Traders Point Indians- Another Story of Pioneer Life: The Stolen Horses by Jerry Reade (1822)

 

Artist Cassilly Adams (born 1843) died in Traders Point in 1921

(Indiana American – March 27, 1869)

Grandfather drew his chair nearer the fire and began: ” I well recollect the time.  It was in 1822 and in the month of January  that the event took place which I am about to relate.   I was living on Eagle Creek at the time, some ten or eleven miles northwest from the present site of Indianapolis.  It was the only settlement then known on the above mentioned stream.   There were still some of ‘the red men of the woods’ on the outskirts of the settlement, and, of course, were none too honest in their dealings with anything which might strike their fancies in absence of the owner; in fact, they would steal almost anything movable, if it came handy for them to do so.   They were a tribe of the Miamies, and were camped first in one place and then in another, so that they were very much of the nature of the Irishman’s flea.

At the close of one day, in the month above-mentioned, one of my neighbors, David McCurdy, came to my house and informed me that the Indians had stolen a fine horse of his, and that his object in coming to me was, that he was raising a company of his neighbors in order to go in pursuit of ‘the noble red men,’ and

 bring back the stolen animal, and that he would be glad to count me in one of his company.   I was ever ready to lend a helping hand in case of such an emergency, and so informed him that I would go.

We were to assemble at the house of one Israel Jackson, by early sunrise next morning in order to start together.   Accordingly, the next morning, the neighbors gathered at the time and place appointed to the number of ten; these ten, including myself, comprised the whole active force of that entire region, and perhaps it would not be out of place to mention their names; they were, John Reed, John McCord, James McCord, Thomas Kearns, David McCurdy, Jesse Lane, Alexia, John and Edward Jackson.   One of the Jacksons, ‘Leck’ as he was called for short, expressed an unwillingness to comprise one of our company.   For, said he, if we were to meet the varmints, I’d be sure to kill some on ’em, and then there would be a thunderin’ muss!’   The remarks were mostly addressed to John, ‘the little wild Irishman’, as he was called, who replied, ‘sure Leck, and its meself that belaves that if yer was widtwer virgins, divil a one wud yer kill!’   It was plainly evident that the idea of meeting the ‘varmints’ as he called the Indians, was decidely repulsive to his feelings of safety; but finally he was prevailed upon to accompany us.

The next thing was to determine which course we should take in order to come up with the Indians.   A difference of opinion at first existed, but finally it was decided that we should strike for the place where the were last known to be encamped.   It was away upon on stream now known as White Lick.

There were no roads to follow, like we have now–not even paths, so that our progress was slow indeed.   After some hours, we came to the above-mentioned steam, and, by following it, we hoped to reach our destination more easily than to trust our powers of discrimination; so on, and on we plodded, until it was near noon, as well as were able to be determine, when we concluded to stop and make a draw upon our rations of corn bread and venison, as well as to rest ourselves and compare ideas.   This all done to our satisfaction, we resumed our march until near three o’clock in the afternoon, when, by the rapidly increasing number of mocassin tracks visible to in the snow, we naturally arrived at the conclusion that the owners of the mocassins could not be a very great way off.   So we halted and held a short council concerning our future base of operations.   We knew not how strong they were, or whether they would be inclined to show fight or not, but we looked to the priming of our guns, and thought, as we did so, that if any skirmishing was to be done, it would not be an altogether one-sided affair.   Leck Jackson wished to be devoted as a sort of ‘rear guard’, but unfortunately his wishes were blasted by our deciding to not have any ‘rear guard’, by which the poor fellow was compelled to face the music, and perhaps, be compelled to listen to a tune he had never heard before.   But we hardly supposed they would think of attacking us unless they were crazed by rotten whisky, which they sometimes purchased from traders, who occasionally visited them.

We were to march into the camp in an unconcerned manner, until we found some clue to the missing horse, and then we were to openly demand that the animal be given up immediatley.   We now advanced, and grouping our way through a tangled copse of underbrush, we found ourselves in the midst of the camp.   The camp was sholly deserted.   No one remained to bid us welcome, or say, ‘Go way, white man!’

From the appearance of things, it was to be seen that they had not been gone longbefore we come up.   Making a detour round the encampment, we found they had taken a northeasterly direction upon leaving, and, without further ado, we decided to take a northeasterly direction too, in hope that we might yet succeed in making known to them the fact that McCurdy could not well do without his horse, just at that time.

The evidence of a sudden departure having taken place, convinced us that they knew something of the stolen animal, so we pressed onward as rapidly as we could, in hope that we might come up with them before nightfall.   On, an on, over rough and mirey ground, over old and prostrate trees, that looked as though they might have lain for centuries, through thick jungles of brush and sometimes lacerating our hands or face so that it was anything but pleasant, that trip was.

Thinking of that time, reminds me very much of what Milton says,

“Oe’er many and a dark and dreary vale,

They passed; and many a region delorous.

O’er many a frozen ; many a firey Alpl

Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens and shades

     of death;

A universe of death.’

I do not know, but it appears to me that is in reference to that part of Indiana, when he wrote the above versel but to continue.

At last it began to grow dark, and no signs of any fugitive red men.   The surrounding lend no cheerfulness to the coming night gloom, and an owl gave an occasional hoot from his home in the top of some great forest tree.

