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A Legend of Slaughter at the Seneca Capital


  Native American Nations | Traditions of the Seneca                   

A legend exists of.' a fearful fight that, took pace between the Seneca and Wyandot, on their return froth Braddock's defeat, in 1755. They had fought side by side against the English army, but, no sooner had they dispersed toward their homes, than the old unsettled feud between them was renewed. The Seneca took the trail by Beaver, Mingo bottom, and west to Tuscarawas. The Wyandot took the tippler trail, striking the ridge between the ]leads of the Elk Eye Creek (Muskingum) and the Hioga (Cuyahoga.), where they camped. It was but a day's .journey across the present Stark County, to reach their enemies at the Seneca capital. The warriors there suspected their design, and sent out Ogista, an old sachem, who met the Wyandot on the war-path, stealthily approaching the capital. He sent back a runner to give warning of their coming, and, trusting to his age for protection, boldly penetrated into tile, midst of the enemy, as a peacemaker. The Seneca, upon being apprised of their proximity, sallied out to fight, lint were stopped by Ogista, who was returning with an agreement, made by him and the opposing chief, to the effect that each tribe should pick twenty warriors, willing to suffer death by single combat. When all were slain, they were to be covered, hatchet in hand, in one grave, and henceforth neither Seneca or Wyandot ever again to raise a bloody hand against the other.

Forty braves were soon selected, and each twenty being surrounded, the tribal war-dances were danced, and the death lamentations sung, when the way being cleared, the carnage commenced, which ended as night intervened, there being one martyr left, with none to strike him down. He was the son of Ogista, who had proposed the sacrifice. The aged man received his weapon, and with it cleaved off the head of his offspring, when the bands gathered the dead into a heap, laying their forty hatchets by their sides, and having raised a mound of earth over them, all repaired to the Seneca capital, closing the fearful scene with a feast, in memoriam of the compact thus sealed with blood, that the hatchet was then forever buried between the Wyandot and Seneca. Twenty-four years afterward, Fort Laurens was erected in sight of the mound. A. friendly Delaware, at the fort, was asked by the commander to explain its origin. He related the above legend. In January, 1770, the fort was invested by one hundred and eighty Wyandot, Mangos (Seneca), and Moonie, led by John Montour. Under the impression that the Indians had moved off; a squad of seventeen soldiers went out behind the mound to catch the horses and gather wood. They never returned to the tort-having been ambushed and killed by a party of Wyandot and Seneca warriors, who were worshipping the Great Spirit at the grave of their ancestors and relatives.

Sketch of Chief Shingask, or Bockongahelas Legend of Heckewelder's Love

One of the noted war chiefs of the Delaware was Shingask, alias Sach-gants-chillas, or Bockongahelas, and called by Judge Burnett, in his notes, Buckingela, and by other writers, Bockingilla. In 1758, Post met him at Kusknskee, his town, below Pittsburgh, and took dinner with him. He was so noted, and had committed so many, depredations on the border, that the Pennsylvania government offered seven hundred dollars for his head. Fearing capture, he retired west to the "Tuscarawas town," where Heckewelder found him in 1762, a chief, instigating the Indians against the English, and the foremost man to prevent Post and Heckewelder from making a permanent settlement. He entered heartily into Pontiac's conspiracy, and led his warriors-the Turtle tribe of Delaware in person against Fort Pitt. After the fall of Pontiac he retired to the Miami and Sandusky country, and, in after years, continually annoyed the missionaries. In 1781 he came to Gnadenhutten with his warriors, and demanded the surrender of Kilibuck and other converted chiefs. Receiving reply that; they had gone to Fort Pitt, he had the town searched from house to house, and -made a speech exhorting the converts to remove with him to his own country. On their refusal he proceeded to Salem, made a like speech, but not succeeding, abandoned the valley. The Christian Indians, having treated hint to a feast at each town, and shown him the greatest respect, he told them that if airy one said he was hostile to the believing Indians they should set it down as a lie, and call the man who so represented him a liar. In Wayne's campaign of 1793, he led his warriors in the, last battle, and having many wounded, he applied to the British commander at Fort Miami, near by, for shelter to his wounded men; which being refused, he denounced the British as liars, and urged the Indians to make peace. It is said that it was through his influence that the Greenville treaty was consummated, in 1795. He died at his town, Wapakonneta, in 1804, nearly one hundred years of age.

Thornhaler, in his life of Heckewelder, tells us that the young missionary came to the Tuscarawas, as much to study Indian character as to aid in the mission enterprise with Post. He was young, ardent, adventuresome, and soon after Post left for Pennsylvania he felt the loneliness of his hut and solitary life-there being no habitation nearer than Thomas Calhoun's trading-house, a mile distant, to reach which he had to wade the river, and in doing which he contracted a fever that would have carried him off but for Calhoun, who had him taken to his trading-house, and cared for.

Among the visitors often at the trader's store was the wife of Shingask, chief at the Tuscarawas town. She was a white captive, of great beauty in her youth, and had been educated before becoming a prisoner, and wife of the chief. She, as a matter of course, sympathized with and ministered to the sick man, of her own color and race, and in that way gratitude appeared, and affection responded to it, in all probability. The biographer says that one day, after Heckewelder had gone back to his cabin, Calhoun sent for him, and, on coming over, he was told that a woman had requested him (Calhoun) to bring the missionary away from his hut, as a plot was in existence to scalp him that night.

On the following morning Calhoun sent two risen over to the house, who returned, saying that the house had been broken into the night previous, and plundered. Heckewelder never slept there again, but remained with Calhoun. The wife of Shingask soon died at Tuscarawas, and Heckewelder afterward published a glowing account of the funeral. ceremonies; for synopsis of which see article on Post's mission in a former chapter.

The legend is that the wife of Shingask was the same person who saved Heckewelder's life by notifying Calhoun of the plot, and that Shingask suspecting her as the informer, and tender friend of Heckewelder, had her put out of the way by the poison of the may-apple, and the imposing funeral ceremony was gotten up to ward off suspicion of having killed the queen. The lady reader will probably infer that the young missionary would not have taken such pains to give in his history such a detailed statement of the funeral, unless there was some matter of the heart connected therewith, on his part.

Heckewelder, soon after being advised by the friendly Indians that he would lose his life in case he remained, speedily returned to Bethlehem, and did not marry for eighteen years after.

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Ohio Annals; Dayton, Ohio, 1876

Traditions of the Seneca


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