Monday, May 13, 2013

Hard Hickory: Indian Chief and Farmer

       I was flipping through an old book on the history of Sandusky County when I came across a mention of my great-great-great grandfather.  Saxon S. Rathbun (1813-1894), lived on a farm near Green Springs, Ohio. He was a pioneer, coming to Ohio from New York state at 13, and as an adult buying his land directly from the government.  He had thirteen children, three of whom fought for the Union in the Civil War.

            But what caught my eye was this sentence about his childhood on the frontier:

He played with Indian boys at this time, finding them companionable, and at one time was employed to hoe corn for old Chief Hickory, a very friendly Indian.

            An Indian chief was my ancestor’s employer?  At least for an afternoon?  Who was Chief Hickory, and what more do we know about him?  Indians of the time did not write autobiographies, were not listed in the Census, and generally did not leave tracks unless they were leaders or otherwise came to the attention of frontier society.  But for a (nearly) anonymous Indian, we can learn a few facts about Chief Hickory.

            His full name was Hard Hickory (17??-1831).  He was a member of what was called the Senecas of Sandusky (now the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma). The Senecas of Sandusky were of Iroquois stock, the Seneca having been one of the tribes of the Iroquois Confederation.  The Senecas of Sandusky were probably a mix of Seneca, Cayuga, Wyandot, and Delaware tribesmen.  They had been living along Sandusky River in Ohio since at least 1768.

            Hard Hickory’s people were not warrior/hunters of the prairies, but rather a farming Indian of the Eastern Woodlands tradition.  In warm weather, they farmed the land, growing pumpkins, corn, and beans.  After centuries of living exposed to white culture, they often lived in log cabins, using iron tools, and most men had guns.  Of course, they were traditional Indians in cultural aspects like war dances, adoption of captives by running the gauntlet, and wintertime hunts.  Their council house was in fact at Green Springs, where Granddad Rathbun met them.

            But Indian life was not just a glorified camping trip.  The Seneca had a deep fear and respect of the supernatural, including a belief in witchcraft.  Hard Hickory was incidentally part of the story of Seneca John.  Seneca John was another chief of the tribe, and the younger half-brother of Steel and Coonstick.  The aforementioned brothers left Seneca John and another chief, Comstock, behind while the scouted new land for the tribe in the west.  On their return, they found Comstock dead and Seneca John occupying his position as chief.  Steel and Coonstick accused Seneca John of witchcraft that caused the death of Comstock, and sentenced him to death.

            Horace Knapp wrote the finale of Seneca John’s story and the role of Hard Hickory in his dates 1872 History of the Maumee Valley.  In writing about Sardis Birchard, a frontier storekeeper at Fremont (and the father-in-law of President Rutherford B. Hayes), Knapp mentions that

Hard-Hickory lived about a mile below Green Springs, in a cabin yet standing, and Seneca John, the night before his execution, slept under Hard-Hickory's porch. Steel and Coonstick, at sunrise, called and waked him. John told them to kill him quick. They tomahawked him. Mr. B. obtained this statement from Hard-Hickory, who came into town that day, or the next, with Tall Chief, and told him about it.

Apparently Hard Hickory had enough of a house or cabin to have a porch for someone to sleep under.  He also was an acquaintance of Sardis Birchard.

            The artist George Caitlin, who painted Hard Hickory, described him: 

Hard Hickory; a very ferocious-looking, but a mild and amiable man…Good Hunter and Hard Hickory, are fair specimens of the warriors of this tribe or rather hunters; or perhaps, still more correctly speaking, farmers; for the Senecas have had no battles to fight lately, and very little game to kill, except squirrels and pheasants; and their hands are turned to the plough, having become, most of them, tolerable farmers; raising the necessaries, and many of the luxuries of life, from the soil.

            Henry Howe, the early Ohio historian, also mentions Hard Hickory:

The Senecas of Sandusky – so called – owned and occupied forty thousand acres of choice land on the east side of Sandusky river….By the treaty concluded at Washington city, February 28, 1831…these Indians ceded their lands to the United States.  At this time their principal chiefs were Coonstick, Small Cloud Spicer, Seneca Steel, Hard Hickory, Tall Chief, and Good Hunter….(p. 574)

            Hard Hickory traveled with other leaders of the Seneca to Washington to the signing of the treaty, and also signed a statement stating that they were not interested in receiving missionaries, but:

We should be glad to have you send persons to us to learn us how to plough, and sow, and reap, and teach us all the arts of agriculture.  This would make us happy

            But Hard Hickory never made it to Oklahoma, where the tribe was relocating.  According to William Lang’s 1880 History of Seneca County, Hard Hickory embezzled some annuity money.  Lang described Hard Hickory in glowing terms:

Hard Hickory was the leading mind among them. He was a leader of no ordinary grade. He was possessed of polished manners, seldom seen in an Indian. He spoke the French language fluently, and the English intelligibly. Scrupulously adhering to the costume of his people, and retaining many of their habits, this chief was much endeared to them. His urbanity, his intelligence and ardent attachment to the whites, and, above all, his strict integrity in business transactions, obtained for him — and deservedly- — the respect and
confidence of all with whom he traded.

