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

Monday, September 05, 2005

An Ill Wind Named Katrina

I had planned to go on with the story of Chief Tecumseh in a very timely manner, as he is a prominent character in the War of 1812, and eventually to the Battle of New Orleans with General Andrew Jackson. However, like everyone else, I became caught up in the current New Orleans crisis, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

I have posted An Ill Wind Named Katrina at Ultima Thule, and will continue with BonnieBlueFlag this week.