Clinton Co., OHGenWeb


Chapter III- Ante-Pioneer Days

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"They were a sturdy, rude race, and strong
Our grandsires and granddames of old.'

THE story can never be fully told of the conquest of the wilderness and its savage inhabitants. Of the hardy men who braved untold perils in exploring and bringing to notice a region whose resources were not even imagined, who took their lives and their rifles in their hands and sought the depths of the mighty forests which bordered the Ohio on both sides, and who encountered the red man in all his fierce cunning, and gave back defiance alike to his cunning and his power, the last survivor has been laid to rest in his narrow home beneath the turf. The prominent deeds of the border rangers have been written in history, and thus has a valuable record been handed down to succeeding generations; but of the manifold incidents which were preserved only in the memory of the actors, nothing can be known. Any intelligent person can understand that it required years of arduous labor and greatest risk to people and improve the wilderness, and all of us, probably, have been acquainted . from our youth with the names and exploits of Boone, Kenton and-the many ' others who performed immense work in the last century; but the lesser lights of those days, who acted well their parts, and bore hardships in common with their leaders, may never be made known to us. Let no thank those who have taken the pains to gather such facts as we have, and award credit to the actors whose names have not been told, as well as to those with whom we are familiar.

Within what is now the county of Clinton, no memorable engagement between the red and white forces occurred, although it lay in the region which witnessed important operations through a series of years. Within the county dwelt, doubtless, representatives of the numerous tribes with whom the frontier armies met in conflict; but there is, however, no knowledge of any considerable Indian village having existed in its limits.

On the 31st of January, 1786, a treaty was held at the month of the Great Miami River, with the Delawares, Wyandots and Shawnees, some of the tribes not sending representatives, among them the Piankeshaws, Pottawatomies and Twigtwees. Gen. George Rogers Clark, Glen. Richard Butler and Samuel Parsons were the Commissioners on the part of the whites. The earliest published accounts of this treaty accord to Gen. Clark the honor of having been the principal actor therein, and a sensational version of the affair was published in the Encyclopedia Americana, and in Judge Hall's "Romance of Western History." The Encyclopedia account is as follows:

"The Indians came in to a treaty at Fort Washington (given also as Fort Finney, after Maj. Finney, who was a witness to the treaty) in the most friendly manner, except the Shawnees, the most conceited and warlike of the aborigines-the first in at a battle and the last at a treaty. Three hundred of their finest warriors set off, in all their paint and feathers, and filed into the council house. Their number and demeanor, so unusual at an occasion of this sort, was altogether unexpected and suspicious. The United States stockade mastered seventy men. In the center of the hall, at a little table, sat the Commissary General, Clark, the indefatigable scourge of these very marauders; Gen. Richard Butler and Mr. Parsons. There was also present a Capt. Denny, who, I believe, is still alive (1830), and can attest this story. On the part of the Indians, an old council sachem and a war chief took the lead. The latter, a tall, raw-boned fellow, with an impudent and villainous look, made a boisterous and threatening speech, which operated effectually on the passions of the Indians, who set up a prodigious whoop at every pause. He concluded by presenting a black and white wampum, to signify that they were prepared for either event--peace or war. Clark exhibited the same unaltered and careless countenance he had shown during the whole scene, his head leaning on his left hand and his elbow resting upon the table. He raised his little cane and pushed the sacred wampum off the table with very little ceremony. Every Indian at the same time started from his seat with one of those sudden, simultaneous and peculiar savage sounds which startle and disconcert the stoutest heart, and can neither be described nor forgotten. At this juncture, Clark rose. The scrutinizing eye cowered at his glance. He s stamped his foot on the prostrate and insulted symbol, and ordered them to leave the hall. They did so, apparently involuntarily. They were heard all that night, debating in the bushes near the fort. The raw-boned chief was for war, the old sachem for peace. The latter prevailed, and the next morning they came back and sued for peace."

