Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cornstalks in Indiana!




According to Historian Bridgie Brelsford, author of Indians of Montgomery County, Indiana, "there were three major candidates for the Peter Cornstalk who roamed the Parkersburg area". Although Brelsford fails to elaborate on the candidates, he does indicate that "contact with white settlers took place between 1822 & 1830". He adds to the story by recounting tales of Chief Peter Cornstalk teaching settlers to cure snake bites and believed that Cornstalk "warned a white family in Terre Haute that other Indians were planning to kidnap their red-haired child".

'Cornstalk' apparently was a moniker adopted by white settlers. History does in fact record another Chief Peter Cornstalk who was a Shawnee Chief from the Ohio/Kentucky area. One can even do a Google search and find the Shawnee Cornstalk on various Genweb/Ancestory sites. Historical information surrounding Chief Peter Cornstalk from Montgomery County, mentioned on the historical highway marker in Parkersburg, however, is slim.



Research indicates that the proper name of Chief Peter Cornstalk from the Montgomery County/Parkersburg area, was thought to be, 'Ah Son-song', translating to, 'Sunshine'. An 1828 treaty spelling out a land sale between the town of Thorntown and the Miami Nation of Indians shows the signature of, 'Awsawonzawgow' (which likely translates to Ah son-song) Chief of the Eel River Miami's, and is probably the same person.

In the year 1814, the Federal Government determined to classify all members of the Miami, Eel River and Wea tribes as the Miami Nation of Indians. Chief Peter Cornstalk's people, albeit tiny in number, never aspired to become labeled 'Miami Indians' and in 1847 were granted seperate status from the Miami Nation. This seperation of tribe status allowed the Eel River tribe, sometimes called, Snakefish tribe, to remain in the backwoods of Indiana while the Miami Nation was forced westward to Kansas and Oklahoma in 1846-1847. Records indicate that in 1851 there were 16 members of the Eel River Tribe living in Indiana.

Historians believe that members of Chief Peter Cornstalk's little band were migratory but chose to make their principle residence 3 miles East of Parkersburg on the banks of what is now Cornstalk Creek. Indian artifacts were found in Section 22, Scott Township, Montgomery County, on a bluff overlooking Cornstalk creek leading current day historians to believe this was most likely the location of their village. It is thought that the tribe came here in the winter for hunting and sugaring.

W. L. Anderson, Historian, reported the Eel River Tribe villages in Scott and Clark Township were deserted by 1928 however, Brelsford believed that Cornstalk and his tribe, being the migratory band that they were, still resided in the Montgomery County area for as long as 1830. Unfortunately, there is no confirmed data as to the whereabouts of Chief Peter Cornstalk and his band, after 1830.

Further research located a Cornstalk Post Office and a Peter Cornstalk creek in Howard County named for "an old Miami of the Thorntown band who lived in the vicinity". Located in the community of Burlington, Indiana, is Pete's Run Cemetery which is named for a creek running to the east side of the plot. It is thought that an Indian Burial Ground nearby the creek is the final resting place of a Chief Peter Cornstalk who died in 1938, hence the naming of the creek and subsequent cemetery.

Could this be the Chief Peter Cornstalk from Montgomery County who's migratory tribe disappeared from the area around 1830? Who knows! It's very hard to connect the historical dots between fact and fiction when you weren't there to experience it yourself!



Note - The Eel River Tribe is alive and well in Indiana today. For more information please visit their website at: http://www.eelrivertribeofindiana.org/

3 comments:

  1. Very well written; I too researched through Google about Peter Cornstalk so I could follow your narration well. I love the pictures you took of the cornstalks--look like postcards. You should be a writer! I am enjoying these history blogs.

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