Genealogy Trails


Indian Tribes and Indian Occupancy

Prior to the advent of the white settler to this region, the territory of which Rush county is now a part was the home of the Delaware Indians.   Living in the main at peace with each other, the various tribes were contented enough in their aboriginal state, but when the flood of Europeans began to encroach on the preserves of the red men, they banded together in powerful alliances to fight the common enemy, the white man.   However, there were at times serious dissensions in the ranks of the Indians, and early in the eighteenth century the Six Nations, a strong confederacy of Eastern tribes, had warred against the Delawares, who were considered by many to be the most advanced of any of the tribes in their civilization. The Delawares were defeated, and when the Six Nations sold the lands of the tribe to white settlers, the Delawares were compelled to move west of the Alleghany moun­tains.   Falling back gradually before the white immigra­tion, they finally came to occupy the western part of Ohio and the eastern portion of Indiana, having taken a par­ticular fancy to the fertile valley of the Whitewater. Although called Delawares by the whites, who had so named the tribe because of its original home along the Delaware river, named after Lord de la Ware, the In­dian name of this tribe was Lenni-Lenappes.   Their prin­cipal village in this vicinity was near what later became known as "Arnold's Home," the farm homestead of Dr. John Arnold, on the banks of Ben Davis creek in Union township.   But again the tribe had to move farther to the west when, by the terms of a treaty signed at St. Marys, Ohio, January 15, 1819, they agreed to take up their home west of the Mississippi river.


Following are the articles of the treaty with the Delawares at St. Marys in the state of Ohio, between Jona­than Jennings, Lewis Cass and Benjamin Parke, com­missioners of the United States, and the Delaware Indians.
Art. 1. The Delaware Nation of Indians cede to the United States all their claims to land in the state of Indiana.
Art. 2. In consideration of the aforesaid cession, the United States agree to provide for the Delawares a country to reside in upon the west side of the Mississippi, and to guarantee to them the peaceable possession of the same.
Art. 3. The United States also agree to pay to the Delawares the full value of their improvements in the country hereby ceded, which valuation shall be made by persons to be appointed for that purpose by the Presi­dent of the United States, and to furnish the Delawares with 120 horses not to exceed in value $40 each, and a sufficient of pirogues to aid in transporting them to the west side of the Mississippi, and a quantity of provisions proportioned to their numbers and the extent of their journey.
Art. 4. The Delawares shall be allowed the use and occupation of their improvements for the term of three years from the date of this treaty if they so long require it.
Art. 5. The United States agree to pay to the Dela­wares a perpetual annuity of $4,000, which, together with all annuities which the United States by former treaty agreed to pay them, shall be paid in silver at any place to which the Delawares may remove.
Art. 6. The United States agree to provide and sup­port a blacksmith for the Delawares, after their removal to the west side of the Mississippi.
Art. 8. A sum not exceeding $13,312.25, shall be paid by the United States, to satisfy certain claims against the Delaware Nation.  
Art. 9. This treaty after it shall be ratified by the President and Senate, shall be binding on the contracting parties.
As a result of this treaty a vast tract of virgin lands were made available to settlement by the whites, the Indiana territory was freed of the shiftless, though pic­turesque, bands of Indians, and another step in the for­mation of the great commonwealth of Indiana was consummated.


Dr. John Arnold, in his "Reminiscences of an Old Settler," which were published in the Rushville Repub­lican, has left us an invaluable glimpse of Indian life in its phases directly applying to Rush county. Ben Davis, the fierce old Indian chief, lived with his followers with­in what are the present confines of the county, and it is fortunate so intimate a review of his violent life and violent death has been preserved.
"At the time they came to this country, Ben Davis, with a considerable band of followers, located himself on the pleasant banks of the creek which now bears his name, but which the Indians, in tender remembrance of their former home, always called the Mahoning. And I must here say that I think it a pity that the euphonious Mahon­ing has been thrown away, and the harsh and unpoetic 'Ben Davis' used instead. Here, within 200 yards of where I write, stood their wigwams, and here were en­acted the various phases of savage life. Here, the braves, to barbaric music, performed their war-dance, chanting their deeds of daring on the battlefield; or, smoking their pipes, recounted their successful hunts of the swift-footed deer, the sturdy bear or the fierce panther. Here the patient squaw nursed her pappose  and  dreamed pleasant dreams of the possible future of her offspring. Here the gallant youth wooed and won his dusky bride, and enjoyed the perfect bliss, the satisfying rapture of knowing that the heart of her who is dearer to him than life is all his own. Here, the boys threw the tomahawk, wrestled, ran, and engaged in various athletic sports, to fit them for their future career in life. Hundreds of beech trees near the encampment bear the numerous scars inflicted by the stroke of the tomahawk. On many trees are outlined the figures of men or animals; but the most characteristic memento was the scalp tree. It was a large, tall tree on whose smooth bark was recorded the number of scalps taken. The number was over thirty; the marks were one above another, beginning about two feet from the ground and running up twenty or twenty-five feet. The emblem for a man was a round skullcap; that for a woman, the cap surmounted by a roll (to rep­resent twisted hair) ; that for a child was a broad, horizon­tal line. This tree was a great curiosity to strangers, and was calculated to excite great interest, as it was not only the memorial of the hard fought battle, but also of the lonely cabin, surprised at the dead hour of night, and all its inmates ruthlessly butchered. The tree is no longer to be seen; it was prostrated by a violent wind many years since, much to my regret.


