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  < Back to Table Of Contents  < Back to Topic: Local Histories, Pictures & Event Archives

article number 190
article date 12-11-2012
copyright 2012 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Indiana Pioneers Live with the Miami Indians, 1832
by Donald M. Ream
   

From the 1954 Yearbook of the Society of Indiana Pioneers.

Before my maternal great-grandfather, Jacob Isaac Kitt, moved his family from their Ohio homestead, where there was some degree of refined living, he came to his newly acquired lands in Clear Creek Township, Huntington County, Indiana, in the latter part of the summer in the year 1831, after the harvest of the crops had been completed in Ohio.

Grandfather Kitt and several of his fellow Ohioans, who accompanied him, journeyed overland and on horse-back, bringing with them their rifles, axes and a few needed supplies. These Ohio friends came with grandfather Kitt for the purpose to aid him in the building of a log cabin, and without pay or compensation other than “to see the new country” as a reward for their labors.

At the place of the Kitt’s new and future home, these mighty men from Ohio, camped, primarily “living off of the country,” felled the trees, cut and notched them, and assembled and raised a structure, which they called a log-cabin.

The cabin was not a completed one. It had only the naked earth for a floor, windows were omitted, in the construction process, and time did not permit this edifice of the wilderness to claim or support a door, though an opening Was provided for the purpose of ingress and egress, but the chinking and the mud daubing would have to await a future time.

All of these Ohio men returned to their homes, feeling some sense of satisfaction, that they had initiated “a carving of a new home in the wilderness” for the Kitt family.

   

A new home, circuited by primeval giants of the forest, over-head a blue vaulted sky by day, and a field of starry diadems by night, set in complete silence, only broken by an occasional rustle of the leaves—the movement of animals of nature, or the sure foot of the red-skin and stealthy savage. In such surroundings, the cabin awaited the coming of the Kitt Family from Ohio. Here was to be another Hoosier homestead.

It was the latter part of October, or the early part of November, in the same year that the Kitt cabin was built.

Grandfather Kitt, his wife and three children, (one of whom was my grandmother, Delilah Kitt Ream, then a child of about six years,) left their Ohio home, with all eyes directed towards the new pioneer Indiana home. An oxen team was the motive power and a covered wagon was the vehicle that conveyed the Kitt family westward into the boundaries of Indiana.

Grandmother Kitt, the children, a few head of swine, some poultry, a meager amount of household goods and utensils crowded the wagon for the long ride. Two head of cattle and several horses trailed the wagon. Grandfather walked a large measure of the way, which was occasioned by his driving of the oxen team. Again several of the family’s neighbors and friends of Ohio accompanied the Kitt family to Indiana, in order that some protection might be afforded the party, and to satisfy the insatiable desire of Ohio people “to see the new country.” The immigration of the Kitt party was accomplished without unusual accideit or event.

   

With the foregoing serving as a preface, some few details of the Kitt family’s pioneer life in Indiana ought to be mentioned as father told me.

The cabin being doorless, grandfather draped a deer skin over the opening into the cabin and attached a short length of a small log to the lower part of the skin where it met the earth floor, to prevent prowling animals from entering the cabin.

This did not bar neighboring Indians from pushing aside the “skin-door,” day or night, whenever their fancy urged them to call at the cabin. These aborigines of the range would often push aside the skin door, enter the cabin unannounced, and plead to grandmother Kitt to make a stack of corn cakes on her iron griddle for them. This she did, as grandfather Kitt had often instructed her to do—and especially if he were absent from the cabin.

Grandfather Kitt talked to himself. To clear the land, it was necessary for grandfather Kitt to leave the cabin long before day-break and return long after sun-set, and he being absent long hours away from his family, and not having any companion with him in the woods, he would often talk to himself, so that he would not forget how to speak the language. It seems that it was a pioneer belief, that if one was in the woods for long periods of time without contact with other humans, one would forget how to speak.

After the wolves had destroyed several pigs of grandfather Kitt’s small inventory of livestock, the Indians taught grandfather the science of making an Indian fence, by felling trees in a circle with the branches outward, and placing in a tight formation up-rooted thorn trees about the perimeter of the branches of the felled trees. This fence served its purpose, as it kept the wolves away from the live stock and no loss of pigs ever occurred after the fence had been constructed.

   
Clearing the land.

Grandfather Kitt’s time was devoted to the clearing of the land and as a consequence he did not always have sufficient time to hunt, in order that his family table might have game meat, but he did chew plug tobacco. Neighboring Indians would beg him for a chew from his plug of tobacco. He would go out of the cabin, stretching his arms upwards towards the tree tops and spreading his fingers and thumbs apart as far as possible. This sign indicated that he would trade tobacco for ten squirrels. In due time the required number of squirrels would be delivered and Indians would be rewarded by small pieces of tobacco shaved from the plug.

One time the Indians stole a fat pig from grandfather’s stock. The next time grandfather was acquiring supplies at the trading post, he purchased a bolt of red calico. Upon his return to his home, he called at the neighboring village of a petty chief of the local tribe of Indians. He related to the chief that his fat pig had been stolen by some Indians, and to prove that he was not angered he was making a present to the Indians of the bolt of calico. He further stated that neighbors and friends should not be in bad temper with each other, and they should not steal the pigs of their friends. After that incident the Indians never again purloined anything from the Kitt home.

When grandmother Ream (Delilah Kitt) was about seven years old she was permitted to visit an Indian family, who lived about a mile and a half from the Kitt cabin. There, at the Indian home, she would play with the Indian children. One time, when returning from a visit with the Indian family, she was coming through the woods and noticed a short distance from the woodland path, a long log which was nearly submerged in the earth and appeared to have a lid fitted on it. She removed the lid cover from the log, and when she did this the body of a dead Indian girl, about fourteen years old, floated higher than the edge of the log where the cover had been. It seems that the log had collected water and the body was buoyed upward.