Gen. Richard Butler, one of the Treaty Commissioners, kept a private diary, and the portion of it relating to this affair was long afterward published in Neville B. Craig's Olden Time, at Pittsburgh. From this diary it appears that the Indians first offered the black or war belt, and Gen. Butler tendered in return the option of a black or white belt. The head chieftain of the Shawnees, bearing the name of Kekewepellethe, made an insolent speech, and, at its close, threw down the war belt. After a short conference between the Commissioners, Butler writes: "I (not Clark) addressed them in this short manner." The speech was decidedly pointed, and closed about as follows:

"You joined the British King against us. We have overcome him; he has cast you off and given us your country, and Congress, in bounty and mercy, offer you peace and a country. We have told you our terms, and these we will not alter. They are just and liberal. We now tell you, if you are so unwise as to, adhere to what you have said, and to refuse these terms, you may depart in peace; you shall have provisions to take yon to your towns, and no man shall touch you for eight days; but after that, we shall consider ourselves free from ell ties of protection, and you may depend the United States will protect their citizens and distress your obstinate nation. It rests now with you. Peace or war is in your power. Make your choice like men. We tell you plainly that this country belongs to the United States. Their blood has defended it, and will protect it. You should be thankful forest's `a forgiveness and offers of kindness, instead of the sentiments which the black string imports and the manner you have delivered it. We shall not receive it or any other from you in any such way."

The General then adds: "I took it up and dashed it on the table. We then left them and threw down a black and white string. In the afternoon, the Shawnees (this name is spelled in various ways) sent a message requesting a council, on which we went in. Kekewepellethe then arose and spoke as follows: Brothers-the Thirteen Fires: We feel sorry that a mistake has caused you to be displeased at us this morning. You must have misunderstood us. We told you yesterday that three of : our men were to go off immediately to gather your flesh and blood (meaning white prisoners in their hands). `We had also appointed persons to remain with you till this is performed; they are here, and shall stay with you. Brethren, our people are sensible of the truths you have told them. You have everything in your power; we, therefore, hope that you will take pity on our women and children. Brothers, everything shall be as you wish; we came here to do that which is good, and we agree to all you have proposed, and hope in future we shall both enjoy peace and be secure.' " (A white string.)

Vastly different was the tone of this speech from that of the morning, when the same chieftain who now made so cringing an apology had declared that his people would not give hostages for the return of all the " white flesh " in their hands, and that they would have none of the presents offered them for their women and children, with other insolent and impudent remarks. The speech and manner of Gen Butler cowed them, and it was only through fear of consequences that they agreed upon a peaceful course. Very likely Butler's 'speech was agreed to by Clark. and perhaps in part suggested by him, but, from the evidence stated, it is improbable that Clark was the man who delivered it. Thus is romance spoiled. Among the provisions of this treaty were the following:

ARTICLE 2. The Shawnee nation do acknowledge the United States to be the sole and absolute sovereigns of all the territory ceded to them, by a treaty of peace made between them and the king of Great Britain, the Fourteenth day of January, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty-four.

ART. 6. The United States do allot to the Shawnee nation lands within their territory, to live and hunt upon, beginning at the south line of the lands allotted to the Wyandots and Delaware nations, at the place where the main branch of the Great Miami, which falls into the Ohio, intersects said line ; then down the River Miami to the fork of that river, next below the old fort, which was taken by the French in One Thousand Seven Hundred and Fifty-two; thence due west to the river De La Panse ; then down that river to the river Wabash, beyond which lines none of the citizens of the United States shall settle, nor disturb the Shawnees in their settlement and possessions. And the Shawnees do relinquish to the United States all title or pretense of title they ever had to the lands east, west and south of the east. west and south lines before described.

Notwithstanding this treaty and others were made, the affairs of the region remained in an unsettled condition for many years longer, and settlement by whites was greatly retarded. Marietta and Cincinnati were founded, and that was about the extent to which the people dared go. Several expeditions were sent against disturbing tribes of Indians, but none of them were fruitful of much until "Mad Anthony " Wayne administered such terrible punishment in 1794, partially wiping out the disgrace of the defeat of former commanders. August 3, 1795, witnessed the treaty of Green and soon afterward, settlers began pushing for the interior. Many had located in various parts of the State previous to the war of 1812, and to some of them the horrors of Indian warfare were made newly familiar. Finally, however, the career of Tecumseh, the great Indian chieftain and organizer, was closed by a death-shot in the battle of the Thames (October 5, 1813), the second war with Great Britain was ended, the smoke of the conflict lifted, and peace reigned throughout the land.

