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Sardis Birchard

Life and Livelihood

| Livelihood | Indian Traders | Birchard's Store |

Indians at Sardis Birchard's Store, Lower Sandusky

Sardis Birchard owned a store in Lower Sandusky during the time the Senecas were on their reservation. Birchard enjoyed a strong Indian trade. Besides the Senecas, Ottawas, Wyandots and Delawares also traded in Lower Sandusky. Birchard's store was often full of customers from the reservations. Birchard found the Indians honest and it was not unusual to find his storeroom full of Indians sleeping at night. Among his customers was Seneca John.

"Seneca John was a tall, noble looking man, said to look very much like Henry Clay. He was always a pleasant, cheerful man, and almost always wore a smile. He was called the most eloquent speaker of his tribe. If there was anger, or ill-feeling in the council, he could always restore harmony. He was particularly admired by the squaws, and fond of buying gifts for them. He traded much with Mr. B., and on the evening before the morning of his death, was at Mr. B's store. The whole tribe seemed to be in town. Steel and Coonstick, half brothers of Seneca John, were jealous of his power. Mr. B. knew all the parties and remembers well, when, on the last evening of his life, and above referred to, he bade Mr. B. good-bye. They stood together on the platform, in front of Mr. B's store, as the Indians went off south on their horses. He looked at them, as they moved off, with such sadness in his face that it attracted Mr. B's attention, who wondered at his letting them all go off without him. Then he turned to Mr. B., and inquired the amount of his indebtedness. They went back together into the store, and passed behind the counter to the desk. The account was figured up, and the amount stated to John. Saying something about paying it, he bade Mr. B. good-bye, and went off - making no reference to his trouble.

Hard-Hickory lived about a mile below Green Springs, in a cabin yet standing, and Seneca John, the night before his execution, slept under Hard-Hickory's porch. Steel and Coonstick, at sunrise, called and waked him. John told them to kill him quick. They tomahawked him. Mr. B. obtained this statement from Hard-Hickory, who came into town that day, or the next, with Tall Chief, and told him about it.

Tall Chief could not talk English well. Mr. B's clerk, Obed Dickinson, could talk better Indian than himself, and he asked Obed to inquire of Tall Chief if he was willing that Steel and Coonstick should be arrested? Tall Chief thought it was a great crime, and he was understood to say "yes"; but when they were arrested, Tall Chief did all he could to defend them. Tall Chief was a man of great dignity of manner and character.

Mr. B. found the Indians, in their business transactions, generally very honest. They would not steal as much as the same number of whites, with the same opportunities. He has had his store room full of Indians, sleeping all night on the floor, with no watch or guard, and sleeping in a cot near by them.

Tall Chief always settled the debts of the Indians who died - believing that 'they couldn't enter the good hunting grounds of the spirit-land, until their debts were paid.' He settled the bills of Seneca John, after the death of the latter."

(Excerpted from: History of the Maumee Valley, by H. S Knapp, published in 1872)

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