The Seneca Indians often traveled through southern Huron County on their way to eastern hunting grounds. During these hunting trips the Senecas would often trade baskets, trinkets and game with the white settlers. In exchange the Indians would receive bread, meal and flour. In some instances friendships sprang up between Indians and white settlers. Seneca John was also a participant on these hunting trips and was known by the white settlers of Huron County. The following vignettes describe his relationship with some of the settlers.
"Seneca John, the famous chief, used to carry the children of Caleb Palmer, the pioneer settler of New Haven, upon his shoulders. So strong was their affection for him, that when they saw a band of Indians coming they would rush forward with cries of delight, and when the tall, stalwart form of Seneca John greeted their eyes, they would run to him, climb to his shoulders and ride thereon to and from school. The children of the whites and Indians intermingled in their games, and each were on as friendly terms with the others as they were with their own kind. Mrs. Platt Benedict, in her last years, said; "We gained the friendship of those denizens of the forest, and they brought us many, many presents in their own rude way."
(Excerpted from: Historical Collections of Ohio, Volume I, by Henry Howe, published in 1888)
"Most of the Indians who were seen by the early settlers in New Haven, were of the Seneca tribe, one of the divisions of the formerly powerful nation known as the Iroquois Confederacy. The southwestern part of Huron county was peculiarly the hunting ground of this tribe. The Wyandots or Hurons were also seen, but not so frequently; and at times, some of the Delawares, the kindred of the Mohicans, about whom Cooper has woven so much of romance, passed through the country, as did small bands from various tribes of the Algonquin race.
"Before the settlement of the country some of these tribes inhabited the Fire-lands, and held them as their own. After the pale face came, they no longer regarded the territory as their home, and seem only to have wandered through it, tarrying a little while here and there, hunting, fishing and making maple sugar. They had some villages in the northern part of the Fire-lands, but none in the southern. They were peaceable after the war had closed, and in New Haven, as in most other townships, there were no instances of any violence or crime being committed by them. The Senecas passed through New Haven, on their way to the eastern hunting grounds, sometimes in bodies of several hundreds, but more often in small companies which occasionally camped for a few days or weeks near the bank of the Huron. Some rode upon ponies, and some traveled afoot. All were clothed in characteristic Indian style. The warriors wore the peculiarly fierce appearing feather head dress, and were clothed in buckskin. The squaws were always neatly dressed, in short skirts, beaded moccasins, and gaily bedecked blankets. They brought baskets, deer hams and various trinkets to the settlers, which they were always anxious to barter for bread, flour or meal. There were strong friendships between some of the whites and Indians. Even the little children were so accustomed to seeing the dusky savages that they did not fear them, and, indeed, formed for some of them strong attachments. Seneca John, the famous chief, used to carry the Palmer children upon his shoulders, and they learned to like him and look eagerly for his coming. Sometimes when a band of Indians was seen approaching, they would watch them closely to see if Seneca John was among them, and then if they distinguished his tall, stalwart form, they would run to meet him and vie with each other [for] the honor of a ride, to or from school, perched high upon his shoulder. The pale faced children played with the Indian boys and girls, visited them at their camps and were upon as friendly terms as with the youthful playmates of their own race."
History of the Fire Lands, Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio,
by W. W. Williams, published in 1879)
"With Seneca John I became well acquainted. Both he and his wife were honest, industrious and of more than ordinary intelligence. One winter while camped at Slate Run one of their children died. The corpse was taken to Seneca county for burial, I saw them on the way. He was on foot drawing the body on a sled and his wife followed horseback. In this way they traveled some 40 miles to the burial place.
"The Indians were often
abused and cheated by some of the whites, Seneca John once bought a
horse of Mr. Blanchard of Sherman and took it home to Seneca. A few
days afterwards Blanchard stole the horse and sold it at Huron. When
John came to Sherman in pursuit Blanchard stoutly denied any knowledge
of the matter. I knew he was guilty and told John so; I gave him a written
line to that effect which he took to the Government Agent of his tribe
and a line from him made Blanchard glad to restore the horse. This act
of friendship John always remembered and afterwards took particular
pains to oblige me.
The Firelands Pioneer, June 1864, published by Firelands Historical
In November 1819 Rev. James Montgomery was appointed as the first agent of the Seneca Indians. He served until his death in 1830, and was then replaced by Henry Brish. Montgomery's daughter, Mrs. Sally Ingham, wrote of her father's dealings with the Indians. In one account she mentions Seneca John and the problems with whiskey amongst the Indians.
"Seneca John used to get drunk occasionally, and it troubled my father very much to ascertain the way John got his whisky. He finally hit upon a plan to catch a man by the name of Broughton, whom he had suspected for some time. He took Mr. Isaac I. Dumond, Shane and John with him to Broughton's one evening. Father had dressed himself in Indian costume, and when the party were seated around on benches in Broughton's house, John called for whisky, and after drinking some, handed the glass over to father, who tasted it to be sure that it was whisky. Then father threw back his feathers and blanket, and when Broughton recognized him he almost sank into the ground. After a severe reprimand from father, Broughton promised to sell no more whisky to Indians, and he was let go without punishment for the time being."
(Excerpted from: History of Seneca County, by William Lang, published in 1880.)
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