Within the present limits of the county of Wilmington is a spot made prominent by an incident which occurred during one of the several expeditions against the Miami Indians. It is still known as The Deserted Camp.

The story connected with the name is given as follows, from the notes of Judge Harlan, deceased, of Wilmington:

"Clinton County is by no means celebrated for her many places of historic interest. A reason for this may be found in the fact that no Indian town was located within her borders, and the white man's war-trace and the Indian warrior's road generally lay to the west or east of us. Among the places of more or less celebrity within the county, the Deserted Camp is perhaps the most conspicuous. This is a well-known landmark, and is prominently shown on the county map. It is situated on a high bank of Todd's Fork, about three miles north-northeast of where Wilmington now is, on the spot now covered in part by Starbucktown. Surrounded by flat and rather low lands, this place of encampment is high and rolling, and, in a state of nature, was covered by a heavy growth of large oaks and such other trees as are common to the forests in the neighborhood. With such a surface, and so convenient both as to wood and water, it offered facilities for encampment unsurpassed for miles around, "The name of the place was plainly derived from a circumstance which is said to have occurred there several years prior to the first white settlement in this part of the State.

"The tradition of the neighborhood is that an expedition in some force was fitted out in Kentucky during the existence of the long and bloody war between the people of that district and the Indians, to march against the Shaw nee towns on the Miamis or Mad Rivers. On its way, it encamped on Todd's Fork, and in the morning, it was discovered that one of the men had deserted to the enemy. Several questions arise here, as: What expedition is here referred to? When did it march? And who was the man who abandoned the brave and civilized Kentuckians to unite his fortunes with a savage peoples.

"The expedition was one in force. or it never would have ventured into the Indian country so far as the Deserted Camp. Four armies (if that is not too magnificent a term) were sent against the Indians mentioned above, and only four at any time.

"The above-mentioned. 'armies' consisted of Col. Bowman's, in 1779; Gen. George Rogers Clark's first, in 1780; Clark's second, in 1782; and Col. Benjamin Logan's, in 1786. Neither Harmar's, St. Clair's nor Wayne's need be mentioned in this connection, because they were not fitted out in Kentucky, and were never near the Deserted Camp. Bowman and Clark marched against the Shawnee towns, but they either collected their forces at the mouth of the Licking. River, opposite the point where Cincinnati now is, or marched that way. Neither Bowman nor Clark was ever within the limits of what is now Clinton County.

[NOTE: - In the year first given (1779), the Indians were exceedingly troublesome. Congress had become aroused, subsequent to the massacres at Wyoming and Cherry Valley, to the necessity of adopting some means of protection for the western and northwestern frontiers, and Gen. Sullivan's decisive campaign against the Indian towns of Pennsylvania and New York, under the direction of Washington, whom the Senecas named the " town destroyer," was the outcome. Forty towns were burned, and more than one hundred and sixty thousand bushels of corn destroyed, according to Stone. In the West, the operations were on a smaller scale, and the Indians were far more successful. Col. Bowman's expedition was organized in July, 1779, one wing of his little army being commanded by Col. Benjamin Logan. From some unexpected cause, the two divisions did not fully co-operate. and the entire body was forced to retreat, after taking some booty and burning an Indian town. Gen. George Rogers Clark and Col. Logan were more successful in subsequent expeditions, and the mettle of Kentucky men proved equal to the emergencies of the day.-P. A. D.]

"Logan took another route. He marched by the way of Bryant's Station, on Flkhorn and the Lower Blue Lick to the Ohio River, where Maysville now is. This was a large force for that day. It was raised in Kentucky, in October, 1788, and Gen. Benjamin Logan received the command. Gen. Logan, from whom Logan County derived its name, was a man well acquainted with Indian warfare, and well qualified to command. The numerical strength of the force was variously estimated at from four hundred to seven hundred men. It was the second expedition fitted out in Kentucky that year. The first, commanded by Gen. George Rogers Clark, fifteen hundred strong, was on its way to the Illinois county; Kentucky had sustained a heavy drain of her men to supply the requisite force for Gen. Clark's expedition, and when Gen. Logan's call was made and responded to she was, as it were, deprived of male help and defense.