But Hickory fell from grace.  He took some annuity money due the tribe, and spent it during the aforementioned trip to Washington.  The tribesmen were outraged, and some of the same men who had conspired to kill Seneca John resolved to murder Hard Hickory, including Hickory’s nephew Shane:

On being assured that Shane was alone, Hickory directed his wife to unbar the door and let him in, which she did. Shane wore a blanket, and approached Hickory in the middle of the room, holding out his left hand, while his right was under the blanket, holding the handle of a long knife. Hickory held out his right hand to Shane, and as soon as their hands were grasped, Shane drew his knife and stabbed Hickory through the body, and then dragged him out of doors, where several Indians stabbed and tomahawked him. Thus perished the renowned chief Hard Hickory, with the seal of falsehood stamped upon his hitherto fair character.

            It would be interesting to talk to Hard Hickory, Seneca John, or other actors in this drama.  Was it witchcraft or jealousy?  Was this knowing embezzlement or misunderstanding of the use of government funds?  Most of the accounts of Hard Hickory that have comedown to us are second or third hand accounts from whites of varying degrees of hostility.

            I prefer to remember Hard Hickory as an Indian, a farmer, and a man kind enough to hand a hoe to my great grandfather, and point to a planted field near a green spring.  My own grandfather, four generations later, let me work in his garden near the same spring when I was young.  In a figurative way, then, I gardened with Hard Hickory. 

[Along with the sources listed in the essay, I also used:]

Thursday, May 2, 2013

White Eyes and his Name


       Many Ohio towns have inherited Indian names.  Especially in smaller, out of the way places, towns and villages were often named for their Native founders or given the name, or an English equivalent.  In our own area, one need travel no further than Tontogany, Maumee, Ottawa, or Wapakoneta to see, perhaps not an Indian town, but at least a landscape feature with a Native name.  Sometimes the name is familiar, sometimes not.

            In Coshocton County, there was once a village with the evocative name of White Eyes Plains.  An description from 1881 reads:  “A broad expanse of level country, White Eyes plains begins in the western Part of the township [Lafayette Township] and continues eastward eight or ten miles through Oxford township into Tuscarawas County.”  Settled by Europeans about the year 1803, White Eyes Plains seems never to have been a town in the sense of businesses and homes together in a compact settlement.  We do know that White Eyes Plains had a post office in 1815 to until 1892 (with a brief pause in 1854-55), when the name changed to Isleta.   For part of this time, the post office was kept in a nearby village, Oxford Station.  Such were the vagaries of post office politics. 

            But if White Eyes Plains is a flyspeck on the map, the Native leader for whom it was named was considerably more famous.  White Eyes (c1730-1778) was a Lenape, or Delaware, Indian leader who led a movement among his people in favor of the rebelling American colonies.  Although large swaths of his life are unrecorded, here is a summary of what we do know.

            White Eyes, whose name was so hard for settlers to pronounce that one source dodged the question, and rendered his name as “something like Koquethagechton,” was unknown in the historical record until 1766.  He then appeared as a messenger at the end of the French and Indian War.  That he was trusted with this task  “…suggests he may have been well suited for interaction between Indians and whites…”  White Eyes kept a tavern and trading post in western Pennsylvania, but moved with his tribesman to the Muskingum Valley of eastern Ohio, pushed there by white settlers around Pittsburgh.  He married Rachel Doddridge, daughter of a settler who had been killed by natives.  He set up his own town on the banks of White Eyes Creek at its mouth with the Tuscarawas River, at the eastern end of the White Eyes Plains.  In 1774, he was elected principal chief of the Delaware Indian nation.

            Also in 1774, White Eyes was involved in Lord Dunmore’s War, a scrap between Virginia colonists and the Shawnee that foreshadowed the American Revolution.  White Eyes unsuccessfully tried to negotiate peace between the two.  After the war, White Eyes sought to negotiate the safety of the Delaware nation with Dunmore.  When the Revolution broke out, the Delaware nation split into factions.  Part of the tribe remained neutral in the conflict, and was led by Konieschquanoheel , or Captain Pipe.  White Eyes cast his lot with the Americas.  His ultimate goal was to create a Delaware Indian state with representation in Congress.  White Eyes addressed the Continental Congress in April of 1775 with this aim, and in 1778 signed a treaty with the new republic which outlined these goals. 
In November of 1778, White Eyes served the American army as negotiator in a hostile move toward Detroit.  White Eyes, heading for our part of Ohio, vanished.  Army officials told the Delaware that he died of smallpox.  In later years George Morgan, a friend of White Eyes, wrote to Congress that White Eyes had been murdered by American militiamen, who then covered up their deed to keep the Delaware nation within the American sphere of influence.  It is now generally accepted that White Eyes was murdered, although the details are unclear.

