History of Terre Haute, Vigo Co., IN - 1880 - page four
This locality deserves more than a passing notice. As has been stated, it was for many years used for a burying-ground by the earlier settlers; in fact, until the opening of the city cemetery for use, about 1839.
All that now remains of this once beautiful place is the enclosure just south of the Vandalia railroad track, on the river bank. A few grave-stones still remain. These stones are of a red and gray sandstone. There are some locust trees which bear marks of considerable age; also a few large black oaks are found, while some trees of younger growth are springing up on the slope toward the river. The situation overlooks the Wabash, and before the ruthless hand of improvement invaded the spot, must have been of surpassing loveliness. No wonder the eye of those "children of nature"--the wild Indians--was captivated by the scene. But three or four graves remain; most of the bodies originally buried here have been removed to the city cemetery. The Vandalia railroad is cut through the hill or mound, and the old canal bed is on the west side.
The Indian legend connected with this, to them, sacred place, thus describes the old-time scene, and from which the place derives its name. The apple trees that once grew on this ground were planted, it is said, by the heroine of the following:
In the month of September, 1763, on the banks of the Wabash, on a high knoll of ground, now almost within the corporate limits of the flourishing city of Terre Haute, was situated an Indian village. There, before the ax of the bold pioneer had stripped the virgin earth of the primeval forest, stood a luxuriant growth of giant oaks, beneath which was a thrifty undergrowth of young scions. North and south along the banks of the river the vast forests were endless, but east only a few hundred yards, and the extended prairie almost limited the vision with its broad expanse. The river, which here makes a sweeping, serpentine bend, reveals for more than two miles its swelling bosom to the eye. Overlooking all this (at the top of this knoll) stood this Indian home. The forest, the prairie, the bluff and the river, all conspired to make it a place of surpassing beauty. The prairie breeze, cooled by the shady grove, kissed the tawny cheeks of the young savages as they gamboled on the green turf. The bubbling music of the waters hymned forth an anthem of praise to the Great Manitou. The young fawn from the dense thicket looked out upon the scene, then bounded away into the deeper forest. The place was a rural Paradise, and nature, and nature's offspring, here met, wondered, loved and embraced. At evening, when the chase was ended, the young warriors returning would throw their game in the wigwam door, bathe their brawny limbs in the cooling waters, and, while the mother prepared the repast, reclined under the shade of the umbrageous trees.
At this time an attentive observer would have discovered among the Indian maidens who dwelt among these peaceful scenes, one not of more noble mien, but of different complexion. For the dark, flashing, eagle eye, the aquiline nose, the prominent cheeks, and the straight black hair of the native American, he would have discovered the mild blue eyes, the straight Greecian nose, the round convex cheeks, and the curling flaxen hair of the Anglo-Saxon. He would have seen, too, that young girl amusing her playmates by her superior intuitive knowledge. She looked to the west, and as she saw the sun bathe his broad disc in a sea of gold, would ask, "Who hung that sun in the heavens and painted those clouds with such beauty?" and when the god of light sank below the western horizon, from her lips, in rich Algonquin strains, would swell forth the rich song of the Indian maiden. The vespers ended, all assembled around the old men to hear the war deeds recounted, already a hundred times told. Listening to the story of one of those gray-haired warriors as he "fought his battle o'er again," I will leave my heroine and carry you, gentle reader, through some of the interesting historical incidents of this legend.
When Pennsylvania first learned the necessity of defending the west against the encroachments of a foreign power, she found it necessary to establish a firm peace with the Indians along the Ohio and Wabash; and to do this, it was desirable to show a strong force among these fierce tribes. "At her own cost, this gallant state furnished one thousand troops, and Virginia contributed a corps of volunteers." These brave men commenced their march under Bouquet for the Great West, in October, 1763. "With this little army," says the historian, "went many who had lost children and friends, and came to search the wilderness for the captives." The mother rushed through every village to see if perchance any tidings of her bright-eyed boy could be obtained. The brother sought intelligence of the fair-haired sister, who had been torn from the parental dwelling in days long gone by. Every sylvan nook was explored, every extended prospect scanned, and every friendly savage importuned. Bouquet marched far into the wilderness, until on one autumnal day he found the chiefs and warriors of the Senecas, the Delawares and the Shawnees seated around their council fires, smoking the calumet and entreating for peace. They pledged themselves to bring in the white captives and to bury the tomahawk.
The Shawnees, the most violent and warlike of the tribes, accepted the terms of peace with every mark of sullenness, but nevertheless promised, by their orator, Red Hawk, to collect all the white prisoners from the different towns and to restore them by the coming spring.
Runners were therefore sent to all the Indian villages with orders to bring in their captives. A bold and swift-running Shawnee brave, just verging into manhood, was dispatched to carry the intelligence to the villages along the Wabash. He kept a direct course, looking to the bark of the trees for his guide, drinking from the springs that gushed along his pathway, obtaining food with his unerring arrow, or plucking the rich clusters from the overhanging vines, sleeping with the sky for his covering and the earth for his bed, until at legnth he arrived at the bluff which bounds Fort Harrison prairie on the southeast.
It was past meridian of an autumnal day. The September winds had tinged the forest with crimson and gold. Through the openings between the trees which lined the river banks sparkled, like molten silver, the calm, placid Wabash. It was a scene of peace and happiness. No sounds of busy life broke the eternal solitude.
Upon this bluff, in bold outline, clad in rich Indian costume and completely armed, stood Nemo, the hero of this legend, a bright figure on a dark background. He wore in his hair some pinions clipped from the wing of a mountain eagle. A belt, richly wrought, encircled his waist, in which hung his tomahawk and scalping knife, while over his shoulders, with more than Roman grace, was thrown a dressed deerskin. As Nemo looked upon this scene, an eagle darted from the woods and screamed above his head. Instinctively he bent his bow, and an arrow, freighted with death, transfixed its heart.
The sun was fast sinking in the west, painting each cloud with glory and with fire, when the eyes of Nemo caught, through the forest which skirted the river, the smoke of the wigwams curling in peace through its branches. With a beating heart our messanger approached the village and demanded the protection of a stranger and a friend.
The old warrior whom we had left "fighting his battle o'er again," had finished, and flushed with the excitement of his story he beheld of a sudden our young warrior standing in his wigwam door. The form of the old warrior became erect, and his nostrils dialated, his eyes sparkled with rage, and his stalwart frame seemed to tower into giant proportions. He beheld before him one of the hated Shawnees. He yelled the war-whoop, sprang for his bow and arrows, his tomahawk and scalping knife. The young Shawnee retreated a step from the door and fitted an arrow to his bow-string. The old warrior raised his tomahawk and advanced, but ere he reached the young chief, the sylph-like form of Lena stood before him. Her blue eyes flashed, and her tiny hand rested on the arm of the old chief. Trembling with terror, she said, "My father, touch not the stranger; he only asks shelter and food. Did a Delaware ever refuse either? He is indeed a Shawnee--an enemy, but a stranger; he is tired and asks for repose, hungry and wants food, thirsty and needs drink. Did a Delaware ever thus drive a stranger from his door?" The old man dropped the tomahawk and bade the stranger welcome.
Nemo rehearsed the story of his mission. He took from his neck a string of wampum shells. Upon some were carved the features of a pale-face walking toward the rising sun. The likeness of a great chief was upon another shell, and Nemo was represented as leading the pale-face toward the East. The old chief knew the import of all this. He read the Indian symbolic language and comprehended it. The stranger was to lead to the East the pale-faced captives, and his authority was the likeness of the great chief. The old warrior bowed before the imperial mandate--he knew the penalty of its violation. Nemo then went into the details of his mission: Lena listened attentively; she knew she was a pale-face; across her memory like filmy clouds veiling a summer sky ever and anon would flit the dreamy recollection of other days, of other scenes. Faint as the images of childhood would other associations spring up in her mind--the whisperings of a mother's love, a father's care--the faint picture of another home, where pale-faces joined in her childish sports. She recollected a little brook that flowed by her childhood's home, and how her playmates launched upon its limpid waves their tiny boats. She had spiritual breathings of these, and her awakening soul told her she was not as those who surrounded her. She looked into the placid bosom of the Wabash, and there was reflected a face not of the color of her Indian brothers and sisters. These, all conspiring, made her incline a willing ear to the rehearsal of Nemo's mission.
The old man looked at Lena and wept. "My father!" said Lena, "has the Great Spirit refused to hear your prayer? Is the deer driven from the forest to be destroyed by the wolves? Has our earth refused to give ripeness to her fruits? Or why those tears!"
"My daughter!" said the warrior, "thy step is as light as the fawn's, and they spirit as pure as the morning dew-drop; more than a hundred moons since I took the to my wigwam: then was they arm weak and they step feeble; as a parent I loved thee; as a father I protected thee from the tomahawk and scalping knife; I was then the bravest in battle, the foremost in the chase. My arm was quick to bend the bow; my eye to seek the game; now my arm is feeble, my eyes are dim with age; the war-whoop finds no echo in my heart, and the deer fear not my approach. In my old age, my fair-haired, blue-eyed child, I must give thee up; thou wilt go to another father, another home; I will never see thee more; the prairie grass will soon spring above my grave, and the lullaby of the Wabash will be my requiem. But my daughter will never forget her Indian father. In other days you will return, but I will not be here."
