note: Mary L. Stewart of Norwalk, a parishioner at St.Paul’s Episcopal Church, kindly assisted with this post.

 

#

This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

 #

Previous Post: Women’s Life on the Frontier

Next Post: Native Americans

#

Thanks for visiting! Share and like this post below, and on Facebook. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

%d bloggers like this: