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Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Squaring the Circle: Intrusion, Dispossession, Supercession at "Burning Indian Mound"


Southern side of the Luthor List Mound, aka
"Burning Indian Mound" or "Signal Mound", built by the prehistoric Adena culture, located northeast of the junction of the Kingston Pike and Hitler Road #2 south of Circleville in Circleville Township, Pickaway County, Ohio. One of the largest burial mounds in Pickaway County, the Luthor List Mound is believed to contain the skeletons of many leading members of the society that built it. The mound's location atop a small ridge, far from major bodies of water, is indicative that it was built by Adenan peoples, who often buried their chieftains in mounds such as the Luthor List Mound. Such mounds were typically built in stages: individuals would be buried within small mounds, and the resulting mound cluster would be covered with earth and converted into a single large mound. Unlike many of the region's conical mounds, the Luthor List Mound has seen very little damage since white settlement of the region. The erosion caused by the plows of past farmers has not damaged the Luthor List Mound because of its location -- rising 12 feet (3.7 m) above the ridgeline and with a diameter of at least 75 feet (23 m) in all directions, and covered with trees, it is not an ideal farming location: photo by Nytend, 10 July  2010

File:Adena house.JPG

Adena house, paired-post circular hut. The Adena culture was a Pre-Columbian Native American culture that existed from 1000 to 200 BC, in a time known as the Early Woodland period..The Adena culture refers to what were probably a number of related Native American societies sharing a burial complex and ceremonial system. The Adena lived in a variety of locations, including Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky and parts of Pennsylvania and New York: image by siyajkak, 27 May 2005

Frontier explorer Christopher Gist was the first recorded European visitor to the site of the later white settlers' community of Circleville, Ohio area. Gist reached the Indian settlement "Maguck," a small town of about 10 Native American families on the east bank of the Scioto River and the south side of the present-day Circleville, on January 20, 1751, and remained in the town until January 24.

Original Circleville: image via Circleville, Ohio town website

The Circleville Earthworks were constructed by the Hopewell culture (100 B.C. to 500 A.D.) of prehistoric Native American people in what is now Circleville, Ohio. A circular earthwork consisted of an outer circular wall 1,140 feet in diameter and an inner circular wall with a ditch between them. This double-circle was connected to a square enclosure 908 feet long on each side. In 1820, the walls were five to six feet in height and the ditch was around 15 feet deep. The square had eight openings and each opening was partially blocked by a mound. These mounds were about 40 feet in diameter and four feet in height. At the center of the concentric circles there was a mound, which was about 15 feet in height and about 60 feet in diameter. When excavated, this mound was found to contain a number of burials and artifacts.

Daniel Dresbach founded the community of Circleville along the Scioto River in 1810. The town received its name from circular earthworks that Hopewell Native Americans had constructed in the area, although urban development has destroyed many of those original mounds. Circleville became the county seat for Pickaway County in 1810, and the first courthouse was built in the middle of the circular earthworks for which the community was named.

Dresbach laid out Circleville in a circular pattern. During the 1830s, residents tired of the unusual street patterns. In 1837, the Ohio legislature authorized the Circleville Squaring Company to redesign the community with a more traditional grid pattern. The Circleville Squaring Company completed work in 1856. This marked one of the earlier examples of urban redevelopment in the United States. Most of the native earthworks disappeared as a result of this redevelopment. 

 (Ohio History Central)


Bird's-eye view of Circleville in 1836, looking south: color print, artist unknown. Circleville, located along the Scioto River, was founded in 1810 and became the county seat for Pickaway County (via Ohio History Central)

Circleville 1876

Birds eye view of the city of Circleville, Pickaway County, Ohio [after completion of "squaring" into a conventional modern urban grid pattern]: A. Ruger, 1876 (Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress)

File:Ohio Country en.png

Map of the Ohio Country: image by Nikater, 17 September 2007; background map incorporating later state boundaries courtesy of Demis and Wilcomb E. Washburn: Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 4: History of Indian-White Relations. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C. 1988

One day I undertook a tour through the country, and the diversity and beauties of nature I met with in this charming season, expelled every gloomy and vexatious thought. Just at the close of day the gentle gales retired, and left the place to the disposal of a profound calm. Not a breeze shook the most tremulous leaf. I had gained the summit of a commanding ridge, and, looking round with astonishing delight, beheld the ample plains, the beauteous tracts below. On the other hand, I surveyed the famous river Ohio that rolled in silent dignity, marking the western boundary of Kentucke with inconceivable grandeur. At a vast distance I beheld the mountains lift their venerable brows, and penetrate the clouds. All things were still.

. . .

We proceeded successfully, and after a long and fatiguing journey through a mountainous wilderness, in a westward direction, on the seventh day of June following, we found ourselves on Red-River, where John Finley had formerly been trading with the Indians, and, from the top of an eminence, saw with pleasure the beautiful level of Kentucke. Here let me observe, that for some time we had experienced the most uncomfortable weather as a prelibation of our future sufferings. At this place we encamped, and made a shelter to defend us from the inclement season, and began to hunt and reconnoitre the country. We found every where abundance of wild beasts of all sorts, through this vast forest. The buffaloes
were more frequent than I have seen cattle in the settlements, browzing on the leaves of the cane, or croping the herbage on those extensive plains, fearless, because ignorant, of the violence of man. Sometimes we saw hundreds in
a drove, and the numbers about the salt springs were amazing. In this forest, the habitation of beasts of every kind natural to America, we practised hunting with great success until the twenty-second day of December following [1769].

. . .

On the twenty-fifth of this month [July 1777] a reinforcement of forty-five men arrived from North-Carolina, and about the twentieth of August following, Col. Bowman arrived with one hundred men from Virginia. Now we began to strengthen, and from hence, for the space of six weeks, we had skirmishes with Indians, in one quarter or other, almost every day. The savages now learned the superiority of the Long Knife, as they call the Virginians, by experience; being out-generalled in almost every battle. Our affairs began to wear a new aspect, and the enemy, not daring to venture on open war, practised secret mischief at times.

. . .

The Indians had spies out viewing our movements, and were greatly alarmed with our increase in number and fortifications. The Grand Councils of the nations were held frequently, and with more deliberation than
usual. They
evidently saw the approaching hour when the Long Knife would disposess them of their desirable habitations; and anxiously concerned for futurity, determined utterly to extirpate the whites out of Kentucke. We were not intimidated by their movements, but frequently gave them proofs of our courage. About the first of August [1778], I made an incursion into the Indian country, with a party of nineteen men,
in order to surprise a small town up Sciotha, called
Paint-Creek-Town. We advanced within four miles thereof, where we met a party of thirty Indians, on their march against Boonsborough, intending to join the othersfrom Chelicothe. A smart fight ensued betwixt us for some time: At length the savages gave way, and fled. We had no loss on our side...

. . .

[1779] The hostile disposition of the savages, and their allies, caused General Clark, the commandant at the Falls of the Ohio, immediately to begin an expedition with his own regiment, and the armed force
of the country, against Pecaway,
the principal town of the Shawanese, on a branch of Great Miami, which he finished with great success, took seventeen scalps, and burnt the town to ashes, with the loss
of seventeen men...

Daniel Boone, from The Adventures of Col. Daniel Boon; containing a Narrative of the Wars of Kentucke, in John Filson: The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke (1784) [Chelicothe = Chilicothe, first capital of Ohio, upon attainment of statehood, 1803; Sciotha = Scioto [River]; Shawanese = Shawnees; Pecaway = present site of Circleville, Pickaway County, Ohio]

"We Virginians had for some time been waging a war of intrusion upon them, and I, amongst the rest, rambled through the woods in pursuit of their race, as I now would follow the tracks of [a] ravenous animal."

Daniel Boone, on the settler-Indian conflicts in Ohio Country, quoted in Maria R. Audobon, ed. Audobon and his Journals (1897)

The Pekowi or Pekoway band were one of one of the five divisions of the Shawnee people during the eighteenth century. Together with the other four divisions they formed the loose confederacy that was the Shawnee tribe.

Traditionally, Shawnee ritual leaders came from the Pekowi patrilineal division. 

All five Shawnee division names have been variously spelt. Variations of the name Pekowi are reflected in many place names, including Pickaway (referred to by Boone as "Pecaway"). 

File:Shawnee Prophet, Tenskwatawa.jpg

The Shawnee Prophet, Tenskwatawa, brother of Tecumseh: Charles Bird King (1785-1862), commissioned by Bureau of Indian Affairs, c. 1820; image by P.S. Burton, 29 July 2012 (Smithsonian American Art Museum)


Ten-sqúat-a-way, The Open Door, Known as The Prophet, Brother of Tecumseh: George Catlin (1796-1872), 1830, oil on canvas, 73.7 x 60.9 cm (Smithsonian American Art Museum)

“The ‘Shawnee Prophet,’ is perhaps one of the most remarkable men, who has flourished on these frontiers for some time past. This man is brother of the famous Tecumseh, and quite equal in his medicines or mysteries, to what his brother was in arms; he was blind in his right eye, and in his right hand he was holding his ‘medicine fire,’ and his ‘sacred string of beads’ in the other. With these mysteries he made his way through most of the North Western tribes, enlisting warriors wherever he went, to assist Tecumseh in effecting his great scheme, of forming a confederacy of all the Indians on the frontier, to drive back the whites and defend the Indians’ rights; which he told them could never in any other way be protected . . . [he] had actually enlisted some eight or ten thousand, who were sworn to follow him home; and in a few days would have been on their way with him, had not a couple of his political enemies from his own tribe... defeated his plans, by pronouncing him an imposter . . . This, no doubt, has been a very shrewd and influential man, but circumstances have destroyed him . . . and he now lives respected, but silent and melancholy in his tribe.”-- Catlin

Pah-te-cóo-saw aka Straight Man, Shawnee, Semicivilized: George Catlin (1796-1872), 1830, oil on canvas, 73.7 x 60.9 cm (Smithsonian American Art Museum)

Grass, Bush and Blossom or Lay-lóo-ah-pee-ái-shee-kaw, Shawnee, Semicivilized: George Catlin (1796-1782), 1830, oil on canvas, 73.7 x 60.9 cm (Smithsonian American Art Museum)
The artist described the Shawnee at the time of this portrait: “Remains of a numerous tribe, formerly inhabiting part of Pennsylvania, afterwards Ohio, and recently removed west of the Mississippi River. Number at present about 1200.”


Shawnee leader Tecumseh (1768-1813), pictured in a British general's uniform: Benson John Lossing (1813-1891), c. 1868. 
 A colored version of Lossing's portrait of Tecumseh. No fully authenticated portrait of Tecumseh exists; Lossing had not met the Native Indian leader and assumed that he was a British general.

Working from a pencil sketch made in 1808 by Pierre le Dru, Lossing replaced Tecumseh's native costume with a British uniform and painted this portrait. Lossing published the painting in his The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812 (1868): image by Nikater, 6 February 2007

"Where today are the Pekoway ? Where are the Narragansett, the Mochican, the Pocanet, and other powerful tribes of our people? They 
have vanished before the avarice and oppression of the white man, as snow before the summer sun ... Sleep not longer, O Choctaws and Chickasaws ... Will not the bones of our dead be plowed up, and their graves turned into plowed fields?"

-- Tecumseh, 1811

File:1872 Chiefs Cornstalk Logan and Red Eagle from Frosts pictorial history of Indian.jpg

Cornstalk (Shawnee: Hokoleskwa) (ca. 1720 – November 10, 1777), a prominent leader of the Shawnee nation: illustrator unknown, in John Frost, L.L. D: Frost's pictorial history of Indian wars and captivities from the earliest record of American history
 to the present time; image by CDA, 16 September 2012

File:Shawnee lang.png

Distribution of Shawnee language: Map redrawn and modified from two maps by cartographer Roberta Bloom appearing in Marianne Mithun:
The Languages of Native North America, 1999; image by Ishwar. 24 August 2005