"Return! why does my father speak of me returning?" said Lena; "I cannot, must not, will not leave you."
"Little dost thou know what thou sayest, my daughter," replied the chief, "for by the first light that illumines the eastern sky thou wilt be taken from me."
"Taken from thee! and for what?" asked Lena.
"For being what thou art, a pale-face," answered the chief.
"A pale-face!--because my hair is lighter than my sisters' and my face not so dark--is that why I must leave thee?"
"It is; thou art not a Delaware. To the east, where the sun rises, live thy people; close by where the roar of the mighty waters always hymn the praise of the Great Spirit are the wigwams of thy fathers; many summers ago I snatched thee from the burning wigwam of they mother and made thee my child."
"And am I not thy child yet? I have no father but thee; no home but this," said Lena.
"My child," said the old chief, "waste not words; the moments fly; the grey light is almost ready to burst forth in the east; the wolf will soon return to his den; the owl to the deeper forest; take what is thine and be ready to follow the young Shawnee."
Morn's rosy blushes lighted up the eastern sky, and ere the dew-drops were dried from the prairie grass Nemo and the pale-faced captive had taken leave, and were on their way toward the rising sun. They crossed the prairie at a diverging angle, and Nemo with his charge, stood again on the bluff which commands the prairie below. As they traveled, at different points along their path the captives were brought, until ten of different ages and sexes trailed in a straight line after him.
Along this silent path, through the dark, lonely forest, at noon and at night, the attentions of Nemo were assiduous toward Lena. He first admired, then respected, and at last loved her. How the brave Shawnee wooed and won the Anglo-American maiden it is not necessary here to state. But if the panther screamed, Nemo stood by the side of Lena; if the storm roared, he sheltered her beneath his deerskin; if the night was cold, he threw his robe over her; if the wolf growled or gnashed his teeth around their camp-fires, he stood in front of her, placed an arrow in his bow, and sent it through the intruder's heart.
At last the spring came and the captives had reached their destination. The Delaware, the Shawnee and Senaca chiefs were assembled. Bouquet and his men were there and the captives were handed over to the whites. Nemo determined not to lose his fair-haired betrothed, and Lena loved the young Shawnee more than the recollections of her early home. She was just ripening into womanhood; she loved the forest, her Indian home which she had left behind, and felt in her heart of hearts a warm, burning admiration for Nemo. She was taken with the other captives to the State of Pennsylvania, and then along the banks of the Susquehanna, where was once her home, she was given to her relatives. Her parents slept beneath the clods (?) of the valley. Some, who said they were her brothers and sisters, welcomed her back to civilization. She knew them not; her heart was with her Indian lover and her Indian home. They placed before her the choicest viands, but they were unpalatable. They essayed to charm her with the rich melody of music, but she loved more the whisperings of the forest and the mighty voices of the storm. They taught her christian precepts; they told her of a triune God. She worshipped the Great Spirit as she "saw him in the clouds and heard him in the winds." Lena was unhappy, and her eyes often glistened with tears.
Thus, between hope and despair, passed many months. The forest was again tinged with autumn hues. The hazy stillness of the Indian summer veiled the mountains and the valleys. Nature was keeping her Sabbath, and the setting sun was receding behind the gauze of autumn, when in the distance was seen the tall plume of an Indian warrior. Alarm seized every heart and fear sat on every brow. The warrior came on apace; his form was symmetrical and manly. Over his shoulder hung a quiver filled with arrows; his step was proud and defiant. Lena saw him; a thrill passed through her heart: 'twas Nemo. She rushed to meet him, and with a bound threw herself into the embrace of her Indian lover.
The Shawnee warrior had come to claim his fair-haired affianced. The laws of Pennsylvania prohibited marriage between Indians and whites, but it could not prevent their loving. The statute gave freedom to females over eighteen years of age; under that law she could come and go at pleasure.
Nemo asked Lena to go back with him to her Wabash home; she consented. The law was resorted to to prevent her, but the law was powerless; she clung with a woman's love to her plighted troth, and while her pale-faced brothers slept, she, by the side of her Indian lover, dashed into the dark forest, and taking the Indian trail, and with Indian skill, struck for the west. No hound or horse, no man or beast could hope to overtake them. Love gave impetus to their flight, and limbs used to the mountain track and the valley's path carried them forward. When beyond all civilization, where the deer became tame and the panther and the bear only left the pathway to let the lovers pass, in this universal solitude, where nature, fresh from the hands of the Creator, was all around them, these, Nature's children, without the forms of law and governed by no earthly statute, were married. They swore eternal faith and fidelity, and became one. The young fawn from the impending thicket witnessed the scene and bounded away; the eagle from his eyrie screamed a blessing from above, and the Great Spirit, with his omnipotent eye, looked down and approved the happy union. There, surrounded by nature's glorious adornments and not by art's gaudy trappings, were Nemo and Lena forever wedded.
Over the mountains, along the valleys, across the rivers, led their undeviating way. True as the needle to the pole was Nemo's knowledge of the woods. Silent even as lovers they traveled the vast forest which separated the Wabash from the Susquehanna.
Nothing occurred to mar the even tenor of their journey until they were passing about the line which now divides the states of Ohio and Indiana. Some signs of foot-prints had been seen all day; here the decayed leaves were pressed as though by human foot; there a twig was broken, and at last a piece of old moccasin was found in the trail. Nemo picked it up, examined it attentively, and in a half audible voice whispered into Lena's anxious ear, "Miami."
Silently and cautiously they kept the trail. The Miamis and Shawnees were mortal enemies. Onward they kept their course toward the setting sun, until, coming to a dense growth of oaks, of a sudden, three Miami warriors rushed upon them. Nemo leaped to a tree, and one of the warriors caught Lena and began tying her hands. Nemo's arror was in his bow; the Miami shielded himself behind the trembling captive, keeping Lena's head between Nemo and his breast. Twang! sounded Nemo's bow, and a trusty arrow, shaving a ringlet from the captive's temple, trembled in the heart of the Miami. The tree saved Nemo from his other foes. Another warrior sprang to the captive and endeavored to carry her off. Like the tiger from his lair, Nemo bounded on him and buried his tomahawk deep in his skull. Now there remained one Miami, one Shawnee. Lena stood paralyzed with fear. Nemo's arrow missed, the Miami's passed through his scalp-lock. Each warrior drew his tomahawk, and they whistled in the air. Then, face to face and steel to steel, they advanced to meet in deadly combat. Nemo fought for love and life; the Miami fought for hate of the Shawnee. Nemo's knife first tasted the Miami's blood. The combat was almost an equal one,--two stalwart braves, determined to conquer or die. In an unguarded moment the Miami felt a sharp pang tremble through his frame. Nemo's knife had found way to his heart, and he was dead.
There lay the three Miami braves, all sent into the spirit world by the young Shawnee. Their scalp-locks were secured as a trophy, and the warrior and his bride continued their journey.
Many times the sun gilded the west before they reached what is now called Fort Harrison prairie. The leaves had fallen from the trees, the frost had come, and winter spread her mantle of snow over every surrounding object. In this season of the year Nemo again stood upon the bluff which overlooks the prairie. Desolation, dreary and solemn, was before him. Still as the chamber of death were the somber forest and the undulating prairie. Where the city of Terre Haute now stands was then covered with huge elm and oak trees. The line of prairie followed near where now runs the Wabash and Erie canal bed on the east; east of that, Lost creek sluggishly wended its way through many miles of marshy ground, and the prospect was much changed from the time Nemo first beheld this picturesque region. Lena, eager to again see her Indian home, looked to the high knoll of ground which overlooks the Wabash, near where the railroad bridge crosses the river. There was no smoke curling from the wigwam. They crossed the prairie, coming to the "high ground" close by the Terre Haute House, and passed rapidly along until they came to the cleared spot now known as the "old Indian orchard." There was no watch-dog to bay Nemo off as heretofore; no merry laughter of children to welcome Lena's return; no Indian father to receive her with open arms. One of those intestine feuds that are so terrible among savage tribes had swept away the old chief and his entire family. No sign of life was there. A few smouldering ruins were all that remained of Lena's once happy home. It was a dreary prospect for the young warrior and his bride, but neither was discouraged.
The tomahawk supplied them with poles, and planting ten in the ground, in a circle, the tops were brought almost together, thus forming the framework of their wigwam. A covering of bark was procured; a fire was lighted, and thus were they speedily sheltered from the bleak winds which swept across the prairie. Nemo's bow procured the necessary food; the deer, the bear and the elk yielding meat and clothing. There was plenty in the wigwam, and love and content in each heart.
Thus passed the winter. And with March came the cry of the wild goose, as he made his way up from the sunny south. The Wabash rose and shook the ice from its bosom. The bluebird, first messanger of spring, sang its matin song. The blackbird and redbreast were there. The buds came out on the trees, the wild flowers sprang spontaneously from the earth, the woods were robed in their mantle of green, and spring, in all her freshness and beauty, was there. The home of Lena was her study. She garlanded it with flowers, and in the many ways that her refined nature suggested made it a home of peace, contentment and virtue.
