Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Curse of Shawnee Chief Cornstalk

By: BonnieBlueFlag

Click picture for a larger view

When Tecumseh was just 6 years old his beloved father, Puckeshinwau, would be killed at the Battle of Kanawha River, in 1774 Ohio. Mortally wounded by white men, he would die in the arms of his wife, Metheotashe, with Tecumseh by his side.

And, even though Tecumseh was the great-grandson of a white man named James McQueen, Puckeshinwau's grandfather, he would grow to hate the white men and their broken treaties.

In 1768, the year of Tecumseh's birth, the Ohio River was established as a permanent boundary by the Treaty of Fort Stanwix. The Shawnee would move from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri, across the Ohio and the Mississippi Rivers to the Ohio and Indiana territories.

Knowing that my own Scots-Irish (Ulster-Irish) ancestors were moving down the Shenandoah Valley into Kentucky and Tennessee at about this time, along with Andrew Jackson, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Meriwether Lewis, brothers William Clark and George Rogers Clark, and Sam Houston, indicates what kind of pressure was being put on the lands of the Native Americans. Sometime prior to 1756, the majority of Native Americans that had been living in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley moved on, only occasional raiding parties were seen there after that time.

Mountain Sunset in Shenandoah National Park

My own GGG Grandfather and two of his brothers where surveyors for the U.S. government, and were in Nashville, Tennessee along with Andrew Jackson. Until recently, I thought of land surveyors as just that, not the land speculators, that evidently many of them were in that day and time in Tennessee. As was the custom then, my grandfather was paid for his work with a portion of the land that he surveyed. George Washington was also a surveyor, map maker and land speculator. His will which was executed in 1800 lists property to be sold or distributed in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, Kentucky, the Ohio Valley, West Virginia, and the new City of Washington.

The deeds to wilderness lands at that time were not as well kept as they are today, and with the rush of settlers, many led by Daniel Boone through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky and Tennessee, there were numerous skirmishes over the true ownership of a parcel of land.

This would probably be a good place to mention that from my own observation, land ownership was the crux of the problem between the Native Americans and the European settlers. Chief Tecumseh would later say that owning the land was like attempting to own the air, while property ownership was a basic right as far as the settlers were concerned.

The American white men would purchase and barter for land with the Indians, and whether they meant to cheat the Indians or not, it didn't really mater; because, the Indians would walk away with their booty laughing, and feeling that they had just out foxed the white men. They still believed that no one person could own the land. The Indians would go on thinking that they had the same rights and privileges to the land, as they had before the treaty or the sale was made.

The Indians did not realize, that if a white man could find a way to corner the market on the air we breathe, he would happily do so.

With the death of his father, Tecumseh now became closer than ever to his eldest brother, Cheeseekau, meaning sting or snakebite. It would be Cheeseekau who would teach Tecumseh to be a brave and honorable Shawnee warrior.

Chief Cornstalk, a primary chief of the Shawnee

And for the next few years Tecumseh would also learn from the great Shawnee Chief Wneypuechsika, commonly known to the white men as Cornstalk.

Chief Cornstalk was a great orator and warrior, and he led the Shawnee in many raids against other tribes, as well as a confederation of tribes against the white men who were pushing ever further west.

You must also keep in mind that the Revolutionary War was just beginning, and that the British would alternately rile up the Indians against the Americans, or trick them into thinking that their war was really with the Americans. The Indians thought that by siding with the British they could force the American whites back, while the British used the Indians to cause the Americans to have to fight a war on several fronts.

Eventually, Cornstalk would try to make peace with the American white men. He had turned his back on the torture of white prisoners, something that Tecumseh would learn and forever hold to in his beliefs.

In 1777 the Indians and the American white men would again be on the verge of another bloody war. Chief Cornstalk hoped to avert the massacre of many of his people by going to Fort Randolph at the confluence of the Kanawha and the Ohio Rivers, to warn the white men of the impending trouble, and to again try to make peace. While Cornstalk, his son, Elinipsco, and several of his braves were at the fort, a party of unknown Indians attacked and killed a couple of the soldiers who were out hunting game.

Tempers flared among the white soldiers, and they killed Chief Cornstalk, his son, a Delaware chief named, Red Hawk, and the other members of his peace party.

There was outrage even among the whites who had come to admire Chief Cornstalk, and especially those who had come to trust his belief in peace. An attempt was made to punish those who had killed him, but the other soldiers would not testify against the guilty ones.

As Chief Cornstalk lay dying at the fort near the waters of the Kanawha and the Ohio, he is said to have called upon the Great Spirit to curse this land. That the land would not be fruitful, and that the people would suffer from the blood upon their hands at his death, and that of his dear son. Some say that Chief Cornstalk said the curse would last for 200 years, but others do not say if the curse will ever end.

In 1794 the town of Point Pleasant was founded very near the site of Fort Randolph.

The Silver Bridge

Perhaps the name of the town, Point Pleasant, West Virginia, might sound familiar to you. Perhaps you know the stories of the Mothman Prophecies, or of the night the Silver bridge collapsed, and 46 people died just ten days before Christmas in 1967. The Silver bridge spanned the Ohio River, joining Point Pleasant with Kanauga, Ohio. Chief Cornstalk and the Silver Bridge

Many other local calamities have been laid at the feet of Chief Cornstalk over the years, including unusual lightning strikes on monuments to the chief, and to the men who died at the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774.