A mile or more had been traversed in silence, when the wild Irishman broke the stillness with, ‘An shure, and its meself that smells a hafe stake a cookin’, and wouldn’t myself like a bit of the same!’   It was not long before we were of the same belief.   It might not be exactly a beef steak, but there was flesh of some kind being exposed to the fire, at no great distance, for the odor reached us sensibly.   Some one of the party suggested that they might be holding a feast on the flesh of some of their enemies, they probably had that day slain; whereupon Jackson proposed that we would start for home, as it was getting late.   We believe that we were in the immediate vicinity of the Indians; and our surmises were correct, for upon emerging from a thicket of hazel brush, we saw a little way off the Indian camp, and gathered round the camp fires, were a number of them, roasting venison sharpened sticks.   We were on the eve of advancing into their midst, when all at once, there came at us about a dozen dogs of all sizes, barking and roaring like an East India Tornado.  I had heard dogs bark before, but this display of theirs beat anything I had ever seen or heard tell of; it made the woods resound far and near.   One of the canines made several attempts to seize hold on Jackson’s leather unmentionables from behind, and at last succeeded, whereupon Jackson set up such a howl as frightened the dog away, which no doubt wondered what kind of an animal it had got hold of; driving the dogs before us, we entered the camp.   They doubtless knew what we were after.   Scowling at us, they asked us why we came into their camp at that time of night.   Before any answer could be given by the leader of our party, the wild Irishman yelled out’ ‘Because ye stole Mr. McCurdy’s horse, ye did so dirty pups!”   He was made to keep quiet for fear of irritating the Indians, in which case unnecessary trouble might occur.   The spokesman of the Indians was asked if he knew anything concerning the stolen horse but he replied in the negative.  It was insisted by our party that they knew something concerning the animal.   From the tinkling of the bells upon their horses, we ascertained that they were picketed on the other side of the camp, so telling them that we would go and see for ourselves, we found our way to their horses, hardly expecting to find the one we were in search of, but he was there sure enough; they had not taken the precaution of keeping him separate from the rest, or perhaps they might have baffled us. 

We immediately took the animal in charge and, although many were the threats we heard, and gestures we saw, they failed to intimidate us.   After we started for home, we could hear the rascals following us for some distance, but finally they gave it up and went back.   Continuing our march all that night, we reached home next morning at sunrise.

The places where that event occurred were wild and lonely then.   But how changed today!   There the hoot of the night-owl is seldom heard, and the howl of the prowling wolf which rang through those wild forests is hushed forever.  (Jerry Reade, Traders Point resident, published March 27, 1869 in Indiana American.

Ross Reller notes: In Sulgrove’s History of Indianapolis, Pike Township, the following is noted: Pike, like the other townships of Marion County, was laid out and erected a separate township by order of the county commissioners on the 16th of April, 1822, and on the same date and by the same authority it was joined to Wayne for township purposes (there being but few inhabitants in either), and the two together were deemed a single township, called the township of Pike and Wayne.   This continued until May 10, 1824, when the commissioners of Pike separated from Wayne (the inhabitants being sufficiently numerous) and an election was ordered to be held at the house of Alexis Jackson for the choice of a justice of the peace on the 19th of June following, David McCurdy to be inspector of election.  At this election there were but seventeen votes cast, and John C. Hume was elected the first justice of the peace by a majority of three votes, Mr. Thomas Burns being his opponent for the judicial honors of the township.   J. C. Hume at that time lived in the northern part of the township, in the Harman neighborhood (north of 86th St. and east of Eagle Creek ed. rr), on the south part of the farm now owned by Samuel Hornaday, and Thomas Burns lived in the southwestern part of the township, on the east side of Eagle Creek, on the farms now owned and occupied by his grandsons, Thomas and Oliver Reveal. (History of Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana by B.R. Sulgrove, 1884)

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About Ross Reller

I am pleased you have expressed interest in learning more about the historic Traders Point area in Indianapolis, Indiana. From 1980 to 1982 I was employed in the PR department at Conner Prairie Museum in Hamilton County. There I learned about William Conner, an important figure in Indiana's pioneer days. A decade later I became interested in the history of the Traders Point area and was surprised to learn that William Conner had been the first land owner in the area. In 1823 he acquired, through the Federal land office in Brookville, a patent for an 80 acre tract carved by Eagle Creek and an Indian trail that was about to be named the first toll roadway through the township (Lafayette Road). Thirty years later a village took shape within this tract. A grain mill on the creek, houses, churches, stores, restaurants, and two gas stations would take shape here in the creek valley hamlet of Traders Point. By 1962 all improvements (except a farmer's co-op) had been removed by the Indianapolis Flood Control Board to make way for Interstate 65 and a new reservoir. This blog is dedicated to preserving evidence of this historic area but I will occasionally use it to discuss related topics. To activate this follow, simply click the confirm button below. If you don't want to follow, ignore this message and we'll never bother you again. I am also a member of the Old Pleasant Hill Cemetery, a non profit association still selling burial plots for those who would like to spend all eternity in Traders Point, and I am an officer in the Pike Township Historical Society and the Traders Point Association of Neighborhoods.
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