            It is sad that so many Native people have no monument beyond giving their names to our landcape, especially those who tried to work with the settlers who now occupy that land.  White Eyes lived and died long ago, but we would do well to remember him.  His story reminds us that working for a just cause does not absolve bad actions.  This keeps Indian place names from being merely quaint.

{Sources include A. A. Graham, History of Coshocton County, Ohio (1881), and Gregory Dowd, A Spirited Resistance (1992).]

Constitution Song

(I'm no poet, obviously, but my niece and I worked this out for a Government class, and I liked it well enough to post it.  Some of the rhymes are bumpy, and of course the references to current government figures will mean nothing in ten years.  But here it is.)

Hail the Constitution

(to be sung or recited to the beat of “Yankee Doodle”)

In Washington there is a group
Of pols we call the Congress
They write our laws and pass the bills
That fix our federal messes.


Hail, oh Hail, the Constitution
Congressman will use it,
Boehner, Biden, but watch out!
Obama yet must sign it.

A new law may be introduced
In either house of Congress,
And starts upon its longish trail,
In subcommittee darkness.

If they approve, the subcommittee,
Pass to full committee
And go a-voting yes or no
The excitement makes us giddy!

Now each House of Congress must
Debate the pending measure,
Then take a vote that’s based upon
Its wisdom, need, or treasure.

Ohio’s Boehner pushes laws
As Speaker of the House
Or lets them languish in a drawer
Or stuffs them in his blouse.

If Veep Joe Biden’s out of town,
Pat Leahy takes his job
As President pro-tem he rules
The Senate and its mob.

House and Senate must agree
To pass the proffered law.
If debates and votes are yes,
Its given to Obama.
If President Obama likes
The bill, he then can sign it.
But if he thinks if won’t do good
His veto pen will kill it.

This president has yet to use
A veto on a bill
Unlike some other presidents;
G. Cleveland loved to kill!

If signed the bill becomes a law
And then, for worse or better,
The Republic must abide by it
(Unless the Courts think better!)

So this is how our laws are made .
You’d better not forget it!
‘Cause if you do you’ll get an F
And then be thought a nitwit!

Joel W. Kelsey - Politician, Businessman, and Hog Merchant

            Like many nineteenth century men of means, Joel W. Kelsey did many services for Toledo in the nineteenth century.  But it may be that he will be most vividly remembered as a pork processor.  The only letters he wrote that have come down to us speak not of his political career, or his business acumen, but of his work smoking hams, judging the heft of hogs, and selling lard.
            Joel Kelsey (1819-1903) was born in Guilford, Maine.  He drifted westward, first to Port Huron, Michigan, and then in 1841 settled in Toledo.  He first worked in the lumber business, then about the time of the Civil War began farming and gardening.  Not content to simply farm, Kelsey actively participated in the political scene.  A staunch Republican, he served a term as Lucas County treasurer and also was elected a County Commissioner.  He helped buy land for the Wabash Railroad, and, showing that he was not content to sit always at a desk, served as a volunteer fireman for Toledo.

            But it was mainly in the pork business that Joel Kelsey made money.  About the same time he became a farmer, he “engaged in the pork-packing business with Charles A. and F. J. King.”  Kelsey had several partnerships, finally retiring from active business in 1876.  He lived on for many years, finally dying in his son’s home at 2921 Collingwood. 

            If you have ever read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, you will understand that working in a pork packing facility before the Food and Drug Act of 1905 was not a pleasant experience.  Joel Kelsey wrote of his experiences long before that, but his letters make it clear that pork packing, even at that early date, had its own unusual sights, sounds, and smells.  Because there was no refrigeration at the time, pork was smoked or pickled.  On February 13, 1860, Kelsey wrote:

We have to stay here to smoke Hams & we buy all the Hogs that come along…I am in hopes to sell a lot in pickle….

            Kelsey had to respond to customer demand, even in those days.  On March 1 of the same year, he wrote:

We are smoking Meat all the time & sell Hams as fast as we can get them out.  The shoulders do not sell much…..

            A hog is a versatile animal, but a butcher will tell you that a shoulder is mostly fat and gristle.  Not surprisingly, Toledoans in 1860 seemed to prefer hams to shoulders.  Fortunately, Kelsey had other options, and on February 2, he wrote mentions selling lard :

I sold all other Lard this week at 10 cts [per pound].  We are smoking much as fast as possible. . . . 

            Joel Kelsey could not have foreseen that pork packing would be his life’s main work.  Whether it was because of disappointing sales or the constant hustle and noise is hard to say.  On January 24, 1860, he reported

The markets of [sic] Hogs have fallen off very much of late & the chance is that the business is about done….
            And on February 13 he sounded defeated and disgusted:

If we had our Hams & Shoulders disposed of I should close up the House.

But like many businessmen, he was more optimistic than pessimistic:

We have got a good name for smoked meats…..

            Joel Kelsey was a politician, fireman, and farmer.  But perhaps we should best remember his role in keeping ham on the table of Toledoans.  Toledo was never quite the “hog butcher of the world,’ as Carl Sandburg famously said of Chicago, but thanks to Joel Kelsey, Toledo could count on ready supply of pork.