"The mustering of these forces prevented the meeting of the convention elected to form a constitution for the State.

"The expedition under Logan was raised for the purpose of punishing the warlike Shawnees for their many murders and cruel outrages, and to keep the warriors of the Miami, Wyandot, Delaware and Shawnee tribes close at home, while Gen. Clark was operating against the Wabash and Vermilion Indians.

"The men engaged in Gen. Logan's expedition, among whom were Daniel Boone, Maj. (afterward General) Simon Kenton, Judge McManis (an early Associate Judge of Clinton County) and Col. Robert Patterson (one of the proprietors and an old resident of Dayton), were mostly backwoods riflemen. All were mounted. They crossed the Ohio River at Limestone, now Maysville, and took a course leading almost directly north, aiming to strike the first blow at the Shawnee town on Mad River, the birthplace of the great Tecumseh, situate about five miles southwest of the site of the present city of Springfield, Clark County. They entered into what is now Clinton County, at or near Lynchburg, Highland County, passed east of the sites of Martinsville, Morrisville and Wilmington, and west of the site of New Antioch, and encamped for the night at this point, since known as the Deserted Camp.

"Some time during the night, a Frenchman belonging to Logan's army deserted to give notice to the Indians of the near approach of the Kentuckians. The fact of his desertion was soon ascertained. The army was aroused and put in motion. The race for the Indian town was closely contested, but the deserter, having the advantage in the start, retained it to the end. When Logan arrived at the principal Indian town, the Indians were aroused, and evidently trying to make their escape. The deserter had given notice of the approach of the Kentuckians, but not in time to enable the Indians to get away. Their towns were destroyed by fire, and their fields of corn laid waste. Twenty warriors were killed, seventy or eighty prisoners taken, and the women and children left but a precarious supply of miserable food.

"The Frenchman who deserted from Logan's army had been taken prisoner by Gen. Clark, in one of his campaigns in Illinois, under such circumstances as plainly showed that he and the Indians were not on opposite sides. He claimed, however, to be their prisoner, not their ally. He was permitted to accompany the army of Clark to Kentucky, where he remained two years, when he joined the forces of Logan and accompanied them to the crossing of Todd's Fork.
"The camp then and there made was a controlling call for the Deputy Surveyor for Col. Anderson, the principal surveyor of the lands reserved by the State of Virginia for the officers and soldiers for three years' service in the Virginia line, on Continental establishment.
"On the county map, it is named the Deserted Camp Five military surveys call for this spot, as one corner of each of these surveys. All call for be ginning at `Logan's encampment in October, 1788, where a man deserted from him.'

"In an account of this attack upon the Indian towns, given by the late Gen. William Lytle, of Cincinnati, from whom our Lytle's Creek was named, speaking of the operations in a part of the field of warfare in which he took a part, he says: We had taken thirteen prisoners. Among them was the chief, his three wives-one of them a young and handsome woman, another of them the famous grenadier squaw, upward of six feet tall -and two or three fine young lads. The rest were children. One of these lads was a remarkably interesting youth, about my own age (seventeen years) and size. He clung closely to me, and appeared keenly to notice everything that was going on. When we arrived at the town, a crowd of our men press d around to see the chief. A young man by the name of Curner had been tone of the springs to drink. He discovered the young savage by my side, and came running toward me. The young Indian supposed he was advancing to kill him. As I turned around, in the twinkling of an eye he let fly an arrow at Curner, for he was armed with a bow. I had just time to catch his arm as he discharged his arrow. It passed through Curner's dress and grazed his side. The jerk I gave his arm undoubtedly prevented his killing Curner on the spot.'