Delilah was so frightened, that she hurriedly ran home and informed her father of the happening. Father and daughter returned to the place of the Indian girl’s burial, there carefully replaced the cover on the log casket, and re-scattered leaves and earth over the log in an attempt to make it appear that the burial of the Indian girl had not been disturbed. The father and daughter promised each other that they would never reveal the occurrence, as the Indians were easily aroused when the burial of their dead was disturbed or molested.

   

Grandmother Ream related of the time when one of her relatives returning from Logansport over the Harrison Trace along the Wabash River, witnessed an Indian burial.

It seems that the relative and a companion were traveling on the trail, near what is now the Town of Lagro, in Wabash County, when they observed an Indian leading an Indian pony, hitched to a travis, and upon which was loaded some object. The travis was followed by Indian men, women and children, many of them carrying small burdens, and all
seemed to be wailing some mournful noise. These two men of the trail secreted themselves behind trees and observed the Indian party to stop near a mound of freshly dug earth.

The Indian pony was led along side of the mound and the burden on the travis was removed. Then an Indian stepped away from the pony a few paces, lifted a rifle and aimed at the animal. A shot louder than the Indian wails was heard, and the pony fell into what later was discovered to be an Indian grave. A similar happening occurred to a dog; then the Indian’s body was placed in the grave. For a period from ten to fifteen minutes the entire Indian group cried and wailed in wild tones of grief, with some slow dance being done by a few Indians about the mound. After this ritual had been completed, the entire company of Indians retired to their village, which was about a half mile distant from the burial ground.

After the withdrawal of the Indians, the white spectators came from behind the trees and carefully made their way to the mound of earth. Here they discovered an excavation about five feet cubed, in which a dead Indian had been placed in a sitting position, facing the East, with a rifle placed across his lap. The pony was found in front of the corpse, the dog on one side of the body and blankets, pottery and other Indian accoutrement on the other side.

These travelers, having viewed an Indian burial, returned to the trail towards their home.

Kil-so-quah, the grand-daughter of Chief Little Turtle, lived a short distance west of Roanoke, Indiana. It has been stated by some historians that Kil-so-quah, when a small child of about 2 years of age, would climb upon the old Warrior of Fallen Timbers, and Wayne’s adversary, and would run her fingers through his long hair, that flowed over his shoulders, and when his grand-daughter would pull and yank his tresses, he would pretend that he was suffering hurt to the great delight of his grand-child. Kil-so-quah was an Indian princess.

One day in August of 1906 or 1907, Father told me that we would go to Roanoke to see an Indian princess. This excursion I looked forward to with great expectation. Finally the day arrived, when we boarded the interurban car of the Wabash Valley line for the journey to Roanoke. We walked the dusty country road to Kil-so-quah’s home, and to my great surprise and disappointment I learned that the Indian princess lived in a small house, much like the white man did.

The house was the usual gable constructed building, with a lean-to type of shed attached to the rear, having many counter-parts in Indiana. It appeared to have two rooms up-stairs and three down, including the shed arrangement on the rear. This house I recall was situated in a yard of about a half an acre of ground, surrounded by a wire woven fence. The gate in the fence was hanging by one hinge and partly ajar. At the rear door was an iron pump mounted on a wooden platform about ten feet square.

When father and I entered the gate and approached the rear of the house, we observed a man sitting on the wooden platform with a non-descript breed of dog at his side, and an old lady watching through the rear screen door of the house.

Father greeted the man, who later we found to have the Indian name of White Loon and was the son of Kil-so-quah and her second husband, Anthony Revarre. Father stated that I, his son, came to see the Indian princess, Kil-so-quah. The son called to the old lady, standing in the screened doorway, in a language that I never before heard nor since that time have I ever heard. It was the Miami tongue, and the Indian princess did not converse in English.

The old lady, who had been observing our approach to her home and our conversation with her son, came out of the house onto the well platform. I noticed that she had a brown, weathered and wrinkled face and wore a neat, clean and plain dress of faded calico.

   
A HOOSIER PRINCESS: Kil-so-quah (The Setting Sun) was a grand-daughter of Little Turtle. She married Antoine Revarre, a French Canadian, and lived near Roanoke, Indiana.

Her son again spoke in her native tongue and she replied to him, and he translated an apparent question directed to my father, “Was the boy a good boy?” (referring to me). Father in a joking and good natured way said, “Some times good and some times not so good.” Father’s reply was translated to Kil-so-quah by her son.

She then came over to me and placed her hand on my shoulder, and with a kind and gentle smile breaking from her firm and stoic face, she spoke to her son, who explained that his mother said: “Like all boys, white boys and Indian boys, some time good and some time not too good.” And then she patted me on the shoulder in a gentle and kind fashion for a little while. She removed her hand from my person and her eyes dimmed and squinted a bit as she looked across the field towards the distant valley of Little River, and now, I often wonder, if her thoughts were recurring to the times of her early motherhood and her boy, small as I was, when she patted and caressed me.

When in pensive mood and I recall the visit with Kil-so-quah and conclude: that Time is not so far removed from the days of Fallen Timber to now, for the hand that stroked Little Turtle’s head has patted and caressed my shoulder.

Most of these tales of pioneer days Grandmother Ream told father, and father told me, and now I have told them to you. I suppose, they ought to be called Thrice Told Tales.

Donald M. Ream is a native of Huntington County with an intense interest in American history. He is a member of the Indiana State Senate, and is an Indianapolis attorney. (Again, this article appeared in 1954.)

   
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