Here upon this knoll of ground, which overlooks what is now Gordon's Bend, more than seventy-five years ago stood this Indian wigwam. The stillness of night was broken only by the scream of the panther or the howl of the wolf. The awful voice of the storm or the song of birds were the only sounds by day. No sound of busy life disturbed nature's perfect repose. Nature was true to her children, and Nemo and Lena were happy. Their light canoe danced "like a thing of life" over the rippling waters, and the finny(?) tribes afforded them bountiful stores. They lived as the Great Spirit taught them. Violating no law of their being, they did not have to pay the penalty. They lived and loved, and were happy.
Lena, in her flight from her pale-face home, had gathered a few apple seeds, which she still had with her, and as the spring opened she planted them around her wigwam. Soon they sprouted, and thus began the "Indian orchard" which for so many years shaded this knoll, but of which scarce a vestige now remains.
A boy, bright-eyed and fair, possessing his mother's tenderness, his father's heroism, had blessed their union. She dressed his tiny limbs in the finest of deer-skins, and adorned his infantile head with the plumes of the redbird. Flowery braclets were twined around his brow. Lena possessed all that could give happiness to a woman--the love of a noble heart, and the mother of a smiling boy.
Thus they lived in their wildwood home. Spring and summer had come and gone. Autumn was yet lingering in the lap of winter. A hazy atmosphere hung over the Wabash and covered the prairie. The songs of the birds had ceased, and a sad stillness brooded over the landscape. The rays of the declining sun struggled, through the haze, when a soft echo fell upon the ear of Nemo. At first it was like the chirp of a bird, then it sounded like the growl of a wolf, at last, the scream of the panther. Nemo looked down the river, and his quick eye soon caught the feathery plumes of five painted warriors. Were they Shawnees or Miamis, friends or foes? Silently he watched, and stealthily they approached. Coming up the bank, crouching, in Indian file, Nemo recognized them as of the hated Miamis. He sprang for his bow and arrows, his tomahawk and scalping-knife. Lena concealed her babe, and stood by the door protected by her husband. When within hailing distance Nemo demanded why they came. They growled defiance and hurried on. Quick as the lightening's stroke an arrow from Nemo's bow pierced the foremost intruder. A Shawnee never parleys with a Miami. The war-whoop rang through the forest, and the Miamis rushed to the contest. Nemo knew that his hour had come.
Another arrow stilled the heart-throbs of another Miami. But now they were upon him. Before Nemo was his hereditary foe--behind him his home, his wife and boy. No panther pressed by hunter's hounds ever fought more desperately, more heroically. He shouted the defiant war-whoop, sprang from the door and buried his tomahawk in the third Miami's brain. The two remaining sent their arrows into Nemo's breast. He reeled, and shaking defiance at his enemies, fell dying into Lena's arms. The wife and mother tore the thirsty arrows from his bleeding breast, and with them ebbed out his life. The Miami warriors stood around. Lena snatched her boy from his cover, threw him into the arms of a Miami, then buried the scalping-knife in her own heart, and fell dying on the cold remains of Nemo. The Miami's resolved to spare the child, and Nemo and Lena were buried side by side on the top of the knoll. Their once happy home was pillaged and destroyed, and naught left to mark the spot save a few scattered apple trees that had been planted by Lena's hand, and which were bearing fruit when the white man first visited the spot. The child thus preserved was adopted as one of the tribe by the Miamis. He grew into manhood, and, learning his origin, went to the homes of the Shawnees and joined the tribe. Identifying himself with those who fought against the encroachments of the whites, he soon found himself a companion in Tecumseh. He was with him when he treated with Gen. Harrison, was at Tippecanoe, and finally fell, covered with wounds, by the side of Tecumseh at the battle of the Thames.
The grave of the two lovers was long an object of veneration by the Indians, and in their legends they thought that the spirits of the departed kept vigils around this resting place. For many long years, when the young Shawnee maidens passed along the prairie they would stop at the orchard and strew the most fragrant wild flowers over the graves. The fruit of the trees was left untouched, for the use of the spirits that hovered near. Thus the "Indian orchard" became a consecrated place to the red men, and thus did the men and maidens of the forest pay homage to heroism, to fidelity and virtue.
To be continued.
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HISTORY OF VIGO AND PARKE COUNTIES, Together With Historic Notes on the Wabash Valley
H.W. Beckwith - 1880
Terre Haute, pp. 65-75
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Terre Haute & Harrison Twp. biographies.
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