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History of the
Settlement and Indian Wars
of Tazewell County, Virginia.

By Geo. W. L. Bickley, M. D. (1852)


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The orthography which designates this tribe, is given differently by different writers.  Shawanoe, seems to me best supported, and has therefore been adopted.  Various appellations have been applied to them.  In 1540, they were known as Chaowanous; by which name they are yet known to the French.  The Iroquois call them Satanos: but their real name is, perhaps, Massawomees.  They were called Shawanous by the Delawares, and hence their present name.

They have the following curious tradition among themselves, respecting their origin.  They believe that their fathers crossed the ocean from the east, "under the guidance of a leader of the turtle tribe, one of their twelve original sub-divisions.  They walked into the sea, the waters of which immediately parted, and they passed in safety along the bottom of the ocean, until they reached this Island. (NOTE: This tradition is taken from the history of the North American Indians, by Hall and McKinney, and quoted by Drake in his life of Tecumseh.  The tradition strongly reminds us of the passage of the Red Sea.)

It is difficult to say where their original homes were; but from the fact of their being in Georgia in 1540, and then from the treaty of the Great Elm in 1682, we might conclude that they were a rambling tribe.  Their homes at this latter date, were, perhaps, on the shores of the Susquehanna.  From here they went into the country of the Iroquois, but here they got into a war, and were compelled to emigrate to the south.  They settled near their former homes, on the Savannah river, in Georgia, and from thence spread themselves westward, through Ohio, the southern part of Kentucky, and northward through North and South Carolina.  Their extension westward had been directed by a noted chief named Black Hoof.  Their migration to the west seems to have been caused by inability to defend themselves against the combined forces of their old enemies, whom they had often despoiled.  After settling their whole nation in Ohio, they were taken under the protection of the Delawares.   Chapman informs us that after they had established themselves in a town at the mouth of the Wabash, "they applied to the Delawares for some territory on which to reside."  This seems not to have been the wish of the majority, for after the request had been granted, "a council was held to consider the propriety of accepting it."  A part, principally the Piqua tribe, refused to accept it, and formed a settlement on the forks of the Delaware.  A dispute between them and the Delawares induced them to move to Wyoming valley, on the Susquehanna.  They built their town on the west bank, and there reposed in peace a number of years.

That part of the nation which remained on the Wabash, took sides with the French in the war of 1754, between the French and English, and endeavored to persuade their brethren of Wyoming to a like course; but the labors of Count Zinzindorf, a christian minister, sent out by the United Brethren, had made them averse to war.

A childish dispute between themselves and the Delawares, who had settled near them by this time, brought on a war, in which the Shawanoes were defeated, and in consequence, moved westward and settled on the banks of the Ohio.  They were finally spread from the Alleghanies to the big Miami river.  They built many villages along the river bottoms of the west, and among them one called Piqua, memorable as the birthplace of the great Tecumseh.  This village was destroyed in 1780, by an expedition sent out from Kentucky, under the command of General George Rodgers Clark.

After this village was destroyed, they settled a district which had been evacuated by the Miamis, where they remained till again routed by the Kentuckians.  From thence they crossed over to the St. Mary's and Wapakanotta. (NOTE: Drake.)  They are divided into four tribes, viz: Maguachake, Chilicothe, Kiskapokohe, and Piqua.  The following tradition has been cited in illustration of the Piqua tribe.  "In ancient times, the Shawanoes had occasion to build a large fire, and after it was burned down, a great puffing and blowing was heard, when up rose a man from the ashes! hence the name Piqua, which means a man coming out of the ashes."  It is said that this tradition has given rise to the barbarous custom of burning prisoners, prevalent among those Indians related to the Algonkin-lenape family; and that it is not a desire to torture, but a kind of religious offering to this man of the "ashes."

It is known that the Shawanoes took sides with the English in the war of 1776, though their acts to the Americans were trifling, and again in the war of 1812, when they played a part which cost us much blood.  For these acts there are many mitigating circumstances, which I would be glad to set forth if the limits of my work would admit.  It only remains to state what became of the Shawanoes after the close of the frontier war.

In 1817 they ceded the principal part of their lands in Ohio to the United States, and moved to a small reserve around Wapakanotta, where they remained a short time; but, by the pressing demands of the government, they sold this too, and are now living on the Platte river, west of Missouri.  They have depreciated in numbers to about one thousand souls.

"Alas! who can but pity?"


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