File:Capture of the Daughters of Daniel Boone and Richard Callaway by the Indians by Karl Bodmer.jpeg
Capture of the daughters of Daniel Boone and Richard Callaway by the Indians: Karl Bodmer, 1852; image by Marmadukepercy, 2011 (Yale University Art Gallery)
File:Boone captured.png

Capture of Boone and Stewart by Shawnees, 1769: engraver unknown, illustration from Cecil B. Hartley: Life & Times of Col. Daniel Boone, 1859: image by Kevin Myers, 4 July 2006

File:Boone adoption.png

Daniel Boone's ritual adoption by the Shawnees: engraver unknown, illustration from  Cecil B. Hartley: Life & Times of Col. Daniel Boone, 1859: image by Kevin Myers, 4 July 2006

Luthor List Mound, built by the prehistoric Adena culture, located northeast of the junction of the Kingston Pike and Hitler Road #2 south of Circleville in Circleville Township, Pickaway County, Ohio: photo by  Andrew Williams, 18 December 2010

 Luthor List Mound (La petite mort), built by the prehistoric Adena culture, located northeast of the junction of the Kingston Pike and Hitler Road #2 south of Circleville in Circleville Township, Pickaway County, Ohio: photo by  Andrew Williams, 19 December 2010


TC said...


Circleville, Summer 1938



"We Virginians had for some time been waging a war of intrusion upon them, and I, amongst the rest, rambled through the woods in pursuit of their race, as I now would follow the tracks of [a] ravenous animal."

. . .not the Daniel Boone one grew up reading tales of -- a major research project here, for which all thanks.


light coming into fog against invisible
ridge, song sparrow calling from branch
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

explaining that depended on
“that,” view observed

becomes it, what we come to
know, fact of what is

grey white fog against invisible ridge,
white line of wave breaking in channel

TC said...


Boone is an interesting figure. No single individual did more to assist the expulsion of the Shawnee peoples from the Ohio Valley -- whence they'd already been pushed from the coastal colonies as the waves of settlers poured in, following the restless frontiersman with their property-owning claims and real-estate deals. Boone himself was a terrible businessman and lost his shirt more than once. And as the settlers came down the river, he was continually feeling crowded and moving on to the West himself -- eventually ending up in the Osage, standing at the dock in his eighties as Lewis and Clark took off up the Missouri toward Oregon. The thing he loved best were his "long hunts", and on those he employed skills he had learnt from the Shawnees. In the choice of words here -- perhaps helped along a bit by the chroniclers -- we see the candour that makes his late reminiscences of the origins of the settler-Indian conflict surprisingly credible. Words like "intrusion", in the passage from the memoir in Filson's book, and "dispossess", in the edition of Audobon's journals -- the implication of an acknowledgment, perhaps tacit, of trespass.

In the struggle that had gone on in the West as a continuation of the Revolution, and would continue for the twenty years it took for the tribes to finally be subdued, he played a considerable part, but when he speaks of it in old age there is something almost wistful, a melancholy. Still he was no sentimentalist, and too honest not to admit that in the American invasion of Indian country there had never been any great innocence on the part of the invaders, in their dealings with the "Savages".

TC said...

An earlier expedition:

The Late Life of Mr. Boone

Wooden Boy said...

"a war of intrusion". He is an honest adventurer and that's a rare thing.

The man who can write, "All things were still" and talk of those seventeen scalps with no trace of discomfort is very hard to nail. Not lovable but fascinating.

Wooden Boy said...

The burial mound is beautiful.

Unknown said...

A provocative and inspired work -- Beautiful, sad -- nights well spent – squaring the circle backwards into the history of the roots of the mall (Hitler Road #2?) and true savagery. Thanks Tom


TC said...

Wooden Boy (Duncan), my dear friend and careful reader, the contradiction does indeed reveal a bit of the complication of the character.

"The man who can write, 'All things were still' and talk of those seventeen scalps with no trace of discomfort is very hard to nail."

Always difficult to nail a man who who keeps moving.

Unknown (Harris), my dear friend and careful reader, you have hit upon the hidden bonus death's head moth hibernating inside the crackerjack box.

This post was originally three times its present size. Construction of the original post was a near-death experience. In fact, it may have been an actual death experience. Since that work, I've felt more dead than alive. So like, where's my mound, please?

