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The Ottawa were found on the Georgian Bay by Champlain in 1615. They seem to have been a people who traded much with other tribes. They had developed a commerce in tobacco, medicinal herbs and roots, rugs, mats, furs and skins, cornmeal, and an oil made of the seeds of the sunflower. They were in close alliance with the Hurons, or Wyandot, from the first. And the Wyandot raised tobacco for the Indian trade.
The history of the Ottawa runs much like that of the other tribes found along the Great Lakes. They claim that they owned the country through which flowed the Ottawa River, in Canada. They were pushed westward. They lived in 1635 on Manitoulin Island. They were at war with the Iroquois, and fled from these fierce children of the League. With the Wyandot, they found themselves about Detroit, where their chief and greatest warrior, Pontiac, formed a confederacy and made war on the English. The war was not successful because of the peculiar disposition of the Indians. The Ottawa were always a factor in the wars waged by the Indians against the advancing settlers.
On the 26th day of September, 1833, the Ottawa ceded their lands on the west shore of Lake Michigan for a reservation in the country which was to become Kansas. This treaty was made by only a portion of the tribe, which was, and is to this day, widely scattered. The Ottawa of Blanchard’s Fork were to have thirty-four thousand acres, and those of Roche de Boeuf were to have forty thousand acres. This land was laid off in a single tract, which contained seventy-two thousand acres. It was on the Marais des Cygnes River, and the city of Ottawa, Kansas, is located about the center of the reservation. The Ottawa settled on their new land in 1837 (a few arrived in 1836), and there were arrivals for some years later.
The Baptists founded a mission among these Ottawa. Rev. Jotham Meeker had labored among those of the tribe in Michigan. In 1837 he was at the Shawnee Baptist Mission. When Rev. John G. Pratt came to the Shawnee mission, Mr. Meeker went on to the Ottawa, arriving in June, 1837. Buildings were erected on what is now the northwest quarter of section twenty-eight (28), township sixteen (16), range twenty (20). They stood on the south side of Ottawa Creek directly east of the present town of Ottawa. All the buildings put up there must have been of temporary character, for they had entirely disappeared before 1866. The old cemetery is still preserved. Meeker died at the mission January 11, 1854. Mrs. Meeker died March 15, 1856. Both are buried in the old cemetery.
The church which they founded was presided over by John T. Jones, known as Ottawa Jones, a half-blood Ottawa, who had been educated at Hamilton, New York. The printing press which had been installed at the Shawnee Baptist Mission was moved to the Ottawa mission, where many books for use among different tribes were printed. This was the first printing press brought to the country which became Kansas. G. W. Brown bought it of Mr. Meeker, and used it in the office of the Herald of Freedom, at Lawrence. S. S. Prouty bought it from Brown, and used it to print Freedom’s Champion, at Prairie City. It was then taken to Lecompton and used in the office of Solomon Weaver. From Lecompton it was taken to Cottonwood Falls, and from thence to Cowley County, finally going into the Indian Territory. The type used at the mission was scattered over the prairie by the Indian children. The press was a Seth Adams press. There were twenty stars on it, indicating that it was made in 1817, when the Union contained twenty states.The Ottawa left Kansas in 1870, going to the Indian Territory. On June 24, 1862, they had made a treaty disposing of their lands. The land-shark stood by to despoil the Indian. There is not a more miserable story in all land transactions than that of the Ottawa reserve.