Deadly coal mine accidents, plane crashes, a train derailment that dumped toxic chemicals into the town's water supply, and other mishaps and accidents are described at The Cornstalk Curse.

After the murder of Chief Cornstalk, the Shawnee would remain at war with the American white men until the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. The Shawnee were required to move from their territory along the Miami River in Ohio, with many of the more hostile Indians moving just across the Mississippi River to a place that would later be known as Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

Chief Tecumseh never accepted the Treaty of Greenville, and with the death of Chief Cornstalk, he grew more and more resentful of the American white men.

The Mothman Legend of Point Pleasant, West Virginia


  • Aussiegirl said::

    This is an absolutely fascinating post, Bonnie! I can't wait to find out more. I see an entire picture of how our country was settled and what went on than I ever had before. I'm riveted. It's lovely to get to know these fascinating characters like Chief Cornstalk. Looks like the History Channel is going to be doing a feature on one of its shows about the Mothman myth and also the curse of Chief Cornstalk.

    Keep up the good work!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 11, 2005 11:04 PM  

  • i thought your blog was cool and i think you may like this cool Website. now just Click Here

    By Blogger edwarner40149394, at September 15, 2005 5:33 PM  

  • Loving Chief Cornstalk. Thanks for trying to teach me a bit of history. Please don't try to quiz me but I am enjoying myself.

    By Blogger Connie and Rob, at September 18, 2005 10:48 PM  

  • Cool Blog, I never really thought about it that way.

    I have a Hurricane Katrina blog. It pretty much covers hurricane related stuff.

    Thank you - and keep up the thoughts!

    By Blogger alena, at October 03, 2005 11:07 PM  

  • Bonnie your site is such a wonderful diversion on an otherwise dreary day, Thank you so much.

    I have owned and worked on many small gasoline engines bearing the name “Tecumseh” and I had no earthly Idea who the man was. Now thanks to you, I have a little better appreciation of who he was and where he fits into the history of the nation.

    Who would ever have thought that a history essay would prove to be a pleasurable retreat?

    Thanks again BBF

    By Blogger TJ Willms, at October 06, 2005 7:21 PM  

  • Great work here, Bonnie!

    This would probably be a good place to mention that from my own observation, land ownership was the crux of the problem between the Native Americans and the European settlers.

    Absolutely true, and this was also a bone of contention between the Colonists and English prior to the Revolution. The Colonists lusted after the lands west of the Appalachians, and thought they were going to get as much of it as they wanted after the French and Indian War. The British government made treaties with many of the Indian tribes to end the War, and they tried to restrict settlement on Indian lands. This was one of the principle complaints-along with taxation and the stationing of permanent garrisons-which lead to the Revolution!

    Bonnie, you really bring these events alive! If all history teachers could do what you do, nobody would EVER say history is boring!

    By Blogger Timothy Birdnow, at October 15, 2005 9:07 AM  

  • wow i seen his picture before. idk where tho

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 05, 2008 10:04 AM  

  • It is nice to see that people take an interist into my grandfather Chief Cornstalk. I could add some more true facts to your post. My grandfather was shot 17 times when he took his dieing breathe he cursed the land.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at May 12, 2009 7:59 PM  

  • I'm gggg grandson of cornstalk

    By Anonymous chris saylor jr, at June 18, 2010 10:43 PM  

  • I also recently found out my family line is directly descended from Chief Cornstalk, and White Wing and Blue Sky. I am very proud to be a descendant of such a great and honorable man and warrior and orator and leader.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at November 16, 2010 4:43 PM  

  • Hi Bonnie, this was very interesting. My sister was doing our family tree and traced us back to chief cornstalk. He was my 9th grandfather, not sure how to put that. But love hearing the history about him and I would love to find out more.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at February 11, 2016 8:17 PM  

  • Hewell Thank you for any interI am all so kin to the cornstalk family,I have a ancestry .com page.what would like to know is!!!! Is there any family member that came from Ohio to okla.and what tribe there with and if there is any one that holds a Indian Roll no.on the Dawes or Baker listings????? Please feel free to message me on face Book as well Thank you for any Information you can send to help me and my family!!!!

    By Anonymous Ann Speck, at August 17, 2016 12:20 AM  

  • I think I might be related to Cornstalk.. I have a lot of Shawnee in me. How did you find out?

    By Blogger Gorgeous Vendetta, at June 28, 2017 10:18 PM  

  • I have a lot of Shawnee on me. Im trying to figure out if I'm related to Cornstalk.

    By Blogger Gorgeous Vendetta, at June 28, 2017 10:21 PM  

  • For those who are interested in the story about Parker Adkins & Blue Sky, the supposed daughter of Chief Cornstalk: I'm sorry to say this is a myth.

    A direct female descendant of Charity Adkins (supposed daughter of Blue Sky & Parker Adkins) has had her mitochondrial DNA tested. It shows that Charity Adkins's mother was an European woman, mostly English and Irish. A detailed paper trail has now been established that shows such a relationship would have been impossible, based on historical facts. If you are interested in more information about this story, go to

    By Blogger Sallie, at September 02, 2017 4:36 PM  

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