In any case, the original post delved at some length into burial practises, comparing what is known from archaeological research of the contents of Adena culture burial mounds and what may be seen of contemporary burial sites in the Circleville area.

Starting with the latter: the burial business in the Circleville area is and for a very long time has been monopolized by the Hitler-Ludwig Cemetery, so that particular site became an obvious focal point of study.

Map showing location of Hitler-Ludwig Cemetery, near the junction of Hitler Road#1 and Hitler Road#2, Circleville, Ohio

A virtual tour with some interesting photos: Hitler-Ludwig Cemetery, Circleville, Ohio

Photos of particular interest: large memorial; child's gravestone; entrance; sleeping children statues; storage.

The neighborhood is dotted with the remnants of many cultures: Adena; Hopewell; Fort Ancient; and so on down to White Eyes.

The Hitler industry, as I have said, has dominated the death industry in Circleville throughout the White Eyes Period.

It's been asked by some, why not give the cemetery a slightly less... er macabre, would that be the word... name?

Darn good question. Seems a certain heavy-hitting local business family has had a stake in preserving the name.

But mind, the cemetery is not the only place in town that bears that moniker. There is, for example, a slough.

Map showing Hitler Pond, Circleville, Ohio

Birds and plants, of course, don't give a hoot (shriek?) whether a slough or a pond is named after Hitler, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha or George Washington.

Hitler Pond at Ohio Birds and Biodiversity

TC said...

As to the Adena mound-builders, who were they, and what exactly did they preserve in their mounds (apart, of course, from the corpses of the ancestors)?

Some clues from site digs.

"These mounds were built using hundreds of thousands of baskets full of specially selected and graded earth. According to archaeological investigations, Adena mounds were usually built as part of burial ritual, in which the earth of the mound was piled immediately atop a burned mortuary building. These mortuary buildings were intended to keep and maintain the dead until their final burial was performed. Before the construction of the mounds, some utilitarian and grave goods would be placed on the floor of the structure, which was burned with the goods and honored dead within. The mound would then be constructed, and often a new mortuary structure would be placed atop the new mound. After a series of repetitions, mound/mortuary/mound/mortuary, a quite prominent earthwork would remain. In the later Adena period, circular ridges of unknown function were sometimes constructed around the burial mounds. Adena mounds stood in isolation from domestic living areas."

Any enquiry into contemporary cultural practises involving burial will exhume some bizarre information. For example, the surprisingly common (I've looked into this, phaw!) recent custom of people insisting on, and succeeding in, being buried with their cell phones. Wouldn't want to miss an important call... but let us not digress,

The Adena didn't have cell phones. What then did they have, judging by the burial mound evidence? Well, art, for one thing. Food, for another. Tools, for a third.

"Art motifs that became important to many later Native Americans began with the Adena. Motifs such as the weeping eye and cross and circle design became mainstays in many succeeding cultures. Many pieces of art seemed to revolve around shamanic practices, and the transformation of humans into animals—particularly birds, wolves, bears and deer—and back to human form. This may indicate a belief that the practice imparted the animals' qualities to the wearer or holder of the objects. Deer antlers, both real and constructed of copper, wolf, deer and mountain lion jawbones, and many other objects were fashioned into costumes, necklaces and other forms of regalia by the Adena. Distinctive tubular smoking pipes, with either flattened or blocked-end mouthpieces, suggest the offering of smoke to the spirits. The objective of pipe smoking may have been altered states of consciousness, achieved through the use of the hallucinogenic plant Nicotiana rustica. All told, Adena was a manifestation of a broad regional increase in the number and kind of artifacts devoted to spiritual needs.

TC said...

"The Adena also carved small stone tablets, usually 4 or 5 inches by 3 or 4 inches by .5 inches thick. On one or both flat sides were gracefully composed stylized zoomorphs or curvilinear geometric designs in deep relief. Paint has been found on some Adena tablets, leading archaeologists to propose that these stone tablets were probably used to stamp designs on cloth or animal hides, or onto their own bodies. Its possible they were used to outline designs for tattooing.