"The youth referred to by Gen. Lytle was a Shawnee half-blood-was the Capt. Logan well known to many of the early settlers in the Miami country. He was taken to Kentucky as a prisoner, after the defeat and punishment of the Shawnee nation, but was made a member of Gen. Logan's family, and received some education. He became able to converse in tolerably good English. How long he remained in Kentucky is involved in some obscurity. He afterward returned to his tribe, and in after years became a chief, but always retained the name of Logan.
"Gen. Lytle further describes a desperate fight made by a wounded Indian, who was at last killed. He then adds: 'We found with him Capt. Beasley's rifle, the Captain having been killed at the Lower Blue Licks a few days before the army passed through that place.' "
An anecdote relating to the early settlement of Cincinnati will not be out of place in this chapter. In 1789, alarm was felt at points on the river that the Wabash Indians would invade and destroy the weak settlements, and, some time in July of that year, Maj. Doughty arrived with a small force, and began the erection of Fort Washington on the site of Losantiville, the village opposite the mouth of the Licking, where now is Cincinnati. Judge Burnet related the following anecdote in relation to the choice of this spot, instead of the one picked out by Judge Symmes, the founder of the place:

"Through the influence of the Judge (Symmes), the detachment sent by Gen. Harmar to erect a fort between the Miami Rivers, for the protection of the settlers, landed at North Bend. This circumstance induced many of the first emigrants to repair to that place on account of the expected protection which the garrison would afford. While the officer commanding the detachment was examining the neighborhood to select the most eligible spot for a garrison, he became enamored with a beautiful black-eyed female, who happened to be a married woman. The vigilant husband saw his danger, and immediately determined to remove with his family to Cincinnati, where he supposed they could be safe from intrusion. As soon as the gallant officer discovered that the object of his admiration had been removed beyond his reach, he began to think that the Bend was not an advantageous situation for a military work. This opinion he communicated to Judge Symmes, who contended very strenuously that it was the most suitable spot in the Miami country, and protested against the removal. The arguments of the Judge, however, were not as influential as the sparkling eyes of the fair female, who was then at Cincinnati. To preserve the appearance of consistency, the officer agreed that he would defer a decision till he had explored the ground at and near Cincinnati; and that, if he found it to be less eligible than the Bend, he would return and erect the garrison at the latter place. The visit was quickly made, and resulted in a conviction that the Bend was not to be compared with Cincinnati. The troops were accordingly removed to that place, and the building of Fort Washington was commenced. This movement, apparently trivial in itself, and certainly produced by a whimsical cause, was attended by results of incalculable importance. It settled the question at once whether Symmes or Cincinnati was to be the great commercial town on the Miami Purchase. This anecdote was communicated by Judge Symmes, and is unquestionably authentic. As soon as the troops removed to Cincinnati and established the garrison, the settlers at the Bend, then more numerous than those ' at Cincinnati, began to remove, and in two or three years, the Bend was literally deserted, and the idea of establishing a town at that point was entirely abandoned.

"Thus we see what great results are sometimes produced by trivial circumstances. The beauty of a female transferred the commercial emporium of Ohio from the place where it was commenced to the place where it now is. Had the black-eyed beauty remained at the Bend, the garrison would have " been erected there, population, capital and business would have centered there, and our city must have been now of comparatively small importance."*
However much beauty may have influenced the matter, it is certain that ' the site of Cincinnati was the most eligible location, and the wisdom of locating the garrison at that point is very evident to a close observer.

The expedition of Gen. Benjamin Logan has been mentioned in the story of the Deserted Camp. Logan was of Irish descent, and one of the most respected pioneers of Kentucky. He was an experienced Indian fighter, and had taken part in many border engagements of more or less note. Among those who accompanied him on his expedition against the Mack-a-cheek towns on Mad River were Col. Daniel Boone, Maj. Simon Kenton, Col. Trotter, Col. Hugh McGary (of unsavory reputation), and others who were prominent in the early days. Gen. Lytle, then a lad of sixteen years, was also present, and wrote an interesting account of the affair, which has been preserved in several publications. (See McKnight's "Western Border," p. 359.)
Although Clinton County was not the scene of warfare in its worst form, yet her soil echoed to the tread of the men who fought to conquer a lasting peace with the savages "an hundred years ago."