"Personally, Ben Davis was a large and powerful Indian warrior, a deadly foe to the whites; and he had frequently led his braves on raids into the dark and bloody ground—the debatable name for Kentucky. In most of the battles for the possession of the present states of Ohio and Indiana, he had taken part. He was true to his friends, implacable to his foes, fond of fire water, and when under its influence, regardless of his surroundings, would boast of his prowess, and the number of scalps he had taken.   In short, he was a representative man of his race, a fair type of the brave, crafty and boastful Indian warrior.
"After the defeat of the Indians at Tippecanoe, they were compelled to sell their lands and again move west­ward. But old Ben Davis, although well aware that he was looked upon with dislike and suspicion by the white settlers, still occasionally revisited his former hunting grounds. In the year 1820, he had encamped on Blue creek, some three miles from Brookville. He had been there, perhaps, a week, daily visiting the town and drinking too much whisky. One day, in the Widow Adair's tavern, he was boasting of his bloody deeds, unmindful of the angry glances of the crowd around him, and, among other things, related how he, with his band, surprised a lonely settler in Kentucky, killing him with all his family except one boy, who happened to be a short distance from the cabin when attacked, and who, although hotly pursued, eluded his enemies and escaped. Now, in that crowded bar-room there was one intensely interested listener, a stern man, who heard from the lips of the old chieftain the particulars of the story of his fam­ily's massacre; for he was that flying boy who had saved his life by fleetness of foot when all his kindred fell. Without a word he left the room. The next day Ben Davis did not make his appearance in Brookville; but it excited but little remark, for he was erratic in his move­ments. The second day, some one passing his camp, found the old chief cold in death, with a bullet-hole in his forehead and his pipe fallen by his side, for he had been sitting by his fire, smoking, when he received his sudden message to visit the happy hunting-grounds of the In­dian's paradise. It was a fitting death for so fierce a spirit, for though he had escaped the whistling shot and trenchant steel in many a battle, he finally fell a victim to private vengeance. Public opinion, while unanimous as to the author of the deed, recognized the terrible provo­cation and justified the act, the more readily as many had lost friends by the hands of the red man. No judicial investigation was ever had, and Mr. Young still held a respectable standing in society."


While not numerically so evident in Rush county as in some other sections of Indiana there are distinct evi­dences of the presence here in that dim prehistoric per­iod, the date of which archaeologists have not definitely fixed, of the Mound Builders, a mysterious race which preceded the Indian occupancy of this country. Several burial "mounds" formerly were visible in Rush county, particularly in the southern part of the county, but with the clearing of the forests and the cultivation of the soil most of these have been leveled and. in some instances are known merely as neighborhood traditions. Years ago there was still quite evident a considerable mound in the northeast quarter of Section 21, Township 14, Range 9, in Posey township, that in the time of the early settlement of the county is said to have been 106 feet in diameter and fifteen feet in height and connected by a sort of a ditch with a smaller mound to the northeast. Many years ago the mound was covered with a heavy growth of beech tim­ber, but with the felling of the timber and the yearly plowing of the ground the monument of a prehistoric people has gradually assumed almost a level with the sur­rounding land. Back in the '80s Louis J. Offutt, then owner of the land, dug into the larger mound, near the center, and found parts of several skeletons, copper bands encircling the bones of the arms, wrists and ankles, bone beads and two curiously perforated pieces of jawbone with a single tusk-like tooth. The perforations were cut through the bone into the hollow of the tusk and gave it somewhat the appearance of a whistle, but its purpose was not quite evident to those who examined it. Several other such mounds have been explored in this county with somewhat similar results in the way of unearthing relics of that ancient period. Forty years ago there was such a mound explored on the old Gary farm, also in Posey township, and in that were disclosed numerous bits of pottery, a considerable quantity of beads of a varie­gated sort and the skeleton of a gigantic man.

Source: Centennial History of Rush County, Indiana Edited by A. L. Gray and E.B. Thomas 1921