"The Adena ground stone tools and axes. Somewhat rougher slab-like stones with chipped edges were probably used as hoes. Bone and antler were used in small tools but even more prominently in ornamental objects such as beads, combs, and worked animal-jaw gorgets or paraphernalia. Spoons, beads and other implements were made from the marine conch. A few copper axes have been found, but otherwise the metal was hammered into ornamental forms, such as bracelets, rings, beads, and reel-shaped pendants."

Each mound site seems to have served a particular local community. How did these people live, judging again by the archaeological evidence?

"The large and elaborate mound sites served a nearby scattering of people. The population was dispersed in small settlements of one to two structures. A typical house was built in a circle form from 15 to 45 feet in diameter. The walls were made of paired posts tilted outward, joined to other wood to form a cone shaped roof. The roof was then covered with bark and the walls may have been bark and/or wickerwork."

"Their subsistence was acquired through foraging and the cultivation of native plants."

Their diet appears to have been free of trans-fats, chemical additives & c. They hunted deer, elk, black bear, woodchuck, beaver, porcupine, turkey, trumpeter swan, ruffed grouse. They gathered several edible seed grasses and nuts. They cultivated pumpkin, squash, sunflower, and goosefoot.

They don't seem to have been particularly adept in the arts of war, however. In any case, no martial paraphernalia has turned up. Whether or not they liked to beat people up is hard to tell for sure, but they left no records of their wars, victorious or otherwise. The lack of such evidence really shouldn't be so surprising. That's the thing about non-aggressive cultures. They tend to disappear.

TC said...

By the by, has anyone but me been wondering how Burning Indian Mound got its name??

And speaking of comparative cultural anthropology and burial sites, as we were (well, as I was), it's perhaps interesting to note the curious proximity of Burning Indian Mound to the Hitler-Ludwig Cemetery.

To paraphrase the hoary old saying about Rome, in this area, all Hitler Roads appear to lead to both Burning Indian Mound and the Hitler-Ludwig Cemetery.

On this site map, Burning Indian Mound is indicated by the red marker. The grey box located 1/4 mi. to the southeast (where Hitler Road #1 meets Hitler Road # 2) indicates the Hitler-Ludwig Cemetery.

Just saying.

TC said...

And by the by, let's not forget the local artists...

Dalriada said...

re native Americans and one poet’s take i’d recommend the following which aired earlier in the year

i like his poem about Mt Rushmore that most “permanent” memorial to white culture Read here:

-K- said...

For what it's worth, I grew up right in the middle of Ohio Country. There was an even an old (very old) Indian mound not far from my house.

And now that I'm getting so old, I'm astonished at how long its been since I've given any of it a thought, until just now.

Unknown said...

All day long I've been thinking about the term "Semicivilized" applied in the descriptions of images of some of the remarkable human beings in your post, Tom. I interpret the term to mean that they still were somewhat civilized despite having taken on some of the attributes (the clothing, for example) of the barbarian conquerers of Ohio, Kentucky and the rest of the now devastated continent.

I am also still contemplating the adoption into the tribe of the prisoner Daniel Boone as a contrast to sending him to the equivalent of Gitmo.

I remain struck by the information that Boone continued to hunt with Shawnee friends on occasion, in later life, after the fighting, the adoption into the tribe, the whole history (like some boys game played by big boys with real guns and knives). I don't recall whether I found the information about hunting with old opponents, now friends, on your wide ranging post or in some searching I did to find out more. I doubt that the Native Americans ever thought of it as a game, or ever foresaw such hideous, powerful, two-faced, fork-tongued adversaries. Daniel Boone evidently sensed that he was defiling something sacred but did not have the strength of character or consciousness to just desert his compatriots, and really, who would? Edward Snowden?

TC said...

I hear you, all.

And hey, Kevin, who here is not getting old?

About that Catlin painting -- Smithsonian file notes:

"George Catlin recorded that when Pah-te-cóo-saw came to sit for his portrait, he had decorated his face 'in a very curious manner with black and red paint.' The warrior has slightly European features and appears to be wearing a European shirt and coat. (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 2, no. 49, 1841; reprint 1973.)"

