My family has always believed that we were descended from Daniel Boone. My mother was a Boone, and we had family in Maysville, Kentucky, where Daniel Boone laid out the town, lived and served as sheriff.
A friend recently did some research to find out for me, and to get some additional information about how long my primarily English ancestors had been on this continent. I may have learned more than I wanted to know.
The research showed that while Daniel Boone was a relative, I’m not a direct descendant. His father and my sixth-great-grandfather were brothers, which makes Daniel a cousin. I was surprised to find that I have ancestors who were born in America as early as 1630, just 10 years after the Mayflower, and numerous ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. One great-grandfather died in Andersonville Confederate prison in 1864, and one was an Indian trader in southern Ohio in 1748, 40 years before Ohio’s first white settlement at Marietta.
I also found that I had three great-grandfathers who were murdered, one by marauding Indians in 1780, and one along with his two sons in a home invasion axe murder in 1861. But there was one even bigger surprise that just about blew me away.
My friend told me early in the research that I was descended from an Indian chief. When I received the material, it found that Seneca Chief Half-King Tanacharisin (1700-1754) was my seventh-great-grandfather. I Googled his name just for fun and with minimal expectation, assuming there had to be a proliferation of unknown chiefs in the 1700s. Surprisingly, the lengthy results included a book, “George Washington and the Half-King Chief Tanacharisin” and a PBS TV special about the French and Indian War that dwells on him. So, my great-grandfather was famous, although “infamous” might be a better word.
The Half-King — he was called that by the British due to his position of power — was closely associated with a young Lt. Col. George Washington, who made two forays into the Ohio country, and met both times with Tanacharisin, an important chief and local representative of the Iroquois Council at Onondaga, N.Y. Washington’s second mission in May 1754 was to build a fort and start the process of driving the French from the area. Tanacharisin was his native contact.
When the French heard of Washington’s expedition, they sent about 30 troops, allegedly to negotiate with him. The wily Tanacharisin was hostile to the French presence because it endangered his alliance with the British and his influence over the Ohio tribes. He learned of the French party, notified Washington and encouraged him to attack them. His intent was to manipulate Washington into starting a war, which the chief wanted the British to win. This would result in more positive trade terms, help cement his own control over the area tribes and maintain his position of power with the Iroquois Council.
The next day, he met Washington, and their combined forces attacked the French party, killed 12 and captured the rest. The wounded French leader Jumonville then began reading a prepared document in French. Washington didn’t speak French and had to wait for a translation, but Tanacharisin spoke fluent French since he had been captured by them as a boy.
Tanacharisin didn’t like the apparent conciliatory nature of the Frenchman’s words, so he decided to take action before Washington was able to understand the peaceful intent of the French. He took his hatchet to the Frenchman, split his head open, and scooped out part of his brains. He then proceeded to wash his hands with the brain matter.
Many historians agree that this event was the spark that eventually ignited the French and Indian War, one that actually resulted in more loss of life than the later Revolutionary War, and my great-grandfather is blamed for starting it.
Finding a notorious grandparent may be interesting, but I found one ancestor that disturbs me about as much as having a grandparent who started a war. It seems that I actually had a fifth-great-grandmother named Elizabeth Warren, just like phony “Pocahontas,” the senator from Massachusetts. It’s just about enough to make a political conservative like me want to chuck the whole thing.
Don Stratton is a retired inspector for the Lima Police Department. He writes a guest column for The Lima News.