LIMA — Lima’s newspapers devoted much of the first seven months of 1917 to breathlessly reporting on the week-long Allen County centennial celebration planned for early August of that year.
The newspapers described the upcoming parades, industrial expositions and exhibits, including an 1856 Wells-Fargo stagecoach and a cabin to be constructed in the Public Square from logs provided by each of the county’s townships. Events were to take place all over the county.
Finally, after months of planning, the celebration kicked off. “The Allen County centennial celebration, which commemorates the 100th birthday anniversary of the county opened at Lima Driving park last night in a blaze of glory,” the Lima Daily News declared on Aug. 7, 1917, “and the grandstand was filled to capacity with spectators for the event.”
However, among all the stories of parades and concerts and recollections of pioneer days, there is no explanation of exactly why a county created in 1820 and not formally organized until 1831 should mark its 100th birthday in 1917.
A story from earlier that year provides a hint. On Jan. 7, 1817, the News reported that a Spencerville man had collected a $15 prize for submitting the winning design for a centennial flag. “Across the top, semicircular in shape, is an Indian chief’s head, dressed with feathers, alternating red, white and blue, 13 in number, representing that period prior to 1817 when the savage was ruler.”
Eighteen seventeen was the year “the savage” rule ended and settlement began. “A family named Russell were the first whites who settled within the bounds of the county,” T.E. Cunningham told the Pioneer Association in Lima on Sept. 22, 1871. “On the Auglaize (at Fort Amanda), in 1817, they opened the first farm, and there the first white child was born. That child, who afterward became the wife of Charles C. Marshall, of Delphos, was familiarly called by the neighbors ‘the Daughter of Allen County.’ That “Daughter of Allen County” was Susanna Russell, who died in the summer of 1871, shortly before Cunningham’s address.
Before the Russells could move in, however, people with names like Piaseka (Wolf), Wassewela (Bright Horn) and Shemenutu (Snake) would have to move out. This, too, took place in 1817.
As R. Douglas Hurt explained in his 1996 book “The Ohio Frontier,” the federal government in 1817 “began in earnest to remake the Ohio Indians in the white man’s image” by confining them to reservations where “they could learn to live like small-scale white farmers.”
“The government began to implement that policy in Ohio when, on Sept. 29, 1817, commissioners Lewis Cass, governor of the Michigan Territory, and Duncan McArthur (an Ohio politician and Army general) signed a treaty at the Maumee Rapids (present day Perrysburg), in which the Wyandots, Shawnees, Delawares, Senecas and Ottawas ceded almost all their lands north of the Greenville Treaty line,” Hurt wrote. In addition to annual payments from the government, the treaty, also known as the Fort Meigs Treaty or the Maumee Rapids Treaty, granted the Indians a number of reservations.
The Shawnees were granted several reservations, the largest of which was centered on their council house at Wapakoneta. An adjoining, smaller reservation was set aside for Shawnees living in villages along Hog Creek. This reservation included much of present day Shawnee Township and southwest Lima. Another reservation for a mixed band of Shawnees and Senecas under a chief known as Colonel Lewis was set aside in Logan County.
C.W. Williamson wrote in his 1905 “History of Western Ohio and Auglaize County” that the Shawnees “arrogant pride and warlike ferocity made them one of the most formidable of all the nations with which the white settlers had to contend in the Ohio valley. They murdered old and young, male and female, without pity and without remorse. They rejoiced in battle and carnage, in deception, stratagem and faithlessness … Skulking bands of Shawnees infested the Ohio river from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati, attacking flat boats in their descent down the river, leading their crews captive to Chillicothe and other towns where the bands resided, to be tortured and murdered.”
The Shawnees, through a shifting series of alliances with the French and British, had resisted white encroachment into Ohio in the mid-1700s. During the Revolutionary War, they were allied with the British in the belief the British would prevent American settlers from entering the territory. Following the Revolution, the Shawnees joined a confederation of tribes led by the Miami chief Little Turtle to resist encroachment.
In his book, Williamson noted that a band of 150 Shawnee warriors left Wapakoneta in November 1791 to join Little Turtle in the near-destruction of an American force under Arthur St. Clair on the headwaters of the Wabash River in Mercer County. The loss of American troops dwarfed that of Custer at the Little Big Horn. “The Shawnee warriors returned to Wapakoneta, rich with the spoils of war,” Williamson added.
Ultimately, after their defeat at Fallen Timbers, the Indians in 1795 signed the Treaty of Greenville, which confined them to Northwest Ohio. Twenty-two years later, at Fort Meigs, the Indians gave up most of that, settled down to reservation life and attempted to become farmers.
The Shawnees, who Williamson described as “the Arabs of the wilderness” for their migratory ways, weren’t ideal candidates to become small-scale farmers. Nevertheless, according to Hurt, the federal government and other groups, notably the Quakers, “attempted to help the Indians on the reserves to practice agriculture in the white tradition and Christianize them.”
According to Hurt, John Johnston, who served as agent for the Shawnees at Wapakoneta and along the Hog Creek, reported in 1819 that “for several years past, the Society of Friends at considerable expense have supported an agricultural establishment among the Shawanese (Shawnees).” The Quakers built a grist- and sawmill, demonstrated farming techniques and planned to open a school.
In 1829, Hurt noted, the Quakers at Wapakoneta “reported that the Indians are mostly settled on farms, and that many of them raise grain and stock sufficient for their own consumption.”
That same year, Andrew Jackson was elected president after a campaign in which removal of the Indians to reservations west of the Mississippi had been a hot issue. On May 28, 1830, after bitter debate, Congress passed a measure known as the “Indian Removal Bill.”
“In September 1832,” Hurt wrote, “the Wapakoneta band left for the Indian Territory, and the Hog Creek band joined them the following summer. When the federal government moved the last of the Shawnees at Hog Creek west of the Mississippi during the summer of 1833, the Quaker school closed.”
One notable Shawnee leader would not go. Catahecassa (Black Hoof), who had fought in most of the Shawnees’ battles since the middle of the 1700s and who had represented the tribe at Greenville, died at Wapakoneta in 1831. He’s buried near St. Johns.
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.