This period was transitional, before the victory was complete.

The Shawnees were serious adversaries. No games, only serious. They had organizers. They served as a kind of pan-Indian force, incorporating the adversarial pride of the other tribes who were being pushed West, as they had been.

Their great leader of the time Tecumseh. Was a bit too much to handle, in that transitional time. A rabble rouser, potential. He died early, of a white-eyes dirty trick.

Boone's time however, a generation earlier, was a time when for the Shawnees all did not yet seem lost.

Boone the legend, Boone the man. Two different stories.

The former an unlettered frontiersman in a coonskin lid, savvy to unmapped trails, wise to ways of back woods, guiding first bands of white-eyes settlers across mountains into Ohio Valley, building reputation as the bravest Indian fighter of his day, repelling a Shawnee raid upon Boonesborough, the first white settlement in "Kentucke", but refusing permanent settlement himself; when another white family put down roots seventy miles from their home, telling his wife Rebecca, "Old woman, we must move, they are crowding us"; and ending up alone and unhappy on the last frontier in Missouri.

The other Boone nobody's fool, abhorring fur headgear, preferring a broad-brimmed hat, literate indeed and carrying a copy of Gulliver's Travels for reading by firelight on his long hunting junkets, working as an an advance scout for the premier land speculator of the time, Richard Henderson, leading settlers into Kentucky to buy up sections of Henderson's enormous land tracts at enormous profit to his employer, but little gain to himself; In defense of his own interests, then conspiring with the Shawnees against the white settlers; becoming the adoptive son of Shawnee chief Blackfish, taking a Shawnee name (Sheltowee = Big Turtle), siding during the Revolution with the British, after the war being charged with treason by the Americans; fleeing bitterly to Femme Osage to end his days.

Surrounded by a world of violence, cruelty and bloody hostilities, Boone remained his own man -- a family man at that -- and an exception among the white men of that time and place in never becoming a hater of Indians. It is doubtful any white man of his time knew them so well, really. What he was not able to learn about and love in Nature on his own he was taught by them. He may have felt at least half Indian himself. As an old man he acknowledged with some reluctance that over the years he had been forced to take the lives of three Indians -- adding that "I am sorry to say that I ever killed any, for they have always been kinder to me than the whites."

TC said...

In the early spring of 1774 Boone set out to visit the grave of his oldest son, James, who along with another young white man had been brutally slain in a retaliatory raid by a group of Indians (Delaware, Shawnee, Cherokee) while trekking with a supply party. Others in the party had died in a first Indian attack. Later a formidable Cherokee warrior named Big Jim, whom Boone had encountered more than once in the woods, had methodically torn the nails from the two boys' hands and feet, so that before being killed they had begged for death rather than mercy. In this period massacres were common on both sides of the settler/Indian territorial confrontation. Discouraged by the news of the atrocities, some of Boone's company of settlers pulled up stake and retreated across the Appalachians to North Carolina, whence they had come. Daniel and Rebecca and the rest of the family had stayed on.

On his trip through the woods to the massacre site, Boone was met by a group of white hunters. Taken aback by his appearance, they initially took him to be an Indian. One of them later recalled him, "dressed in deerskin colored black, his hair plaited and clubbed up", after the Indian fashion.

In some ways an instrument of history, in other ways its agent, in the end perhaps Boone was more its victim than anything else. A witness to the genocide that wrote the story of America in the blood of the previous inhabitants of the continent. But not always a willing participant in the process of European expansion into the "New World". And finally a regretful, bitter, rueful rememberer of a tale of conquest and dispossession in which he had played a part he probably never fully understood.

TC said...

Same location, two hundred years on.

Once they'd overrun Paradise they'd naturally have to pave it -- and then pollute it.

But alas, America never had its Milton.

Odd when you stop and think of it, really, a country "founded" by Puritans, always invoking old Puritan dreads.

Who could have made a bid to be the American Milton, I wonder? Surely not Lowell, though he'd have the closest kit -- but of course Milton was not whacko -- Berryman, if not drunk? But then, Milton had not only with his writings taken a critical role in but was a student of history. American poets aren't meant to be that, are they?