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We have yet to deal with some very important history on the lower course of the Kenapocomoco. Seven miles above the mouth of Eel River about half way between the villages of Hoover and Adamsboro there existed for a century or more one of the most important Miami Indian towns in Indiana. Its Indian name was Kena-pe-com-a-qua, which the reader will recognize as one form of our word Kenapocomoco, or Eel. When it was founded we do not know. The early settlers of Kentucky and southern Indiana knew of it as the place from which marauding bands of Indians would descend upon the frontier settlements. Many unfortunate white captives were brought to this place and burned at the stake. The early Americans learned to know this place as one of the largest and most dangerous Indian settlements in the Northwest. So great became the ravages that it was decided that something must be done.
In 1790 a Frenchman, Antoine Gamelin, was sent from Vincennes to visit the Indian country and see what could be done to make for peace. He visited Kenapecomaqua on April 18, 1790. While he was received friendly yet he could accomplish nothing. He learned that the warriors here were up in arms and that this was a gathering place for warriors from farther north who were on their way south to attack white settlements. Gamelin also visited the Miami capital, Kekionga. Everywhere he found the Indians preparing for war. President Washington had already determined to destroy Kekionga and had sent Gen. Harmar the year before for this purpose. Gen. Harmar met with defeat and now President Washington was sending Gen. St. Clair with a large army. Partly to draw off Indian allies from Kekionga and partly to punish Kenapecomaqua for former outrages, an expedition commanded by General James Wilkinson was sent out in August, 1791.
The expedition composed of 525 mounted men left Fort Washington, Cincinnati, August 1, 1791. On August 7 it crossed the Wabash, only a few miles from Kenapecomaqua. The forests were not so dense but shrubs and horseweeds were everywhere. As they came to Eel River they saw the village on the opposite side. Gen. Wilkinson now planned a flanking movement but when he learned that he was already discovered he ordered his men forward. They rushed through the river and captured the town, killing six warriors and capturing 34 prisoners. In his report Gen. Wilkinson regrets that two squaws and one child had been killed while he lost two men killed and one wounded. He was told that many of the warriors had gone up the river after war supplies. While he scoured the country for many miles he could find no more warriors. He found this village to extend along Eel River for two or three miles. He destroyed it all and besides some two hundred acres of growing Indian corn about the village. He took his prisoners along as he went west to attack some Potawatomie village. With that we are not interested now.
Later History of Kenapecomaqua
The commander of the Eel River Indians at Kenapecomaqua was known as the Soldier. His Indian name was Shamekunnesa. He signed the treaty of Greenville in 1795. He was later succeeded by one Charley, whose Indian name was Ketunga, or the sleepy one. Charley signed the treaties of Vincennes in 1803, Fort Wayne in 1809 and St. Mary’s in 1818. He was an important person at the second treaty of Greenville in 1814 but would not sign the treaty because he would not promise to join the United States forces actively. He preferred to remain neutral and at peace with both British and Americans. He kept that attitude and became known as Charley the faithful. While he was commander of the Eel River Indians, he had his home, at least for a time, on the Wabash, where the present city of Wabash stands. Charley Creek and Charley addition there perpetuate his name.
The importance of Kenapecomaqua and its restoration are further in evidence from the fact that in 1808 General Harrison on his way from Fort Wayne to Vincennes visited this place and arranged with the Indians to send representatives to a council at Vincennes. The treaty on the Wabash in 1826 made prominent mention of this place. The place at that time was known as Old Town on Eel River. Chief Charley had been succeeded by his son, Little Charley. He was granted five sections of land above Old Town. And to the Indians in common at Old Town were granted ten sections at the mouth of Mud Creek. Kenapecomaqua, now Old Town, was located on both sides of Mud Creek. This creek must not be confused with one of the same name already described at the Island. The treaty at the Forks of the Wabash in 1834 receded these ten sections to the United States but confirmed by deed the five sections to Little Charley and added two sections more to Metchinequea. These Indians later sold their lands to white settlers.
With the coming of the white settlers in the thirties, Old Town, the former Kenapecomaqua, ceased to be important and soon ceased to be. But the name and Indian traditions continued for decades. Mr. John Wild who is still living near Adamsboro says that he plowed up the old battlefield in the early seventies. He uncovered guns and relics of all descriptions. In the same furrow he found a Catholic cross and a medal struck in honor of Frederick the Great with the inscription “The defender of Protestants.” Mr. Wild points out the old dancing circle and many other traces of Indian days.
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An old tradition has caused many searches for hidden gold in this community. The story goes that during the French and English struggles for this territory the French government at Montreal and Quebec sent some $10,000 in gold by a Catholic priest down the Eel River to pacify the Indian tribes here and below. When he reached Kenapecomaqua, he learned of a plot to murder him and take his money. He is said to have buried the money and returned to Canada. He never returned and many have been the searches for the lost treasure.
Logansport, the Mouth of Eel River
Logansport is an important modern city, a great railroad center and well known throughout the country. In Indian history there was little of importance here except the meeting of two great highways of travel, the Wabash and the Eel. Among traders it was known as the Mouth of Eel. When the place was settled in the early thirties, the question at once came up as to what it should be called. It was finally left to a committee to decide. On this committee was Gen. John Tipton. He was one of the most important of early settlers in Indiana and afterwards made Logansport his home. He had a fondness for classical names and wanted to call it by a Greek name meaning The Mouth of Eel. Another on the committee wanted to name it after the old Indian town up the river, Kenapecomaqua. Hugh McKeen who had recently moved from Fort Wayne proposed the name Logan, after the old Shaunee chief who was friendly to the whites and had given his life in their defense in an Indian squabble along the Maumee. Col. J. B. Duret told McKeen that he would accept the name Logan if he would add the word “port”, for he expected the Wabash to be made navigable to this place and that the Mouth of Eel would some day become a great trading center. When the four could not agree on any name they did agree to “shoot it out.” So they put up a mark and each one took his shot. Col. Duret hit the bull’s eye and won for the new town the name. of Logan’s Port, which we now know as Logansport.
Eel River, the KE NA PO CO MO CO
Very little is said about Eel River, the Indian Kenapocomoco, in our state and national histories, but important events have occurred, and important historical characters have lived, along this little river. On its lower course was the. Old Town Indian Village, Kenapecomaqua, one of the most important Indian centers in. the North West. The Eel River valley abounded in wild game and was the center of a great fur trade. On the upper Kenapocomoco lived Little Turtle, the greatest Indian chief that America ever produced. For many years he and his Eel River Indians bravely defended their native lands against the Americans. Only by great efforts were they overcome by the United States. After peace he spent the rest of his life endeavoring to lead his people in the ways and arts of peace. He was greatly honored by President Washington and the leading men of that day.